It was standing room only at last night’s Planning Commission Hearing, where some 75 citizens gathered to show opposition to Bend’s $68 million Surface Water Improvement Project (SWIP).
The Planning Commission held the hearing to get public input before it voted whether or not to accept the amendment to include the SWIP in the Public Facilities Plan. The statements made by the public were overwhelmingly against including the SWIP.
Barbara Kenyon says she is just a citizen concerned about what her City is spending her money on. “I get the feeling we are on a runaway train financially, my water bill is already outrageous. There is no need to spend $68 million for water when there are cheaper alternatives. As a rate-paying citizen, I think other options should be considered. Please encourage the City Council to reverse their course by voting against the SWIP. Don’t saddle the citizens of Bend with this debt of millions of dollars.”
Paul Dewey, the executive director of Central Oregon Landwatch, spoke on behalf of that organization. “The whole point of having a Public Facilities Plan is to make sure our City is acting in the best interest of its citizens, and in the best interest of the future of Bend,” he said. “The flows of Tumalo Creek over Tumalo Falls, through Shevlin Park and into the Middle Deschutes are of great visual, recreation and economic importance to the people of Central Oregon. The dramatic negative impacts this project could have on Tumalo Creek would be devastating to the area.”
Doug Werme is a consulting geologist. He spoke about how the assumptions built into the project have changed, and why that means the City should take another look at the alternatives. “Within a few years the costs to pump water from the ground will be 70 percent lower than assumed. The revenues from the hydro project will be 70 percent less than assumed. The groundwater option will clearly be the better choice,” he said.
Toby Bayard, a volunteer for Central Oregon Landwatch who contacted over 150 people in preparation for the hearing, said she was very pleased with the turnout. “It’s great to see so many people in one room, gathering together to affect positive change in our community.”
Only one person spoke in favor of including the $68 million water project in the Public Facilities Plan. Casey Roats, the owner of Roats Water System, cited the unreliability of wells and the possibility that well water may become contaminated as part of his reason for supporting the SWIP. Roats Water System utility operates using solely wells.
After hearing testimony from the public and responses from city staff for more than three hours, the Planning Commission closed the hearing to testimony. The Commissioners were tied three to three on approving the Public Facilities Plan. It was only after City Staff helped the Commission to draft a resolution which stated, “I move to recommend approval of the Water PFP to the City Council with the understanding that the City Council has by resolutions and other Council decisions began implementing the Surface Water Project and that this recommendation is not an opinion on the financing or merits of the project” that the Commissioners voted four to two to pass the Public Facilities Plan.
For more information and to get involved, visit www.stopthedrain.org