Mirror Pond levels to drop next week for dam inspection

Bend, Ore. — PacifiCorp will lower the Mirror Pond water levels next week to facilitate another inspection of the dam.

The inspection will be conducted by Gannett Fleming, an engineering firm from Phoenix, for the Bend Parks and Recreation District as part of deliberations around the potential acquisition of the dam from PacifiCorp to maintain Mirror Pond after the facility is no longer used to generate electricity.

The drawdown will begin Tuesday morning and will continue gradually until about midday on Friday. The pond will be allowed to refill starting Friday afternoon and should be full again by the Sunday morning. The inspection itself is scheduled to occur on Thursday and Friday. According to BPRD employee Jim Figurski, for safety and security reasons, access to the inspection will be limited to BPRD personnel, the inspectors and PacifiCorp.

Because of increased flows compared to last October when the Mirror Pond was drawn down to facilitate a PacifiCorp inspection, water levels are not expected to drop as dramatically this time, although it will likely be noticeable.

As was the case during the October drawdown and refilling of Mirror Pond, PacifiCorp will monitor water quality and conduct fish surveys consistent with state regulatory requirements.

PacifiCorp inspected the dam on October 31 after a leak developed in one of the structure’s wooden panels. The inspection concluded that while the facility was safe, it would not be cost effective to rebuild the entire facility to generate power for current and future generations of customers across PacifiCorp’s six-state territory. Since then, the company and representatives of the Bend Parks and Recreation and the City of Bend have been in discussions around potentially transferring the dam to a local entity so the community can realize its vision for the future of Mirror Pond.

PacifiCorp has announced plans to install sheet pile reinforcement in front of the leaking panel. The reinforcement work is planned to take place in April, or earlier if permitting is complete and a contractor is in place. The company does not anticipate needing to lower Mirror Pond levels again for that procedure.

Source: Bend Bugle


Leaky Dam Could Affect Deschutes River Summer Recreation

A leak in the dam that forms Bend’s Mirror Pond could lead to unsafe water levels for people hoping to float the Deschutes River by inner tube this summer.

The leak is about the size of a basketball. It’s kept the dam offline since October. The dam’s owner, Pacific Corp, now says it no longer makes financial sense to operate the dam. So last month, the city and the district began exploring the possibility of taking it over as a way to preserve Bend’s iconic Mirror Pond.

But Park District Executive Director Don Horton says if a deal does happen, it’s unlikely to come before the summer, when up to a thousand people a day float the Deschutes. He wants Pacific Corp to make those repairs a priority.

“We have time,” Horton says. “We won’t see floaters until June. However, we need to get the hole fixed as soon as we can.”

Pacific Corp spokesman, Bob Gravely says the dam is safe, adding that any deal that would need to take into account the interests of ratepayers.

Source: OPB News

Pacific Power Looking to Divest Mirror Pond dam


PacifiCorp 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.

The decision follows a thorough engineering inspection of the project dam after a leak in the dam developed in early October, the third such leak in approximately five years, which also prompted a broader analysis of the facility.

“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 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.”

Call for a vote on Mirror Pond

I’m sick of hearing about Mirror Pond and all the hand-wringing. What to do? What to do? Dredge or restore, restore or dredge, or leave it alone?

Let’s settle it once and for all time. Since ownership of the bottom of the river is not at issue, let’s quit wringing our hands and get on with it.

I believe it’s up to the people and not the Bend City Council to make the decision as to what to do, since it’s the people who are going to be paying for whatever is done.

Again, since ownership isn’t an issue, the city needs to put it on the ballot with three ways to vote. Restore, dredge, or leave it alone. Attach a levy for doing the work (dredging as opposed to restoring the river) to the ballot so everyone is aware of what it is going to cost either way. The vote will be the deciding factor.

Once a vote is taken and the levy is in place, go for it. But, for God’s sake, quit wringing your hands and spending endless time and money on countless studies and indecision.

Diana Hopson

Keep the doors open

We take back what we said about city of Bend officials. It’s not at all clear they have come to their senses about keeping meetings about Mirror Pond’s future open to the public.

In fact, they seemed to have looked for a way to keep the public out.

Back in July, the Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District Board met together to talk about the future of Mirror Pond. They both passed resolutions creating a Mirror Pond subcommittee “to select and refine a final preferred vision for the future of Mirror Pond.” The subcommittee was to include a couple of members from the City Council, a pair from the park board, some other government officials and three citizen members.

When time came for the first meeting, the public was not notified. No agenda was publicly available. Bulletin employees were told they could not attend because it was not a public meeting.

To make a long anecdote shorter, we protested, they acquiesced and told us future meetings of the subcommittee would be open to public. The next meeting was noticed for Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 3 p.m. at the park district headquarters.

This week, Bend City Manager Eric King and City Attorney Mary Winters came in to talk to the editorial board. King said he said he agreed with us that the meetings should be open.

Winters did say, though, that she believes that a subset of a governing body can engage in fact-finding investigations without it being necessary under Oregon’s public meeting law that those investigative meetings be open to the public.

Then on Wednesday, the council passed an amendment to the original resolution recasting the subcommittee as “an exploratory, fact-finding body to advise and assist project staff and the consultant team.”

It’s hard to know what to make of that.

It could be a move to enable the Mirror Pond subcommittee to fly under the legal requirements that the meetings be open.

We don’t expect that real estate transactions, such as negotiations with Pacific Power over the dam, should be required to be open to the public. Oregon’s public meeting law is designed to give exceptions for such matters.

But it would be outrageous if the amendment’s purpose was to game the public meetings law. We hope the council is not showing a passion for secrecy on Mirror Pond’s future. We’ll start to find out on Tuesday.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Feds may shut Bend hydro dam

The powerhouse at Mirror Pond may be closed for good. The Bulletin/Lyle Cox
The powerhouse at Mirror Pond may be closed for good. The Bulletin/Lyle Cox

Federal regulators expect to recommend shutting down the hydroelectric dam that created Bend’s Mirror Pond 80 years ago.

Their reason: Another federal agency won’t budge on a requirement for costly fish screens and ladders.

Last fall the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a draft environmental assessment that recommended a new 50-year license for Pacific Power to operate the 560-foot-wide dam that formed the famed 40-acre reservoir on the Deschutes River.

However, the agency refused to require fish screens. It suggested a fish ladder would not be needed for at least a decade.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stuck to its guns, however. So FERC official John Clements now told officials from the utility and city that the final recommendation, due out this summer, will change.

“Our preliminary assessment of the comment letters shows that we’ll probably be recommending project retirement,” he wrote.

The fish screens and ladder being sought  by Fish and Wildlife would cost an estimated $1.8 million. Other improvements would run the tab up to as much as $5.7 million.

If it comes to that, Pacific Power would rather just shut the plant down, at an estimated cost of $1.7 million, according to the company’s local manager, Clark Satre.

Decommissioning a hydro dam raises a whole new set of questions, many of which have never been faced, officials say.

The biggest question: Who will take over the site once the turbines are stilled, and who would fund maintenance and possible improvements, such as a long-discussed powerhouse museum?

Utility officials met this week with local and state officials, biologists and fishery groups. There discussion about pursuit of government grants for preservation of historic buildings and flood control.

Another issue: how to fund periodic dredging of the pond to remove siltation. The last such dredging was done a decade ago at a cost of about $300,000.

Source: The Bulletin ©1994