By Associated Press - Sunday, February 16, 2014

BEND, Ore. (AP) - A federal judge has rejected a conservation group’s attempt to block a Bend municipal water project, and city officials say they’re prepared to get the construction process started immediately.

Central Oregon LandWatch filed an injunction in November after the U.S. Forest Service granted the city a permit. The group argued the project’s environmental impacts on native fish and wetlands weren’t given enough consideration.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken rejected the injunction Friday after a conference call with attorneys, The Bend Bulletin reported ( ).

“I was pleasantly surprised,” City Manager Eric King said Friday night. “This gives us the signal to proceed with construction on the project.”

The city will contact contractors early next week.

City officials have been planning for years to replace two aging pipes with a new single pipe. They also want to build a new water-intake facility.

The permit gives the city a green light to start installing 10 miles of pipeline, but it doesn’t cover the large intake facility planned near Bend’s watershed at Bridge Creek.

In a brief ruling, Aiken said LandWatch’s arguments against the pipeline work failed “to establish the likelihood of irreparable harm.”

LandWatch attorneys had argued the pipeline can’t be separated from the project as a whole.

King said the installation of the pipe is a roughly one-year process.

LandWatch has repeatedly sought to block the project in court, arguing Forest Service analyses haven’t taken into account the wide-ranging impacts of increased water flow out of the watershed on native fish and nearby wetlands.

Aiken said during the conference call that she’d hoped the two sides could settle their disagreements on the project’s impacts out of court. But attorneys for both sides told her they made little to no progress during discussions this week.

In Aiken’s ruling denying the injunction, she ordered the two sides to continue settlement negotiations.


Information from: The Bulletin,

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