The burden for the Bend City Council on the Bridge Creek pipeline project is that even as members of the council and city staff have been studying the issue for years, they are constantly told they don’t understand it and are ramming an unwanted, untenable project through without enough public input.
The council voted 4-3 Wednesday to move ahead with the plan for a new pipeline and intake facility. It’s part of a larger vision to serve Bend’s water needs for the future by ensuring surface water continues to flow and using wells, too.
The outvoted councilors and critics of the project argued again for a different project or for another round of public input. But we don’t see how anyone could argue that the council and the city staff have not listened to the public.
They have. For years.
The city could have put more effort into involving the community at the beginning. You can’t say the community has not been involved more recently.
Voters even had an opportunity in November to elect a new majority of the council. Voters only supported three councilors who clearly had deep concerns about the project: Jim Clinton, Sally Russell and Doug Knight. The fourth, Victor Chudowsky, was not so devoted to transforming the water project as he was to investigating options. And that he did.
The real issue for critics is not that there has not been enough public input. They don’t like the plan.
But there, again, nobody is putting insightful, new alternatives on the table. At the Wednesday meeting, councilors Knight and Russell offered repackaged variations of old ones.
Would another round of reconsideration minimize the chance of lawsuits and appeals? No.
Should councilors quail because lawsuits and challenges are likely? No.
More meetings don’t solve a problem. They create delays for the project and simply delay the nearly guaranteed filing of lawsuits and appeals.
The city should continue to engage the public on the project. It should continue to hunt for the best alternatives for filtration and decide if hydro makes sense. But it shouldn’t have to pretend that it has not listened or that more delays on replacing the pipeline make sense.