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Dam leak springs questions about Mirror Pond's future

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Dec 24 2013 08:59:43 AM CST
Updated On: Oct 07 2013 03:56:19 PM CDT

Bend's iconic Mirror Pond turns to shallow stream as leak springs in Pacific Power dam.

BEND, Ore. -

If you've spent any time near Drake Park in Bend the last couple of days, you may have noticed Mirror Pond looks a quite a bit different.

The water in the pond is considerably lower because of a leak in the Pacific Power dam that retains the water.

Utility officials said Saturday that water will likely drop more in the coming weeks, as the power company plans to get permits to drop the water levels more, so it can investigate the damage to the dam, now over a century old.

Pacific Power spokesman Bob Gravely told NewsChannel 21 that the company doesn't yet know if the damage is worth repairing.

He said any repairs will hinge on upcoming talks with the Mirror Pond Steering Committee on what the community wants done with the dam that forms Mirror Pond, as well as what also suits the company's best interests.

The future of Mirror Pond has been a hot topic of discussion for months -- as the community looks to either spend millions to dredge the pond, do a partial dredge or take out the dam and allow the river to flow more freely.

Pacific Power officials say the leak developed in one of the wood panels holding the dam.

They say the leak affects water levels and electricity generation at the facility, but it is not a risk to the public.

Gravely said if the company decides to make repairs, it would be a few weeks down the road -- likely after a decision is reached on what to do with the pond.

People walking and biking on the trails near the pond said Saturday they definitely noticed a difference in the water level.

Some said they wouldn't mind if the pond stayed that way -- looking more natural and like a wetland area.

Others however, said restoring Mirror Pond back to its iconic beauty is important for the city and those who live nearby.

"I definitely think it needs to be maintained with more water," said neighbor A. Lynne Jesus. "It's just more beautiful. It's a big piece of Bend, and so I'd like to make sure the water levels high enough."

The leak at the dam by the Newport Avenue Bridge is similar to others that have occurred in the past in the wooden portions of the dam, which dates back to 1910 (the powerhouse was built in 1913). And while the leak affects electricity generation at the facility and water levels, it poses no safety threat to the community.

“First and foremost, the facility is safe,” said Mark Tallman, PacifiCorp’s vice president of renewable resources. “We want the community to be aware that they may see lower pond levels because of the leak, and so that we can take a more thorough look to determine the scope of necessary repairs.”

The leak developed in one of 13 wooden sections of the dam, called a bay, that’s used to regulate how much water is let through the dam into the river channel on the other side.

Upon securing any necessary permitting to allow Mirror Pond water levels to drop further, the company will assess the situation to determine needed repairs and the estimated cost of those repairs.

“Our Bend plant has provided clean and affordable power for a long time, but it is 100 years old and we need to make sure that continuing to make repairs at this point is what’s in the best interest of customers.” Tallman said.

The company will continue to keep community partners and customers informed, and will provide updates as the results of the assessment become available.

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