Mirror Pond’s future still uncertain

Jun 04, 2013

Bend Bulletin

Mirror Pond’s future still uncertain

Scenario images not yet public; who owns land under pond still in question

By Hillary Borrud

Mirror Pond project manager Jim Figurski said Monday it is taking longer than expected for a consultant to produce images of how the pond would look in the future under different management scenarios, but he expects they will be ready next week.

Sediment is accumulating into mudflats behind Pacificorp’s Newport Avenue Dam, which created Mirror Pond on the Deschutes River. Local officials have discussed possible solutions for years.

Figurksi also met with officials behind closed doors Monday to update them on research into ownership of the land beneath Mirror Pond. Outside of that meeting, Figurski said he has seen documentation of who owns land under the pond, but did not identify the owner. Government agencies need permission from any landowners before they dredge the pond and Figurski said officials will probably keep the identity of the property owner secret until negotiations are complete.

Figurksi, an employee of the Bend Park & Recreation District, presented the information to the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which includes representatives of the city and park district, a private developer, PacifiCorp and the civic group Bend 2030. Figurski said he had already given preliminary feedback on images of the pond to consultant GreenWorks.

GreenWorks developed aerial views of how Mirror Pond would look in the future under each scenario, plus views of the pond from a point in downtown Bend and from the Galveston Avenue bridge. There will also be a questionnaire to gauge residents’ opinions of the four options, although Figurski did not present that list of questions Monday. Figurski will present information about the four alternatives at public meetings, which are listed on the website mirrorpondbend.com. Images of the alternatives for the pond will also be posted on the website.

The first scenario under consideration is to make no changes to the Deschutes River and allow mud flats to continue developing in Mirror Pond.

A second option is to dredge the pond and remove sediment but leave the dam in place, costing an estimated $3.5 million. Even under this scenario, the riverbank would look different at Drake Park. The park district plans to remove existing walls along the river, “because the existing stone and concrete wall is failing and it was never really constructed carefully," Figurski said. A more natural bank line, Figurski said, would benefit the habitat and environment.

A third scenario calls for the city or park district to dredge sediment from the river and deposit most of it nearby, to build out the riverbank. This would cost an estimated $5.6 million, according to the presentation.

Under the fourth option, at an estimated cost of $10.9 million, PacifiCorp would remove the Newport Avenue Dam, and local agencies would alter the river channel to keep water flowing past private homes on the north side of Mirror Pond and prevent riparian vegetation from growing thick and blocking their views, Figurski said.

As for the ownership of the pond, Figurski said government agencies would have to order a title search before entering negotiations with any property owner, but the results probably would “not be public until after the transactions were made."

“It’s not a public matter, it’s a private matter," Figurski said of the property negotiations.

The McKay family, whose ancestors were early landowners in Bend, claims ownership of most of the land under the pond, although no one has produced documents publicly to substantiate this. There is no evidence in the Deschutes County Assessor’s records that the McKay family owns or pays taxes on land under the Deschutes River.

Figurski said the title information he examined was commissioned by Bill Smith, a member of the steering committee who is also the developer of the Old Mill District. Figurski would not say which title company provided the information.

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

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