mirror-pond-swans-2012

Mirror Pond: Questions

Q. What is Mirror Pond? Where is it?

Mirror Pond is an impoundment of the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon forming a small urban lake. It is located between Pacific Power’s Bend Hydro dam and the Colorado dam. The pond is flanked by Drake, Harmon, Pageant, Brooks, Columbia, Miller’s Landing, and McKay parks, as well as a number of private homes. Some people mistakenly consider the Galveston (Tumalo) bridge the upper boundary of Mirror Pond; others call the portion of the lake between Galveston bridge and the Colorado dam  “upper Mirror Pond.”

Q. Why and when was Mirror Pond created?

The creation of Mirror Pond was a side effect of the construction of the Bend Water, Light and Power Company’s hydroelectric dam in 1910.  The purpose of the dam was simply to raise the water level of the river to provide head for electricity generation. The result of a “remarkably beautiful pond” was a bonus.

Q. When did Mirror Pond get its name?

“No one seems to know who was the first to refer to the impounded Deschutes as the Mirror Pond,” a 1955 Bend Bulletin article reported. The reservoir was first tentatively called “Park Lake.” It was referred to as “the mirror pond” for many years. The use of the name “mirror pond” dates from at least November, 1926. As of this writing, it is the earliest date that the term can be found in print.

Q. What community activities take place on Mirror Pond?

Canoeing and kayaking are frequent activities on Mirror Pond and in recent years “floating the river” has become very popular; Stand Up Paddling is a relatively new addition to the pond. Fishing has been popular at Mirror Pond for over one hundred years, although “the fishing” has changed dramatically. The Great Drake Park Duck Race is the only remaining major community event to take place on Mirror Pond.  The Pole Pedal Paddle and the Kid’s Mini-PPP have moved to the mill pond at the Old Mill District. Fishing contest, canoe races, the community swimming pool, and the famous Water Pageant are now part of Mirror Pond’s history.

Q. Is there a problem with Mirror Pond?

Casual observers or floaters understand that the Pond is nearly filled in with sediment.

Q. Who is working on the problem?

There are a number of individuals and citizen groups working on a solution. The Mirror Pond Steering Committee and the Mirror Pond Management Board are the official groups working on the Mirror Pond Project. The Old Bend Neighborhood Association (we made this website) is working to educate the community about Mirror Pond. The MPSC and MPMB are focusing on the sedimentation problem in the portion of the pond below the Galveston (Tumalo) bridge; the Old Bend Neighborhood Association is concerned with a wider range of issues and is looking at the entire pond. City Club of Central Oregon’s February forum was an open conversation with experts and community leaders about the specific, science-based physical options available to the community to address the filling in of Mirror Pond.

Q. What is the Mirror Pond Steering Committee?

The Mirror Pond Steering Committee (MPSC) is a collaborative decision-making and oversight body for the Mirror Pond Sedimentation and Enhancement Project, which was established to develop and implement a long-term strategy to address the silt deposits in Mirror Pond.

Q. What is the Mirror Pond Management Board?

The Mirror Pond Management Board (MPMB) was established by the Bend City Council in the Summer of 2009. It is an independent citizen advisory committee formed to advise the Mirror Pond Steering Committee (MPSC) and City Council on the project’s proceedings.

Q. What is causing the sedimentation?

When a dam is constructed on a stream, it tends to interrupt the natural transportation of sediments, which build up behind the dam; when water slows, the heavier particles of sediment fall out. Mirror Pond functions as a settling pool.

Q. Can the dam remain in place indefinitely without changing federal and state laws?

No. The dam can remain in place as long as it can safely produce hydroelectricity without “significant modifications” to the project or until the Deschutes River is navigated from Mirror Pond to the Columbia River and over to the State of Washington for commerce, plus up to five years.

Q. “It is speculated that Pond sedimentation was not a major problem prior to [1984] likely due to sawmill pond operations that included nearly continual dredging above the Mill Pond Dam at Colorado Avenue.” Is this true?

No. Contrary to common thought, problems such as silt formation and weed growth have been a major problem with Mirror Pond since the 1920s as Robert W. Sawyer, Owner and Editor of the Bend Bulletin, explained in a 1937 editorial. In 1941, the Deschutes River Eats Way Into Mud as Pond Drained. The Bulletin told us in 1957 that the pond was Mirrored in Mud, and showed the Bend Fire Department doing some hydraulic dredging to clear the Pageant Park float site.

Q. What alternatives are being examined?

The Mirror Pond Steering committee has hired a consultant to come up with potential alternatives to be considered. The Old Bend Neighborhood is compiling our own list of alternatives for educational and discussion purposes.

Q. Do the other dams in town have a similar problem with sedimentation?

Three of the four dams in Bend have sediment accumulating behind them. Unlike the other three, the Tumalo Irrigation District’s dam at Pioneer Park does not have sediment accumulating behind it; the sluice gate on this dam is opened each year after irrigation season to allow the sediment to wash downstream.

Q. Does the Pacific Power dam have any mechanism for dealing with sedimentation?

Yes. It has sluice gates, but they were not operational for many years and sediment buildup and vegetation in the forebay has likely hindered their ability to sluice effectively. The gates were tested last summer and were used during the recent hard freeze to de-ice the dam.

Q. How much water is flowing through Mirror Pond?

The flow of the Deschutes River through Mirror depends highly on the type of winter we are having. During dry years the winter flow through Mirror Pond is around 450 CFS and during wet years (when the Watermaster is passing live flow out of the upper basin reservoirs) it can be as high as 1600 CFS. In the summer it ranges from 1400-1600 CFS, depending upon irrigation demand.

Q. There were attempts to “mow” or “harvest” the aquatic weeds; Is this still done?

Q. Which government agency is responsible for regulating the dam?

The Oregon Water Resource Department has jurisdiction for the Mirror Pond dam. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was responsible for the dam until 1996.

Q. Could FERC reestablish jurisdiction for the Mirror Pond dam?

Yes. At some point in the future, the Bend Hydro Project will be reexamined to determine if it is subject to FERC jurisdiction. FERC has created this application template to start the process. In making a filing for jurisdiction determination, all documents should be eFiled.

Q. Does the Pacific Power dam get inspected?

Yes. The Oregon Water Resource Department provides complementary dam inspections; they are done about every three years as part of the State of Oregon’s Dam Safety Program.

Q. What authority do they have to enforce their findings?

If the Oregon WRD finds the dam unsafe, they can order the pond drained.

Q. Can Mirror Pond remain a pond, if the dam is no longer producing electricity?

No. Pacific Power’s water right for the Newport Avenue dam is for power generation. The dam’s beneficial use is to produce hydroelectricity; there is no water storage right. The power house could remain, but if the dam is no longer generating electricity, after five successive years and if requested, an administrative hearing is held to cancel the water right. If the water right is canceled, the dam can no longer legally hold water behind it. 

ORS 540.610 Use as measure of water right; forfeiture for nonuse; confirmation of rights of municipalities. (1) Beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure and the limit of all rights to the use of water in this state. Whenever the owner of a perfected and developed water right ceases or fails to use all or part of the water appropriated for a period of five successive years, the failure to use shall establish a rebuttable presumption of forfeiture of all or part of the water right.

Q. If the dam was no longer producing electricity would the substation be removed?

Maybe. The substation is independent from the dam and power plant. A suitable spot would need to be found to relocate it. This is beyond the scope of the Mirror Pond Project.

Q. Who owns Mirror Pond? Who owns the land under it? What if it’s drained?

Who owns Mirror Pond? See: Oregon DSL Waterway FAQs

Q. Who will pay for fixing Mirror Pond?

The answer to this question is unclear. The City and BPRD has offered to spend $200,000. The Bend Park & Recreation District voted to spend $100,000 to study a solution to match the $100,000 the city of Bend has put up for the study. Previously, according to the Steering Committee’s MOU, the members agreed to contribute the following amounts:  The City – $25,000, BPRD – $20,000, Pacific Power – $20,000, and William Smith Properties – $16,000.

The 1984 dredging project was paid for as follows:

  • Federal Government: $150,000 (Clean Water Grant through U.S. EPA)
  • Parks District $50,000
  • Pacific Power & Light $30,000
  • Private donations $19,500
  • City of Bend $62,500
  • Total $312,000

Q. Does the Mirror Pond dam have fish ladders?

Fish ladders were part of the dam’s original design and promise to the community from the Bend Water, Light & Power Co.  Although fish ladder’s were not common in 1910, fishing was an important activity for the people of Bend and a small fish ladder was added to the dam. This fish ladder was replaced in 1919 with a larger one. Neither one was very effective. The fish ladder fell into disrepair and was removed.

Q. How much would it cost to add fish passages/screens to the dam?

To modify the dam for fish passage is estimated at $1 Million for type favored by Oregon DSL;  Pacific Power has said, the small amount of power generated at dam will not warrant fish passage cost–therefore cost of passage would be a cost of the Mirror Pond project. Adding fish passage to the dam could result in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reestablishing jurisdiction over the Bend Hydro Project.

Q. How much more repair to the dam will trigger the need for fish passage?

ODFW is closely monitoring the repairs on the spillway and dam. ODFW says that, if over time more than 30% of the dam is repaired or rebuilt, it will trigger the need for fish passages.

Q. How much power is generated by the dam?

In 2011, the Bend Hydro project generated 2,115 MWh or 2,115,000 KWh of electricity; that is almost enough power for 178 homes. If Pacific Power had to purchase these 2,115,000 KWhs, the replacement cost is estimated to be around $77,000.

Q. How would not having Mirror Pond affect the Colorado dam project?

No one is quite sure.  The impounded water of Mirror Pond backs up nearly to the Colorado dam.

Q. What would the river looked like in the dam is removed?

Here’s a couple of ideas.

Q. What class of rapids would the “Mirror Pond River Coaster Ride” be?

“There is no place that I’d rather be — then on Mirror Pond; it’s now wild and free.”

Q. Has the City dredged the Pond before?

Yes. In 1984 the City dredged the Pond. At that time, the project engineer predicted that unless changes were made in the management of upstream flow, the Pond would again require dredging in about 20 years. In reality, sedimentation was already an issue by 1991 according to local media reports and public filings.  The Pond was also partially dredged, near Harmon Park in 1943 to make a “swimming pool.”

Q. Why can’t we just dredge the pond like it was dredged in 1984?

There are many regulatory and financial hurdles to implementation that were not present in 1984.

Q. How well did the 1984 dredging work?

In a Bend Bulletin article from November, 1991 it was noted that, “In 1984, the community spent several hundred thousand dollars to dredge the pond; already, the work is needed again.” That was seven years after the dredging. In 1987, just three years after the dredging, the Pond beset with weeds — again.

Q. What happened to the dirt?

The sediment was piped to the Shevlin Center and used as fill. The Deschutes Brewery, where Mirror Pond Pale Ale is brewed, is built on Mirror Pond sediment.

Q. Does the City have the authority to Act?

The City is not a large landowner along the Pond. The largest landowner along the pond is the Bend Park and Recreation District, a separate entity from the City. However, the Pond rests entirely within the city limits of Bend.

Q. How much would it cost to remove the dam?

Q. What government agency would overlook this process?

Q. How will the construction of the Colorado dam project affect Mirror Pond?

Q. What are the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance’s plans for the Pacific Power dam?

Q. Why doesn’t Pacific Power pay for Mirror Pond’s upkeep?

Q. What is the Timeline to address this problem?

Q. What impact does Mirror Pond have on wildlife? (fish, ducks, geese, swans, hawks, etc.)

Q. How many fish are killed directly by the dam?  

Q. How else does the dam impact the trout fishery?

Q. How does the Pond affect the geese problem?

Questions from: Restoring river’s path might be best Mirror Pond solution

Q. Do the economic benefits of restoring Mirror Pond outweigh the costs?

Q. And just what are those economic benefits, and who receives them?

Q. Are those who receive the economic benefits willing to pay the costs of regular dredging?

One thought on “Mirror Pond: Questions”

Comments are closed.