November 21, 2009 - As silt gathers in Mirror Pond, Officials Unsure of Who’s in Charge of a Solutio

Jan 04, 2010

November 21, 2009 - As silt gathers in Mirror Pond, Officials Unsure of Who’s in Charge of a Solutio As silt gathers in Mirror Pond, officials unsure of who’s in charge of a solution

By Erin Golden / The Bulletin
Published: November 21. 2009 4:00AM PST Pete Erickson / The Bulletin file photo

A history of Mirror Pond and its sediment

1910: Mirror Pond is created with the construction of a hydroelectric dam north of the Newport Avenue Bridge.

1970s: Sediment buildup in the pond becomes a problem.

1984: City of Bend dredges Mirror Pond. The project costs $312,000 and is funded with money from a combination of federal and local sources.

2006: Silt buildup becomes an issue again, and experts warn that the pond will turn into mudflats and wetlands within five to 10 years if left untouched. The city convenes a 20-member technical advisory committee with representatives from federal, state and local agencies, nonprofit groups, businesses and others.

2007: Mirror Pond Technical Advisory Committee releases report. City of Bend applies for about $500,000 in federal funding for the project but is unsuccessful.

2009: Upper Deschutes Watershed Council presents new Mirror Pond study to Bend City Council. Officials estimate that just planning a fix for the sediment problem will cost $500,000 and dredging will cost another $1.5 million to $4.5 million.

Sources: City of Bend, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council

The problem
The dam that created Mirror Pond is also a big factor in the sediment buildup issue. The dam slows the movement of water and the sediment in it, which causes some of it to settle along the edges of the pond and build up over time. Experts also suggest that the sediment load in the Deschutes River, which is carried into Mirror Pond, is particularly high because of the rate at which water is released from Wickiup Reservoir. The water flows can vary by more than 1,500 cubic feet per second between summer and winter, according to this year’s Mirror Pond report from the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. When the pond was dredged in 1984, crews removed about 60,000 cubic yards of sediment.
Three months after it was assembled, the management team tasked with finding a solution for the growing silt buildup problem in Bend’s Mirror Pond is still trying to decide who should take charge of the work — but some of the group’s members say they’re hoping to have the project leadership sorted out by early next year.

The Mirror Pond Management Board has more than a dozen members representing a variety of government agencies, environmental groups and businesses with interest in the situation. Sediment has been building up in the iconic pond since it was last dredged more than two decades ago, and water experts have said it will turn into mudflats and wetlands within the next five to 10 years if left untouched.

The last time Mirror Pond was dredged, in 1984, it cost $312,000 and the effort was led by the city of Bend. This time, the environmental regulations are stricter and the project is estimated to cost between $2 million and $5 million, and representatives for the agencies involved in the project say it’s simply too big of a price tag to take on alone — particularly given the current state of the economy.

“Everybody’s sort of in that position,” Bend City Manager Eric King said. “This is the time, when budgets are tight, that you sort of have to get a little more creative about not just about how you provide leadership, but how you implement projects.”

Shortly after the group started meeting in August, members began discussing which agency would lead the project and formed a subcommittee to consider the issue.

Bend City Councilor Tom Greene said some of the board expressed interest in letting the Bend Park & Recreation District take the lead because it owns more land around Mirror Pond than any other agency.

But Don Horton, the district’s executive director, said the project’s scope is too big to handle alone, in terms of both funding and planning.

“There was a discussion of whether or not we have to be the (lead) agency,” Horton said. “I think they see this as similar to a park project, but in our view it’s really not. We haven’t done projects to this scale that involve the environmental regulations this involves.”

Horton said the district wants to remain a key player in the work, so it has agreed take on a leadership role with the city of Bend and Pacific Power, which controls the dam that creates the pond.

Angela Jacobson, Pacific Power’s regional community manager, said the subcommittee members still need to take that idea back to the larger board in a meeting next month. She said it’s still unclear how much each agency will contribute to the initial planning process, which has been estimated to cost $500,000 and take up to two years.

But Jacobson said the board seems to agree that it should hire a manager to help coordinate the project in the near future.

“I think that could probably be the most efficient way, the most succinct way to move it along,” she said. “Otherwise, each of us as interested organizations represent our sole interests, and we may not necessarily come to any solutions.”

Erin Golden can be reached at 541-617-7837 or at


Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2009

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