By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

The Bend City Council on Wednesday night adopted a plan estimated to cost $89 million to manage its overwhelmed sewer system, outlining needed improvements and prioritizing new construction for the next 20 years.

The Wastewater Collection System Master Plan has been two years in the making, involving input from private consultants, business and environmental groups and a 16-member volunteer advisory committee. The plan, which was adopted unanimously, includes steps to address overflows that have reached city streets and the Deschutes River, as well as to add capacity to handle new developments.

Included in the document is the Southeast Interceptor Project, the first phase of which was completed in 2011. In October, the city approved the project’s next phase, costing up to $5 million. The City Council earlier voted to raise sewer rates by 9 percent and water rates by 5 percent beginning this fall to help fund all of the estimated $89 million in work.

The council, which had reviewed the plan multiple times at previous meetings, adopted it without much discussion, with Mayor Jim Clinton remarking, “It looks pretty quiet up here.”

Bend Capital Improvement Projects Director Tom Hickmann noted he received only two comments on the final plan, one with concerns about the projects’ cost and the other questioning why one of the projects wasn’t completed sooner.

Sharon Smith, a member of the volunteer advisory committee, said there was little input because of the city’s inclusive process for developing the plan.

“The reason we don’t have a lot of testimony is because this was a terrific public input process that led to a very good plan,” Smith said. “We went out to groups in the community, sought input all along the way, and this is a great tool to use going forward.”

The plan calls for all new development within city limits to be connected to city sewer services and also directs the city to work on connecting existing neighborhoods that are not part of the system.

In other business, the City Council approved an additional $530,000 to be spent on replacing the water pipeline running out of Bridge Creek and for the installation of a new water treatment plant. The city had already allocated about $60 million for the two projects.

Central Oregon LandWatch and WaterWatch of Oregon filed suit in U.S. District Court over the pipe replacement, arguing the U.S. Forest Service did not adequately investigate how the project will affect Tumalo Creek and the fish within its waters before issuing a permit.

The added cost, city staff said, stems from delays caused by the lawsuit and the City Council’s decision to extend its debate over which type of treatment plant to build.

Hickmann noted that if there are future unforeseen delays, additional costs could be possible. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken is expected to issue a decision on the case before the new year.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com

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