Editorial: Mirror Pond is new'natural' for Deschutes River in Bend

February 26, 2013
Editorial: Mirror Pond is new'natural' for Deschutes River in Bend

By Cary Robles

The consideration of removing the Newport Avenue Dam and losing Mirror Pond, Bend’s beautiful icon, is unbelievable. It is like removing the Empire State Building from New York City, the Lincoln Memorial from Washington, D.C., or the Eiffel Tower from Paris.

Mirror Pond/Drake Park is the most recognizable aspect of Bend. In Bend we put old houses on historical registers to preserve them. Mirror Pond is older than most of them.It needs to be preserved.

Silt is part of river hydraulics; it happens in all of them. Dredging is commonplace in rivers throughout the world. The fact that it will be 30 years since the Deschutes River was dredged in the Mirror Pond area is amazing; it is usually done more often in similar situations. Dredging is considered maintenance in harbors, ports, mouths of rivers and lakes and ponds. Don’t act like it is something unheard of.

There are alternatives to dredging. One idea (shared, but thought of independently, by my friend Carl Vertrees, the retired publisher of The Redmond Spokesman) is to bring the water level down for a month to let the “mud flats" dry out. Bring in excavators and dig up the mud flats, load the excess soil on dump trucks and take it to the landfill to make a topsoil that the Bend area does not have. Sell it for landscaping projects and defray the costs of the soil being removed from the pond. This could be done on both sides of the river from the Newport Bridge to the Galveston Bridge. A project like this or dredging would last another 30 years; it is just maintenance.

The group that would have Mirror Pond destroyed has an attitude that everything “natural" is better. This is the attitude that would remove the Columbia River dams. If done, Jantzen Beach, Hayden Island and Delta Park in North Portland would have to be abandoned. A city there called VanPort floated away in a post-World War II flood — flooding that was mitigated by the Columbia River dams. It would only be a matter of time before flooding would destroy those areas and possibly Portland International Airport.

The Newport Dam could be modernized, the Pacific Power generator replaced with a more efficient one and the structure improved. Pacific Power, the City of Bend, and the Bend Park & Recreation District should be responsible for the costs of dredging or silt removal. We, the residents of Bend, would pay for it through our taxes to Bend and to Parks & Rec and our rates to Pacific Power.

Removing the dam and restoring the river would be much more expensive than dredging. The idea that it should cost $200,000 to decide what to do is ridiculous, and giving the steering committee the right to make the decision is questionable. A vote by residents would be much more reasonable in a decision-making process. Not everyone can or will let their position be known on the Internet. The activist-type people will flood the Internet with their opinions and will be overly represented in the results of the questionnaire. Make your opinion known.

What would an empty Mirror Pond look like? The few pre-1910 pictures of the area before the dam was built illustrate a dangerous river, one where a presidential candidate was drowned while attempting to save a young boy who fell in.

Removing the dam would take away waterfront property from owners that have been there for more than 100 years. You affect the downstream properties, subjecting them with flooding. You affect the upstream properties by pushing the river away from them, reducing their properties’ desirability and value. This opens up the steering committee, the City of Bend and the Bend Park & Recreation District to endless lawsuits.

Maintain Mirror Pond by dredging or silt removal. Preserve the look of the pond; it has become the new “natural."

— Cary Robles lives in Bend.

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