Mirror Pond fix is still years away

December 14, 2012
Mirror Pond fix is still years away

The partnership working on a solution may have found a way to save money

By Hillary Borrud

For six years, money has flowed from public agencies and private companies to solve the silt buildup that is creating mud flats in Mirror Pond.

The Bend Park & Recreation District, City of Bend, Pacific Power and William Smith Properties Inc. spent nearly $86,000 since 2006 on work to help officials decide what to do, according to information provided by the city and park district. Yet the agencies and companies represented on the Mirror Pond Steering Committee have not decided what to do, and it could be years until a project to improve the pond gets under way.

Work slowed last year, when the steering committee discovered that the study it had been planning would cost approximately $500,000. It was a sum no one was prepared to pay. The public and private partners had paid consultant Michael McLandress $48,000 for work that included a request for proposals and other groundwork. Then, earlier this year, the city and park district each pledged to spend $100,000 more on finding a solution.

This includes paying for a different, less expansive analysis of options, and a public process to find out what the community wants.

The park district also hired a project manager to oversee the public process to select a preferred plan for Mirror Pond.

Part of the project manager's time will also be devoted to a separate parks project — the drafting of a master plan to redevelop the former Mt. Bachelor Park and Ride lot at Southwest Simpson Avenue and Columbia Street.

Despite the change of plan, members of the steering committee said the money spent up to this point was a good investment. The steering committee includes officials from the city and the park district, as well as Bill Smith, whose company William Smith Properties Inc. owns the dam upstream from the pond. The committee also includes a representative of Pacific Power, which owns the dam that created Mirror Pond and a member of Bend 2030, a civic group.

“I think it was money well-spent and it informed us on the total scope of what we need to do," said Bend Director of Community Development Mel Oberst. Previous work included research on state and federal permit requirements to dredge or do other work in the Deschutes River. It helped local officials understand what they absolutely have to do in order to gain approval for a project, as well as what might be unnecessary.

Don Horton, executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District believes the direction the project is taking now “is going to cost a lot less."

Horton said the project manager, Jim Figurski, has had preliminary conversations with consultants who indicated the cost of the analysis officials now plan to complete would be close to $100,000. The “alternatives visioning" process will begin with a consultant producing images of how Mirror Pond would look in the future under different scenarios, such as doing nothing or removing a dam. Members of the public will be invited to comment on their preferences, and then the agencies involved will prepare an analysis of the most popular option.

“The approach we're taking this time — rather than it being science-based in the beginning — we want to know what people want," Horton said.

If the Mirror Pond Steering Committee ultimately needs more environmental data to obtain work permits, at least it can focus on the public's preferred option instead of studying multiple plans, Horton said. Proposals from consultants who want to handle the visioning process will be due by the end of January.

Matt Shinderman, a member of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee and the Bend 2030 board, said he expects the alternatives analysis and public process will be complete by the end of June 2013, and the partners should be able to obtain permits for work on the pond by February 2014. Then, the community will once again be faced with the question of how to pay for a solution to Mirror Pond silt.

“We would certainly hope that if we get the permits by that time, that we would be able to pursue the project," Shinderman said. “But a big piece of this is once we figure out what that final project looks like, we're still going to have to figure out how we pay for it."

In the meantime, the Mirror Pond Steering Committee will continue to discuss this issue, Shinderman said. Previously, officials have estimated it will cost between $2 million and $5 million to dredge the pond. Shinderman said he expects the upcoming analysis will produce a more accurate cost estimate.

“Dredging is going to be a component of anything we do," Shinderman said.

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

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