(Photo above provided by Central Oregon Irrigation Canal)
Property owners claim a third victory in efforts to protect resource as the Deschutes County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) addressed a local irrigation district’s request to pipe a 4,500 foot section of the historic Pilot Butte Canal.
The Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) submitted an amendment to existing County code to add piping as an outright Permitted Use in some areas of the County. The code change would have prevented the public as well as local government agencies and representatives from participating in processes related to District operations.
The 3-person Board of County Commissioners was reduced to two when one of the Commissioners, Alan Unger, removed himself from the process to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
The two remaining Commissioners, Tammy Baney and Tony DeBone, deliberated the requested text amendment, TA 13-4. Commissioner Baney opposed the District’s request while Commissioner DeBone favored it. Commissioner Baney stated that County code already addresses COID’s interests through the Conditional Use Permit process, and therefore no change to existing code was necessary or warranted.
With Commissioners Baney and DeBone deadlocked on the issue, the text amendment failed to advance and the District’s request was effectively defeated.
This was the third defeat for COID in their effort to extend the Juniper Ridge hydroelectric facility into a residential neighborhood on Bend’s northeast side.
Property owners had previously appealed a permit issued by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). LUBA found against COID and remanded the issue early in 2014.
The Deschutes County Planning Commission held 3 hearings on TA 13-4. In May 2014 they voted unanimously to recommend against COID’s request.
Central Oregon property owners cite the consecutive victories as evidence that the government process is alive and well in Central Oregon. Pilot Butte Canal Preservation Alliance co-founder Tom Hignell noted that “This is what good governance looks like. The public and COID have been given ample opportunity to put forth competing agendas, and three different entities have consistently sided with the public in the debate.”
Next on the agenda for the Alliance is furthering the vision of a canal-side trail connecting Bend and Redmond. The waterfront Pilot Butte Canal Trail has been a goal of the Bend Area General Plan (BAGP) since the 1990’s, and today’s victory brought it a step closer to becoming a reality. The Pilot Butte Canal Trail would connect with the River Trail in Bend and with the Dry Canyon Trail in Redmond.
Bend developer Mike Knoell, an ardent supporter of the project, stated that, “Connecting the major cities of Central Oregon with a multi-use trail is long overdue. It will take time and collaboration, but the same can be said of most worthwhile efforts.”
Jeff Perreault, Pilot Butte Canal Preservation Alliance