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Issues, options still swirl in Mirror Pond's silt

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Mar 13 2013 11:44:47 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with experts about the Mirror Pond project and how it could impact wildlife.

BEND, Ore. -

An advisory committee again dug into the discussion Wednesday of options about the future of Mirror Pond amid a host of questions  about cost, sustainability and wildlife.

The Mirror Pond Management Committee held a work session to discuss the focus of an assortment of options to deal with the silt buildup and the pond's future.

And while there was discussion on the details of getting rid of the silt, there were also a lot of questions about costs and sustainability.

"Early in the process, we need a cost-benefit here," said Tod Heisler of the Deschutes River Conservancy. "My question here is, at what point do integrate these cost-benefits into these options?"

Project Manager Jim Figurski said the details of costs are still being worked out, but should be available to the public with each option before June.

Four courses of action will eventually be presented to the public. Two are already confirmed: Leave the pond be or take out the Pacific Power hydroelectric dam and let the Deschutes River return to its normal flow through downtown. There's also the issue of whether to dredge the silt, last done nearly 30 years ago.

The other options are still unclear, but could include making the river more urban or natural -- or a mixture of both -- possibly to prevent another silt buildup.

Angela Jacobsen of Pacific Power said the company is open to complying with what the public decides.

Uppper Deschutes Watershed Council Executive Director Ryan Houston says the future of the dam is key to the future of the pond.

If the dam is left, he said, it would be most sustainable to change the width of the river.

"If we want to have a low-maintenance approach, what we need to do is narrow the channel to some extent, so the sediment continues to flow through," Houston said.

But If the dam is removed, Houston said that would also be a low-maintenance option. It will have an impact on those with a stake who don't have a voice.

"If it changed more into a flowing river, we'd see less stagnant water," Houston explained. "So we'd probably have cleaner water. The water we would have in there would probably have more oxygen in it, which means we'd probably have more fish."

But more fish in Mirror Pond could mean fewer birds.

Houston said ducks and geese prefer slower-moving water and, with a more rapid river, might leave the area.

Any changes could affect wildlife and their vegetation -- that's why Houston says it's important to find a solution that works with as much wildlife as possible.

Changes could also affect the floatability of the river, as well as the overall iconic look of Mirror Pond.

Houston said once a decision is made, the math and logistics will be fairly simple -- it's getting to that point that's difficult.

"The challenging issues surround people's values and viewpoints and how to treat these kinds of projects," he said.

The committee hopes to have a cost-analysis soon, and the four options should be available for public review in June.

A decision on what to do with the pond is expected before September.

Learn more at: http://www.mirrorpondbend.com/

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