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Court Hears Case Over Bend Drinking Water Project

Tumalo Creek outside Bend, Oregon.

Tumalo Creek outside Bend, Oregon.

Matt Kern/Flickr

The city of Bend and an environmental group argued Thursday in the Ninth District Court of Appeals over the city’s use of water and healthy fish habitat. 

In 2015, Bend installed a new pipe that diverts water from Tumalo Creek to provide drinking water for the city.

Central Oregon Landwatch argues that the U.S. Forest Service didn’t take a thorough enough look at whether the project hurts fish habitat. The environmental group also argued the project failed to consider the effects of climate change when weighing the project. 

Landwatch attorney Ralph Bloemers argued  the government needs to at least look at alternatives to taking water out of Tumalo Creek. 

“The city currently has enough groundwater permits to provide 140 percent — more than 100 percent — of its total water needs,” Bloemers said in court.  

Bend’s attorneys disputed that calculation, and pointed out that the city has been withdrawing water from Tumalo Creek since 1920.

If the environmental group prevails in court,Bend may be forced to remove less surface water from the creek. 

The court is expected to rule in the case later this year.

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