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Dam's fate looms over Mirror Pond choices

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Jun 12 2013 10:49:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 13 2013 04:48:49 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with community members, city councilors, Pacific Power and project leaders about the latest developments with Mirror Pond.

BEND, Ore. -

Bend is one step closer to learning the fate of Mirror Pond. On Wednesday, project leaders released photos and diagrams of what the four options might look like.

Some options to deal with silt build-up would keep the pond relatively the same, others would drastically change it. But no matter what option is selected, the pond could change anyway. 

And it all depends on whether Pacific Power removes its hydroelectric dam, which powered the small town and created the pond more than a century ago.

Option one is to do nothing -- to let the silt pile up -- and would cost nothing. It's the option Bill Baer Jr. likes best. He's been living in Bend for nearly 80 years, and his family's been here since 1919.

"It's going to be a hard battle with me to give up Mirror Pond," Baer said.  "It's an icon and a signature of Bend. I went up to Anchorage, Alaska, I walked into a bar up there, and they had Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and I about fell over."

Option 2 is dredging the pond, for the first time in 30 years, an estimated $5.7 million project aimed at preserving Bend's iconic look -- but for how long is anyone's guess.

"It is a risk," said project leader Jim Figurski.  "We don't know when the dam will be removed, or if it will be removed."

Even if the pond is dredged, Pacific Power could remove the dam -- and Mirror Pond will be no more. Diagrams show the Deschutes River would turn back into a naturally flowing river.

At Wednesday's  meeting, City Councilor Mark Capell pointed out the all four different options look similar, if the dam is removed.

The third option up for discussion is to partially dredge and use the removed sediment on site. The sediment would create new lawn areas next to public park lands and a natural edge condition of riparian shrubs. This option could cost about $3.5 million.

The final option would remove the dam and reroute the channel. In the process, the river would flow more freely. The total cost for this project, including dam removal, is estimated at $10.6 million.

"What you don't want to do is pick the most expensive option, if the dam is going to be removed," Capell said of the first three options that don't include removing the dam.

"I think we need a better understanding in the community for what Pacific Power's intentions are," Capell added.

Pacific Power spokesman Bob Gravely told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday the company wants to hear what the community wants before deciding what steps to take.

But he also said the dam is coming to the end of its life -- and it's worth to the company is ending as well.

"Over the long term, I do not think we would keep using it for our services," Gravely said. "If this (the dam) were in the middle of nowhere and it was uneconomical, we would remove it."

He said there is no immediate plan to remove the dam, but if the community decides it should stay, Pacific Power likely would not maintain ownership or management of the dam.

Instead, Gravely said, they would work with the community to transfer ownership.

For now, project leaders want to know what you think.

By Friday, you will be able to look online at detailed photographs and diagrams of each project, as well as the costs and explanations of project details.

The report also includes recreational activities and impacts of each option, and the vegetation and wildlife that can be expected with the changes.

There is a survey you can complete to voice your opinion -- and all of this will be found on the project website at  www.mirrorpondbend.com

Figurski said the project also will be hosting a number of open house meetings where people can come learn about the options and see the photos. Those dates and times can also be found on the project website.

Here's Thursday's news release from the Bend Park and Rec District:

Beginning Thursday, June 13th, Bend residents are invited to offer input on possible solutions to Mirror Pond’s silt build-up and complete a comprehensive questionnaire.

Showing four viable alternatives, the questionnaire is available online at www.MirrorPondBend.com or in print upon request. All submissions are due on or before July 12th.

This questionnaire is the second phase of a three-phase process being conducted by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee to determine a preferred course of action.

The first phase, a community values questionnaire, was conducted this February and the third phase to select a preferred course of action will be later this summer and fall.

The current questionnaire presents detailed illustrations representing alternative actions with the projected range of costs, possible regulatory requirements, and the strengths and weaknesses of each action. For additional information, the project’s website provides information on the history of the pond’s silt build-up and its impact on the Deschutes River and community.

For people who prefer to learn more about the alternatives or ask questions in person, three open houses will be held:

-- Wednesday, June 19th and Tuesday, June 25th, 5:00 – 6:30 pm Bend Park & Recreation District, 799 SW Columbia St.

--Tuesday, July 2nd, 3:00 – 7:00 pm Juniper Swim & Fitness Center lobby, 800 NE 6th St.

Using a drop-in format, each open house will be hosted by Jim Figurski, Mirror Pond Project Manager, and committee members.

“Our intention was to provide opportunities for people to contribute to the process in whatever manner works best for them - from meeting face-to-face at a public meeting or going onto their computers from the privacy of their home. Everyone’s input is valuable,” states Figurski.

Public input is crucial to this process. The process takes into consideration current public values for the pond, past studies, identification of regulatory requirements associated with each action, and rough cost estimates to inform a recommendation for both immediate and long-term responses to the silt build-up.
In the third and final phase, those actions most closely aligned with community values and interests will be presented to the Mirror Pond Management Board, a seventeen member citizen’s group appointed by the City Council, for consideration. The Management Board’s recommendation will then be presented to the community. It is anticipated that a decision will be made by this fall.
For additional project information or to request a paper questionnaire be mailed to them, citizens may visit www.MirrorPondBend.com or call (541) 706-6152.

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