Dam lifespan estimate coming

November 18, 2013
Dam lifespan estimate coming

Newport Avenue Dam central to Mirror Pond's future  

An estimate of the realistic lifespan of the Newport Avenue Dam should be available in early- to mid-December, a spokesman for PacifiCorp said Friday.

PacifiCorp inspectors spent several days examining the condition of the dam two weeks ago, nearly a month after the utility discovered a hole in the dam that quickly dropped water levels in Mirror Pond. The water dropped further when the dam gates were opened to accommodate inspectors. Due to the hole, water levels remain roughly 2 feet below where they would typically be this time of year.

The future of the more than 100-year-old dam is central to ongoing discussions of whether Mirror Pond should be dredged to remove excess silt, or whether Bend should plan for a post-dam future with a more natural flowing river. Until now, PacifiCorp has said only that the dam will eventually become uneconomical to operate as a hydroelectric generation facility, at which time the dam may have to be removed.

Spokesman Bob Gravely said PacifiCorp expects to have a better idea of when that could happen once it completes a report on the recent inspection.

“I’m not sure we’re going to come out and say it’s going to be three years and four months; I’m not sure how specific a time frame, but when we consider the results of the inspection and the economic analysis is also finished, we will be able to come out and give a much more clear picture of our intentions than we’ve been able to do,” Gravely said.

Don Horton, executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District and one of nine members of the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee, said establishing a semi-fixed date from PacifiCorp will help narrow the discussion surrounding Mirror Pond. If the dam is expected to remain in place for several years, dredging to preserve the pond, more or less as is, is a viable option, he said.

If PacifiCorp plans to shut it down soon, Horton said, the discussion shifts toward the removal or replacement of the dam.

“I think that’s one of the thing’s the community has been waiting for,” he said.

Questions surrounding the ownership of the land beneath Mirror Pond may also be nearing resolution, Horton said.

Descendants of Clyde McKay, who platted some of the first lots in Bend before the Deschutes River was dammed, have claimed ownership of much of the bottom of Mirror Pond.

Horton said recent discussions with the McKay family suggest they are amenable to selling the land to the park district or some other public entity.

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