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Six of the original 10 Beebe Road plaintiffs remain involved

Final well dispute heads to trial

CENTRAL POINT ' After a final unsuccessful attempt at mediation last week, attorneys in a five-year-old water rights case have announced they will go to trial.

The case, which involves a dozen property owners along Beebe Road, began in the summer of 1998 when wells allegedly dried up after a storm drain was placed under Beebe Road during development of the Central Point East subdivision.

Neighbors filed suit against developers, contractors and city and county governments in April 2000.

In May, four of 10 plaintiffs opted to settle with all 10 defendants and the six remaining property owners settled with all but one.

— Scott Borison of Laura Schroeder Law Offices in Portland, representing the plaintiffs, said attorneys had hoped to settle with the final defendant last week but that a number of the parties involved refused to meet for the final mediation.

We had hoped to settle but at this time we're going full tilt for trial Aug. 5, he said. Exact amounts and damages will be closed in on as we get closer to the trial.

The trial will involve six homeowners, whom attorneys have declined to name. The defendant is Southern Oregon Underground, the contractor that excavated the trench for a storm drain that neighbors feel caused the aquifer below their homes to drain.

Longtime homeowner Helen Gebhard, one of the plaintiffs who settled, said that no amount of mediation and court cases could bring back the water or dead trees or repair cracked foundations.

Gebhard said this week that her family had owned the orchard that is now the Central Point East subdivision and said she was sad and frustrated that promises to keep the land as an orchard were never kept.

Three years after the Gebhards sold the land, it was resold and slated for development.

Now that made us pretty unhappy but it wasn't our land any longer, she said.

Gebhard's home was among those that sustained significant structural damage because of the drained aquifer, she said.

I've lived in that house for 44 years with plenty of well water and now it's awful tasting, full of lime, sulfur, boron. ... It's just all very sad, especially to see those folks (in the subdivision) with all the water they can use, watering their lawns and having plenty to use.

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.