Mirror Pond future depends on dam

Jul 17, 2013

Bend Bulletin

Mirror Pond future depends on dam

Next step: another committee to decide final plan for dealing with sediment

By Hillary Borrud

Bend city councilors and park board members voted unanimously on Tuesday to form a new committee that will select a final plan for the future of Mirror Pond.

They also viewed the results of a recent community survey on four options for the pond.

But officials said before they can reach a decision they need to know Pacific Power's plans for the Newport Avenue Dam, which created the pond.

“Certainly we should move forward and form a committee," City Councilor Sally Russell said.

“But for me, in reading all the information provided to us and in preparing for this committee ... I think it's time to get Pacific Power at the table, and I think it's time to understand what the future is of that dam, because I don't see this community being able to make a financially responsible decision about the future of Mirror Pond before we understand what the constraints are around that dam," Russell said.

Officials are discussing how to manage Mirror Pond because sediment is building up behind the dam and creating mudflats. Unless the community takes action, wetlands will develop and the state will begin regulating any activity that disrupts that habitat, Project Manager Jim Figurski said Tuesday.

“I think it's time to bring in the governor's office, our senators, Pacific Power, and really get some direction here," Russell said. “It's time to be clear and have them put their cards on the table, because they've been holding them close."

City Councilor Mark Capell agreed. Capell said he appreciates that the power company does not want to make the decision for the community.

“That's really nice of them," Capell said. “But let's get down to reality, which is what's the business decision?"

Pacific Power representatives have repeatedly said they will continue to operate the hydropower plant at the dam as long as it makes financial sense for their customers, and they do not have a specific end date for the project. Angela Jacobson Price, regional community manager for Pacific Power, reiterated the position on Monday in response to questions from local officials. Price is a member of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which has provided oversight during the process to develop options for the future of the body of water.

The owner of the dam — whether it is Pacific Power or another owner in the future — is responsible for maintaining the structure and, if it decides to remove it, for the cost to take it out and mitigate impacts to the river.

The new Mirror Pond committee will have up to nine members, including park board members Scott Wallace and Ted Schoenborn, parks Executive Director Don Horton, Bend Community Development Director Mel Oberst, two city councilors and as many as three citizens. The City Council did not decide Tuesday which councilors will serve on the committee.

The community survey data that Figurski presented at the joint meeting of the City Council and park board Tuesday did not show a clear preference among respondents for how local governments should manage Mirror Pond. The questionnaire asked people to rate several options, including dredging sediment from the pond, doing nothing and rerouting the river channel and removing the dam.

More than 1,200 people participated in the survey and when they were asked to rank the four options, 41 percent said their favorite option would be to dredge Mirror Pond and leave the dam in place, according to results provided by the park district. However, 36 percent said they would prefer to realign the river and remove the dam. The survey was not scientific, because people opted in by going online to fill it out.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

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