By Hillary Borrud

The Bulletin

The city of Bend could break ground on the pipeline portion of the $24 million Bridge Creek water supply project as soon as next week.

Project Manager Heidi Lansdowne said contractor M.A. Mortenson Construction set to work immediately after U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken on Friday rejected an attempt to halt the project.

“I gave them the go-ahead Friday when we heard from the judge, so they’ve been working through the weekend, coordinating with their subcontractors and the pipe folks,” Lansdowne said. Emails and texts continued to fly back and forth between Lansdowne and Mortenson employees over the weekend, as they began to mobilize resources for the project.

City spokesman Justin Finestone said crews might begin work as soon as Monday. Lansdowne said she might know more about the start date by today.

“I expect them to be rounding up crews and equipment and getting it over here next week,” Lansdowne said. “They’re going to have snow clearing. They’re going to have staging areas to prep.”

Central Oregon LandWatch and WaterWatch of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit in November against the U.S. Forest Service, which issued a permit for the Bridge Creek project.

The city wants to install new water intake equipment and a new pipeline to replace two old pipes — one from the 1920s, the other from the 1950s — that bring water from the Cascades foothills to Bend residents and businesses. LandWatch also filed a lawsuit in 2012 to stop a previous version of the city project approved by the Forest Service, which would have allowed the city to take more water in the future. The city dropped that plan and revised its request in order to maintain the current cap on how much water it can take from Bridge Creek and Tumalo Creek. City officials voluntarily agreed to delay the project start date by two months according to a court document, in part to allow for settlement discussions with the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

LandWatch and WaterWatch sought a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the city from breaking ground on the water project until after Aiken eventually issues a final decision on the lawsuit. Aiken rejected the motion for an injunction on Friday.

In addition to bringing work crews and construction equipment to Bend, the contractor must also begin the process of bringing pipe the city purchased in 2011 up from California, where the pipe fabricator stored it to prevent damage from the elements. The city estimates it will take a year to complete this portion of the project, which involves installing the new water pipeline under Skyliners Road.

Lansdowne said all the subcontractors are ready to move ahead on the project now that the city notified them work will proceed. But as recently as Friday, lawyer Albert Ferlo, who represents the city of Bend, said the city was at risk of losing one of its subcontractors on the project. Ferlo told Aiken that the subcontractor expected to learn on Monday whether it would be awarded a contract for a different project.

Bend Engineering and Infrastructure Planning Director Tom Hickmann stated in a recent court document that if the city lost the subcontractor, “there will not be enough time to rebid the project and still meet the completion date of May 1, 2015, for the county schedule.” Deschutes County plans to reconstruct Skyliners Road in 2015 to meet the terms of a $10 million Federal Highway Administration grant, and county Public Works Director Chris Doty has said he will not allow the city to install the pipe under the new road once it has been rebuilt.

Representatives of WaterWatch and LandWatch have not said whether they plan to appeal the judge’s ruling. LandWatch Executive Director Paul Dewey did not return a call for comment on Monday. LandWatch, WaterWatch, the Forest Service and the city will continue settlement negotiations under the order Aiken issued on Friday.

Lansdowne said that despite a tight timeline, the city and contractor will not rush the project.

“It’s a lot of big things to put into motion quickly, and nobody wants to do anything twice,” Lansdowne said. “While we want to go really fast, we want to do it right the first time.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version, the plaintiffs in the 2012 lawsuit were misidentified. The Bulletin regrets the error.

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