Mirror Pond, “crown jewel of Bend"

Feb 13, 2013

Bend Bulletin

Mirror Pond, “crown jewel of Bend"

Dredge pond or remove dam


By Scott Hammers

Around 30 Bend residents turned out Wednesday night to weigh in on the future of Mirror Pond at the first of two public meetings hosted by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee.

The committee recently launched an outreach effort to determine what, if anything, should be done about the silt buildup that is slowly transforming the pond into a wetland. Through the end of the month, the committee will be using community meetings and a questionnaire to try to find out what Bend residents value about Mirror Pond. Starting in March, the committee expects to turn toward drawing up potential plans reflecting public preferences.

Jim Figurski, the project manager hired by the steering committee, said there are two “bookends" when thinking about what to do with the pond. One bookend would be a thorough dredging, returning the pond to a state similar to that when Mirror Pond was last dredged in 1984. The other bookend would be removing the Pacific Power dam that created the pond more than 100 years ago, he said, and allowing the river to return to its natural state.

Figurski spent an hour and a half fielding questions Wednesday night, with members of the audience suggesting both “bookend" alternatives and nearly everything in between.

An online questionnaire — available at mirrorpondbend.com — has already attracted nearly 1,000 responses, including half a dozen detailed proposals as to what should be done.

Jane Williamson, a resident of Harmon Avenue on the west side of Mirror Pond, recalled the 1984 dredging, accomplished for $300,000, a fraction of the $2 to $5 million estimates being floated today for similar work. It was a simple process, she said, and much of the silt harvested from the river bottom was sold back to local residents as “the best compost we ever had."

Williamson said the process of deciding what to do has become overly bureaucratic, and she's concerned those who live farther from Mirror Pond may not be supportive of a costly dredging operation.

“I would just be so sad if it went back to a river," she said. “It's a jewel, it's the crown jewel of Bend."

What Pacific Power elects to do with its dam could determine whether the pond remains a pond or becomes a section of the Deschutes River.

The dam, built in 1910, only provides electricity for around 400 homes, Figurski said. He said the utility is nearing the point where the revenue from power generation will be outweighed by the cost of upkeep. The utility could decide to dismantle or decommission the dam in the near future.

Multiple local residents took issue with the online survey, claiming it didn't provide adequate opportunities for them to cast a vote for dam removal and a natural river approach.

Figurski said that while Pacific Power's cooperation is needed to return the pond to a natural state, it's still very much an option. If the pond were left alone and the dam were not removed, the small islands near the Galveston Avenue bridge would likely grow, he said, while shallows would grow even shallower and be taken over by grasses, cattails and similar plants.

“Doing nothing is actually doing something, because something will happen. Rivers evolve," Figurski said.

Bend resident Bob Baer said he views the silt buildup behind the dam as similar to snow in a shopping center's parking lot — it's Pacific Power's problem, and they should pay the bill.

“I don't see the people of the city of Bend paying one dime to do maintenance for their business," he said.

Baer said he wants local residents to have an opportunity to vote before any money is spent to address silt buildup.

Figurski said the public will likely have an opportunity to vote when the time comes. The process is at a very early stage, and even if a plan with broad community support emerges by early summer — as is the goal — funding has not been identified.

A second public meeting is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Bend Park & Recreation District offices, 799 S.W. Columbia St.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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