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Bend dam's fate cloudier -- but Mirror Pond's clearer

By Barney Lerten
John Hendricks
Published On: Nov 25 2013 02:55:55 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 26 2013 02:16:01 AM CST

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on the latest developments on Mirror Pond and the PacifiCorp hydro dam that created it.

BEND, Ore. -

Hours after PacifiCorp said it doesn't plan to fix its leaking, 100-year-old hydroelectric dam that formed Bend's iconic Mirror Pond,  two prominent Bend developers said they have acquired an option to buy the land beneath the pond -- and hope to give it to whatever entity takes over and preserves the dam.

Todd Taylor, president of Taylor Northwest, said he and Old Mill developer Bill Smith have formed a limited liability corporation, Mirror Pond Solutions LLC, that has acquired an option to buy the land beneath the pond from the McKay family. Details of the planned purchase have not been released.

"The purpose of this LLC is to preserve the integrity of Mirror Pond on the Deschutes River for the greater good of Central Oregon," Taylor told NewsChannel 21.

"It's an iconic piece of property that has certainly meant a lot to our family over the last four generations," said Taylor, the son of long-time Central Oregon contractor Hap Taylor.

"The intent is to sign the option over to the district, the municipality such as the city of Bend, or the park district, or a separate taxing district," Taylor explained.

Last year, Smith, a member of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, asked a title company to research ownership of the pond and told fellow committee members the McKay family owned 90 percent of the land under the pond. A title company's effort to verify that claim found it hard to prove.

McKay moved to Bend in 1911 and was a key player in development of the town. Family members said he kept the land under the river when property along the river was divided into lots.

PacifiCorp announced Monday it "has determined that it would not be cost-effective for its customers to make the investments needed to continue long-term operations at the company's Bend hydroelectric generating project."

"It has reached the end of its useful life, in terms of the investments that would be required to for us to generate power there," said PacifiCorp Regional Community Manager Angela Price.

The announcement by PacifiCorp also has the Mirror Pond Steering Committee looking at new options.

Bend City Councilor Mark Capell said Monday the utility's decision  opens the door to negotiations on what to do with the dam. Does the city buy it? Or does PacifiCorp decommission the structure?

"The question is, where are we going to end up in that negotiation?" Capell said.      "They want someone to pay them for the dam, and our approach would be, we want them to rebuild it and gift it to the community."

Below is the rest of the company's news release, in full:

"First and foremost, the inspection confirmed what we expected; the dam remains safe and is in overall good condition for a 100-year-old facility, but further investment would be required for the hydro project to operate long-term," said Mark Tallman, PacifiCorp's vice president for renewable resources.

"After a century of producing clean, emission-free and affordable power for customers, it's time to divest or retire our Bend hydroelectric plant," Tallman said. "It simply isn't cost-effective or in the best interests of all our customers throughout six western states for PacifiCorp to rebuild the facility and generate power to serve current and future generations of customers."

The project is located near the Newport Avenue Bridge. In addition to diverting water for the company's hydroelectric project, the dam creates Mirror Pond on a section of the Deschutes River in downtown Bend.

The Bend community has been engaged in extensive public discussions of its desires and priorities for the future of Mirror Pond.

"We've known and have been candid with the community that the facility was reaching the end of its useful life as a generating facility for PacifiCorp's customers. That time is now here, accelerated by the recent new leak. This converges with public conversations and comparison of options the public has participated in," said Pat Egan, PacifiCorp's vice president for customer and community affairs.

The company says it will pursue discussions with the Bend Parks and Recreation District and the city of Bend "to determine if an agreement can be reached that places the dam under local control in a way that PacifiCorp can also demonstrate to regulators that the outcome is in the best interest of PacifiCorp's customers."

"The company wants to be supportive of community efforts to preserve its vision for the future of Mirror Pond, as long as PacifiCorp can also meet its regulatory obligations," said Egan.

"Among the various options we must responsibly explore, we are hopeful an agreement can be reached that allows this to happen and also protects the interest of our rate-paying customers in Bend and throughout our multi-state service area."

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