Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Water, A Town, The Fed, Stupidity Ensues

About 140 years ago a road was carved into the mountains outside Baker City. The purpose of this road was to cut a ditch to provide water to mines. A pipeline was laid in the ditch and this pipeline provides almost all of the water Baker City, population 10,000, uses. High quality water derived from a watershed now within the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. The water has some chlorine added to it to protect it from the city's own pipelines, otherwise the wet stuff is capable of winning water competitions nationally.

While it doesn't affect the quality of the water, there is a problem, the pipeline leaks. Baker City still gets its water but this is a waste of a resource. The city would like to repair the pipeline which lies under a road everyone agrees belongs to Baker City even though much of its 17 miles runs through the national forest. What is proposed, fairly straight forwardly, is to dig up the pipe, fix it, and cover it back up - all things Baker City is free to do with its road through the Wallowa Whitmans. The issue is getting the pipe carrying trucks to the dig, there are curves.

In fact, everyone involved agrees about the road and its ownership and control of it, unfortunately also that no one knows how wide it is. So Baker City is suing the Federal Government.

This stupid result is because were Baker City to exceed its unknown right of way a $100,000 Environmental Study taking a year would be required. This isn't a matter of the city wishing to create a highway of some sort into the forest, it is a matter of digging up a pipeline underneath the existing road and getting pipe to it. The crux of the matter is just how wide the right of way is and no one knows, not the city and not the federal government and so this will land on a Federal Judge's docket to sort out a matter of some feet. Lawyers and court time costs everybody money and cities of 10K don't need to throw money away in court. (if anybody does)

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