Who should apologize for expensive and harmful Tumalo Creek project?

Photo Courtesy of Stu Gordon

Photo Courtesy of Stu Gordon

Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against us in a decision that allows the City of Bend to withdraw up to 18.2 cfs from Tumalo Creek, despite flows not meeting instream minimums for fish and aquatic life.

A recent opinion piece on this subject in The Bulletin by former City Councilor Victor Chudowsky says LandWatch owes an apology for challenging the city water project. This is the kind of baseless, distracting hype that is increasingly common at the national level.  It is unfortunate to see it appear locally.
 
Tumalo Creek provides a peaceful refuge, outdoor recreation opportunities and crystal-clear cold water to the Middle Deschutes River. Although it is known as one of Central Oregon’s iconic gems, former Bend City Councils voted to build a $60+ million water project to take more water from the creek.
 
Mr. Chudowsky's letter does not get the facts of the legal case right. He wrongly asserts that it caused a loss of $40 million over 40 years in hydro revenues.  The Forest Service permit LandWatch challenged did not even include a hydropower project and no court opinion decided anything on hydropower.  In fact, the City Council chose not to pursue hydropower, in part because the federal subsidies that the economic analysis relied upon had dried up. The legal case lasted only 3-4 years, not 40 years, and “revenues” don’t mean “profits.”  The real boondoggle was the City Council’s (Chudowsky’s) support for the $60+ million project in the first place when there was a much cheaper groundwater alternative.
 
Chudowsky also conveniently ignores that Judge Aiken ruled against the City and Forest Service when they first tried to expand their use of Tumalo Creek water.  Because what they proposed was illegal, they had to start over, causing the construction delays and most of the legal costs.  LandWatch isn’t responsible for costs caused by the City proposing something that was illegal.  LandWatch also is not responsible for the City choosing an approximately $500 per hour attorney from Washington, D.C. to represent it. 
 
The opposition to this water project has spanned political and ideological differences. Developers, conservationists, seven former mayors, and more than 1,000 residents have all spoken out against it. The City Council didn’t listen. Bend ratepayers may want an apology from Mr. Chudowsky for pushing this expensive and unnecessary project that jeopardizes the health of Tumalo Creek.

You can view Tumalo Creek's flows online here. Choose the days you wish to view, select dataset "Instantaneous Flow," and click Refresh Graph: http://apps.wrd.state.or.us/apps/sw/hydro_near_real_time/display_hydro_graph.aspx?station_nbr=14073520