The Bend City Council voted 4-3 Wednesday night to proceed with its existing plan for a water pipeline and intake facility at Bridge Creek, and re-examine the type of treatment facility it will use.
The vote just before 10 p.m. followed more than two hours of public testimony and discussion.
Several of the people who spoke during the public comment period asked the council to refer the water project to the voters, and allow them to decide whether to proceed.
Mayor Jim Clinton and Councilors Doug Knight and Sally Russell voted no.
Casting votes in favor were Councilors Jodie Barram, Victor Chudowsky, Scott Ramsay and Mark Capell.
In addition to members of the public, the City Council heard from engineer Bob Willis, who worked on a couple of reports on the city water system during the last two decades.
Willis said he was in a unique position to speak his mind Wednesday night because he was there as a volunteer and no longer represented the city or a consultant for the city.
“The Bridge Creek water supply is probably the most valuable utility supply asset the city owns,” Willis said. “The two pipelines are in terrible shape. They were in terrible shape when I first reviewed those pipelines 20 years ago ... They are now showing signs of imminent failure, imminent catastrophic failure.”
Craig Lacey, of Bend, said the city had not heard much about the environmental consequences of proceeding with the water project.
“The study by (consultant) HDR did not give you information when they did their modeling of what the benefits would be to Tumalo Creek if the 18 (cubic feet per second of water) were left instream,” Lacey said.
It would also benefit fish and the Deschutes River, if the city were to stop taking that cold water, Lacey said.
Bend Chamber President and CEO Tim Casey delivered a surprise announcement. He said the group’s board of directors discussed the water project at a recent retreat and plans to hire a “neutral third party” consultant to evaluate the options for the city water system.
The board of directors will consider hiring the consultant at its Feb. 28 meeting.
“We’ve never taken a stance on it,” Casey said. “But we think it’s important we do.”
Based on the consultant’s findings, the Bend Chamber will then take a public position on the water project. The Bend Chamber wants a water system that can support future population growth, at a price residents can afford, Casey said.
Capell questioned why the Bend Chamber would hire a consultant after city councilors decided to move ahead with the water project.
“What I’m trying to figure out is what we would do with this,” Capell said. “After six years of discussion, we’ve come to this point where we either need to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ are we doing the project, or ‘no.’ ”
Casey said the City Council can do as it likes.
“I’m here tonight as a courtesy,” he said.
In other council business, gas station owner Tom Healy turned in a petition with 850 signatures asking the City Council to reconsider its plan for Reed Market Road. That issue was not on the agenda and councilors did not make a decision on it.