The Forest Service permit that allows Bend to take water from source springs for Tumalo Creek is up for renewal. It should be renewed.
Bend gets about half of its drinking water from an intake on Bridge Creek. It’s a tributary of Tumalo Creek. This permit is really about what happens before that intake.
Upstream of the Bridge Creek intake are source springs for Tumalo Creek. In the mid-1950s a diversion was constructed at those springs that brings some water down through a canal into Bridge Creek. The permit covers that diversion.
The important thing to know about the city’s permit renewal is it is not seeking to do anything new. The city is not building any new pipes or taking more water. It just wants to keep doing what it has been doing to help provide drinking water for the city. Issuing the permit won’t change flows in Tumalo Creek or the water going over Tumalo Falls. And for all those reasons, the Forest Service should issue a renewal of the permit — as it plans to — without any requirements for an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment.
The city did consider modifying the diversion at the source springs. It considered putting in an automated head gate to better enable it to alter the flow. It considered piping. But any sort of modification would involve construction in the middle of the forest and building a road in an area with no roads. The city smartly decided to leave it “as is.”
Central Oregon LandWatch, the environmental group, has called on the Forest Service to require the city to do an environmental assessment before renewing the permit. If the city were planning new construction in the forest or changing the diversion, maybe that would be justified. But when the city isn’t changing a thing, it isn’t worth the time, expense and any ensuing legal challenges.