Colorado Ave. dam project could begin in July

May 16, 2014
Colorado Ave. dam project could begin in July

Park district files application for ‘safe passage’ project

By Scott Hammers

The Bend Park & Recreation District hopes to start construction of the Colorado Avenue dam “safe passage” project in July, according to documents filed with city planners Thursday.

The park district’s application anticipates construction will run through July 2015, including 10 months of in-water work during which the Deschutes River will be diverted to one side of the channel or the other. The final product will create three distinct channels separated by dry land, one allowing floaters and boaters to pass through the area unimpeded; one with waves, drops and other whitewater features for more advanced river users; and one dedicated to the needs of fish and other wildlife.

Aaron Henson, senior planner with the city, said the planning commission has tentatively scheduled a hearing June 14 to consider the application.

The estimated $7.3 million project is largely funded through a $29 million park district bond approved by voters in 2012, though the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance has pledged to chip in $900,000 to pay for a portion of the whitewater features.

Both the safe passage and whitewater channels will be constructed as a series of steps, with the gentler safe passage section including 10 short drops, and the whitewater area featuring three steeper drops of between a foot and 30 inches. A series of pneumatic bladders anchored to the river bottom in both channels will allow the park district to manage the flow of water through the area, and to control the size and intensity of waves in the whitewater area.

A total of 27 bladders — three in the safe passage channel, 24 in the whitewater channel — controlled by an on-shore air compressor will allow the water level above the dam to be raised and lowered 2 to 3 feet, the application states.

The project also includes a new pedestrian bridge, to be located in the same location as the current bridge, but with a wider segment over the middle of the river to allow spectators to view boaters in the whitewater channel. A separate viewing area on shore at McKay Park is listed as a possible future amenity, along with restrooms and a pedestrian tunnel running under the north end of the Colorado Avenue bridge.

Above the dam, the application calls for a 260-foot floating boom to guide floaters using inner tubes or other less-maneuverable craft toward the safe passage channel, while a natural dam of woody debris will be constructed upstream of the habitat channel to keep boaters and floaters away.

The district’s application suggests river users will be minimally affected should construction begin in July. The takeout point on the south end of the Colorado Avenue bridge will remain open to floaters and boaters, the application indicates, while the beach at McKay Park where floaters typically re-enter the water will be moved about 100 feet downstream.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,

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