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Dam inspection results could seal Mirror Pond's fate

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Oct 31 2013 09:29:37 PM CDT
Updated On: Nov 01 2013 03:24:09 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with Pacific Power officials as they inspect a large leak in a 100-year-old hydro dam.

BEND, Ore. -

Could this be the end of Bend's Pacific Power hydro dam that's provided power in Bend for over 100 years?

"It could very well be one significant event away from that tipping point into negative territory, and this could be it," spokesman Bob Gravely saidThursday.

The event Gravely's talking about sprang about a month ago in the form of a large leak in one of the dam's aging wooden panels.

Right now, with the water level lowered for the inspect, the dam's not generating power -- or money.

"Our responsibility ultimately is to make decisions that we can justify to our regulators as being in the interest of our customers," Gravely said.  "So that will always guide what the company does."

Even in tip-top shape, the dam only generates enough power for about 400 homes.

Some of the company's more modern dams supply power for about 70,000 homes.

So, will Pacific Power pull out, or make repairs and bring its dam into the 21st Century? That's what the inspection is all about.

He said if the company decides to continue to operate, it would likely invest in not only repairs, but also updates.

"It's the ability to really get in there and look inside the structure in the way we haven't done in many, many years," he said. "It's old and it is showing its age."

Pacific Power lowered water levels since Monday to do the work, giving people a glimpse of what Mirror Pond could look like if the dam is removed.

Gravely said he's well aware that  the pond is in the middle of a passionate tug-of-war, not to mention a mix of science, government regulations and good ol' politics.

Some would like the city's iconic pond dredged and preserved, others want the dam out and a more natural-flowing river.

"We would like to align the decisions we have to make with the dam, with the preferences of the community," he said.

And with a community evenly divided on whether the dam should stay or go, it's a tough decision Gravely says the power company won't make for at least a few weeks.

Gravely said the water levels should start rising on Friday, as the inspection was only for the day.

He said the crews will put monitoring equipment on the dam to keep track of the flow and retention of the water.

Pacific Power officials also say if they do decide to cease operations, it doesn't necessarily mean the dam has to be removed -- instead, if the community wants to keep it, another entity could possibly take over operations and maintenance.

The Mirror Pond Steering Committee says it's not likely to make a decision on the pond until at least December.

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