Letter: Let the river flow

Dec 14, 2013

Bend Bulletin

Letter: Let the river flow By Paul Israel

Count me as one who would rather see the Deschutes River flow free through Bend.

In order to keep Mirror Pond, you need to have the Pacific Power dam. End of conversation. The dam is nearing the end of its life and needs to go. Mirror Pond belongs in the history books of the Deschutes Historical Society.

According to Neil Bryant, the Bend Park & Recreation District’s legal counsel, the only legal use for retaining the water of Mirror Pond is for power generation and ice and debris removal. There is no rational reason for Mirror Pond to exist.

If Pacific Power wants to sell it, there is good reason to believe that it is not economical any longer. If you aren’t a Charlie Rose fan or into the energy business, you might have missed that Pacific Power is controlled by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. They know money and they know the energy business.

They would like nothing else than to dump it, as they are also responsible, if they cannot sell it, to take it down and clean up our mess. During past dredges, they got away with only paying for a small percentage of the silt problem. Let’s not let them off the hook.

While Mirror Pond can look idyllic, make a nice postcard and beer label, it has proven unsustainable. It can smell, harbor invasive plants, cost us untold millions to dredge every decade and attracts geese that defecate all over and make us bear the moral guilt of gassing them. As one astute observer noted, Mirror Pond is no longer the center of Bend’s social and economic life.

If any private interests think they can repair, maintain and add a fish ladder to the dam, they are fooling themselves. Buying and selling power is a complicated game.

There is a very good chance that if that purchase is to happen, then it will go belly up and taxpayers and or Bendites would then be responsible for taking the dam out: cleaning up the toxins associated with turbines and cleaning up Mirror Pond. That is not worth the risk.

From Maine to Washington, dams are coming down. Communities see the natural and economic benefit of free flowing rivers. I am baffled as to why Bendites are letting their judgments be clouded by the turgid and dirty waters of Mirror Pond.

Let Pacific Power foot that bill. That is appropriate, as they and ratepayers have profited off it for hundreds of years. Pacific Power just took down the Condit dam on the White Salmon. They have experience doing it.

For Bendites, we would get the release of a current bill of millions to dredge and save future generations from more millions and the headaches. Look at the valuable land that is now all of ours and created by the dams present problems. I suggest adding a pathway connecting Tumalo to Mount Bachelor. Let rafters, kayakers, swimmers and fish run wild through Bend. Use it to try and help fulfill the dream of the Bend Park & Recreation 9-86 bond. That will bring tourism to the area, and increase what we all love about Bend — access to recreation. I, for one, sense something sterile in our present river when I don’t see fish jumping. Let them jump.

In Oregon, waterways are owned by the public. If private individuals care for the river, I suggest a cleanup of the Colorado spillway problem. Connect that to the community instead of a dangerous bottleneck.

Mirror Pond is no longer the cultural or economic center of Bend. It is history.

I say let the river run wild and let Pacific Power pay for it. Anything less is foolish. Mirror Pond is a bad fish-dream that belongs in the history books of the Deschutes Historical Society.

— Paul Israel, president of Sunlight Solar Energy Inc., lives in Bend.

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