Another way to save Mirror Pond

I attended the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee meeting on Dec. 3. It was very informative and I learned a great deal about the complexity and estimated costs of saving Mirror Pond “within reason.” The water-rights issues, the cost of repairing a 100-year-old dam, PacifiCorp’s options and the options for moving forward to save Mirror Pond or allow the river to return to a more natural flowing river.

Also, Todd Taylor discussed the reasons he and Bill Smith negotiated an option to purchase the 25 or so acres that the pond covers. Taylor explained they didn’t have any profit motives, only the desire to make sure, whatever happened, that the pond would remain. I might note that there were only a few people in the audience, and only one on the committee, that live outside the west side of Bend, so it occurred to me this issue is more a west-side issue. But in reality, it’s an issue for all Bend citizens.

Both the committee and the Bend City Council have voted to move forward with a plan to save the pond. So public input, it seems, carries little weight for the time being. However, I would like to suggest that instead of trying to save a dam that even PacifiCorp is not willing to repair or maintain, why not allow the power company to either repair the dam (which they have stated they won’t do), sell it to some private enterprise (no one is likely to buy the dam) or decommission it. It seems the third is likely and the committee agreed on that point.

Saving Mirror Pond is a noble cause. However, based on the conversation and debate from the meeting, it will be a long and expensive process that will most likely not be “within reason.” I’d like to suggest a solution that might satisfy the entire community since it is clear that people are divided on this important issue.

Why not just walk away from the table and let PacifiCorp decommission the dam at their expense? Go to the Legislature to create a new water right to allow a pond to exist for the purpose of retaining a cultural part of Bend and for recreation.

Surely our local legislators could carry that successfully to Salem since the pond is an established cultural landmark. Build a new dam just south of Newport Bridge to restore Mirror Pond where the crossing is narrow, create a passage for fish and water recreation and everyone wins. Instead of spending months and who knows how much money trying to negotiate with a company that really doesn’t care about anything but the bottom line and its own self interests.

In this scenario, whatever money is required from the public would go toward creating a whole new attraction for our city. A new and manageable dam that can be used to regulate the high and low water marks of the pond, allow a smaller river channel that flows alongside the pond through Bend, new opportunities for recreation, restored habitat for fish, less silt buildup. Look at the cost/benefit of that approach rather than taking on the expense of repairing and maintaining a failing dam and then having to still deal with the silt problem. As a property owner across from Drake Park with views of Mirror Pond and the Deschutes and as a taxpayer, I could get behind that approach and it might stand a better chance of getting more people to support the effort, especially when putting it to a vote of the citizens.

— Stan Roach lives in Bend.

Source: The Bulletin 2013

Bend is too cool to dredge Mirror Pond

As a citizen of Bend and a 2005 graduate of Oregon State University-Cascades Campus in natural resources, I feel it is necessary to say that Bend is too cool to dredge Mirror Pond. There are several reasons for this, though, none of us have to look too far to see that the city of Bend is always at the forefront in creating a hip and desirable place for its residents to live and tourists to visit.

From an environmental perspective, removing the dam will allow for the Deschutes River’s natural channel to flow, which is by far the most friendly decision for the river’s ecosystem. A dam cannot only cause difficulty for fish headed upstream, it can also significantly alter the water level, causing temperature differences that pose problems to all sorts of aquatic wildlife.

Dredging the river will certainly not help this environmental problem. It will, in fact, further harm the delicate riparian zone and instream species. We must face the truth: dredging will not be an end-all; it will be an expensive, ongoing process that will become more frequently needed as the sediment buildup increases from amplified river use farther up stream.

For citizens who are concerned about losing Bend’s iconic Mirror Pond, I am certain that the city will do a mighty fine job of re-establishing trails and landscaping to make the Deschutes’ natural channel just as beautiful as Mirror Pond — and enhanced by the knowledge that the river is healthy and flowing as it was intended to flow.

Bend is known for its ability to transform out-of-date places and practices into new and revised attractions that amaze its residents and tourists. We need to focus on this significant ability as we look into transforming one of Bend’s oldest landmarks. I like to think of the river flowing freely in its natural channel, with trails and landscaping that allow us to observe its natural beauty, perhaps even boosted by signage that tell of Bend’s forward-looking decisions that caused us to shift toward a newer and improved place. Bend has always been on the leading edge of fashionable decisions and it would be a shame to see this monumental choice go against our powerful standard.

Furthermore, this decision needs to stay in the hands of the citizens, not bigwigs with loads of money who can purchase the choice that rightly belongs to Bend’s residents. It would be a disgrace to see this paramount opportunity for Bend’s people stolen from them by a few certain individuals who think that their money and power are bigger and better than the community’s. This decision must remain in the hands of those who have lived and worked here and those of us who love to see our city come together to make choices about the future of the river that we all love.

The dam is already leaking, the river is already returning to its natural state. Please, let’s not take away its chance to become the river that it is supposed to be.

We are too awesome to give this decision away to money-hungry people who don’t care about the river’s health. Come on people of Bend, we are better than dredging. We have a chance to shine as a city. Let’s shine.

— Tracy Howk lives in Bend.

Dredge the pond

When the dam broke and drained Mirror Pond, we all looked at the dry riverbed. The pond drained and the solution appeared. Dry dredge Mirror Pond. Drain it, dredge it dry and then fix the dam. Dry dredge is cheap, easy and fast. We were thinking we could only wet dredge, which is expensive and takes lots of time. I say this winter, we drain Mirror Pond, do the dry dredge and then fill it back up in the summer.

Charles Baer
Bend

Test case for democracy

The publicly funded Mirror Pond Project — with its skewed polls and committees heavily weighted in favor of preserving this abiotic impoundment on the Deschutes River — is a test case for the viability of democracy in Central Oregon.

Recently, the “ad hoc Mirror Pond Committee” held a possibly illegal and certainly improper closed meeting. This is the latest outrage in a so-called public process that is anything but.

For too long this community has staggered under the influence of powerful special interests that use government to do their bidding. We finally saw a popular uprising against rule by fiat in Bend with the election last November of city councilors pledged to restore transparency.

Even so, our local power elite has chosen to revert to old habits, and the Mirror Pond Project has been turned into a classic case of political behind-the-scenes manipulation to arrive at a predetermined outcome.

The original Mirror Pond Project Web page announced that “ultimate decision making authority” would rest with the five-member steering committee. Then, on May 16, the Bend Park & Recreation District Board wrote, “the ultimate decision will be made jointly by the elected representatives of the Bend City Council and the BPRD Board.”

Now we learn that the new “ad hoc” committee (consisting of people from the old committees) will be “authorized to select a final plan for the future of Mirror Pond.”

The $200,000 that we are shelling out for this dismal project should, at least, buy us a vote.

Foster Fell
Bend

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Traffic may lessen if pond changes

I note there is considerable controversy surrounding the Franklin Avenue/Riverside Boulevard/Broadway Street construction activity. Listening to the pro vs. con discussion, I wonder why there is no discussion about the real need for spending over $1 million for improvements at all. I question why improvements in pedestrian safety and vehicle parking are any issue, because as Mirror Pond becomes a mosquito-ridden swamp or a raging river as some feel it should become, I don’t believe there will be much pedestrian traffic or vehicle parking in that area anyway.

Charles Porter
Bend

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond a part of city’s history

Mirror Pond and the power house are a big part of Bend’s history. I would think they have historical protection. Removal of the dam will not restore the Deschutes River to be free-flowing throughout Bend. There are three other dams or diversions. The one at Colorado Avenue is intended to be redesigned to a Class IV rapids, among other features. Removing Newport Dam will only move the silt problem downriver. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may require fish passage for the dam if electrical power generation is to continue. The first thing we need is an engineers’ evaluation of the dam. If the dam is sound, I would like to see the historical value of Drake Park and Mirror Pond preserved. If the people of Bend agree with me, I would suggest we have a cost analysis of a vacuum dredge like the ones used for removing sludge from sewage lagoons. This would be done on a continued basis as part of maintenance of Mirror Pond. This could possibly be funded jointly by parks, city, power generation, irrigation districts and property owners bordering Mirror Pond.

Bob Borlen
Bend

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Preserve Mirror Pond

Thank you, Bruce Brothers, for your article of July 10 in The Bulletin regarding the Bend Park & Recreation District’s ideas for our beloved Mirror Pond. This idea of tall reeds and wetlands in our downtown park is so out of place. Instead of “Mirror Pond” they would call it “Mirror Mudflats.”

I answered the survey online with my thoughts, to dredge it and keep it the way it has been for years and years, and for years to come! When the lumber companies were in business, they dredged it when needed. It has been neglected for 30 years, so of course it needs attention. There shouldn’t be any discussion to do anything except dredge it.

The Bend Park & Recreation District has the money to dredge it, so there is no need to put another tax on property owners. This atrocity to even suggest that we turn this scenic downtown jewel into mudflats is absurd. The voters of Bend should make the decision in regard to Mirror Pond. Too many of our rights are being stripped away. I hope you agree with Bruce Brothers and many others, so we can keep our Mirror Pond and Drake Park as the icon of Bend.

Some things we just don’t tread on, and our Mirror Pond is one of them!

Judy Thorgeirsson
Bend

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Save Mirror Pond

We have lived in Bend for 46 years, and before that, as children, we visited Bend during the summer months to camp and fish. It was always a special treat to attend the river pageant, which was held on Mirror Pond each year.

Mirror Pond is what makes Bend a place like no other. Mirror Pond and Drake Park are in the very heart of the city and reflect its beauty. Many new- and old-timers have made wonderful memories over the years celebrating special occasions, such as 4th of July, concerts, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other special events; not to mention just walking in the park with your youngsters, and even pushing babies in strollers or carrying them on your back while watching children playing on the lawn laughing. And having fun while we enjoy their laughter and the beauty of the green grass, etc., in the park with Mirror Pond flowing so gently along. Kids love to fish in the river also.

Without Mirror Pond, we would be just another city with a river running through it. We have something very unique, and to let it disappear, of our own doing, would truly be a shame. Anyone you know who has ever visited Bend will always have a comment about Drake Park and Mirror Pond. Don’t let it dry up and be just a river with marshland, weeds and mosquitoes. This would be a real disaster and would truly ruin our city and the unique beauty that it is known for.

Joyce Scott
Bend

Park district is set on turning Mirror Pond into wetland

While we blissfully enjoy all that Drake Park and Mirror Pond offer to our community, your park and recreation district is quietly working to inalterably change it from the iconic pond that is the face of Bend, to a wetland complete with narrow river, cattails, reeds and sloping banks.

I recently attended a “community outreach” event hosted by Jim Figurski, the project manager for the “Mirror Pond Visioning Project.” He presented four options, one of which included dredging the pond and otherwise leaving it alone. He then spent our time explaining why that won’t work — too expensive, too much mud, too much trucking, too short-lived and the dam is too old. It became apparent that a “natural” river is viewed by the district as the only sensible choice, with wetlands and natural vegetation making up the greatly expanded banks adjoining Drake Park.

It quickly became obvious that the unintended consequences of the destruction of Mirror Pond have not been considered. Figurski opined that mosquitoes would not be a problem in the newly formed wetlands because the cattails would blow in the wind, drowning the mosquito eggs.

Though much time and money has been spent controlling ducks and geese, the audience was assured that the profusion of nesting areas resulting in more water fowl would not be a problem because the birds’ line of sight to the water would be obscured by the vegetation along the river bank, making them too nervous to use the lawn. He dismissed the idea of people and animals swimming, saying it is against city ordinances. The danger of children traveling through the underbrush and into the river unobserved was not discussed. Nor were ticks and the threat of disease posed by mosquitoes.

He focused on the age of the dam. He sang the praises of a natural river, ignoring the fact that there are two dams just downstream of the power company dam that would prevent the river from being “natural,” even if the dam were removed. The silt that would fill the downstream dam if the first were removed was clearly not considered.

When asked why the questionnaire sent out to residents did not request a preference as to whether to keep the park as it is, he replied that, like a doctor, the park district could not make a decision until first identifying the symptoms. Apparently the district, like a doctor, will decide what is wrong and make a decision as to how best to treat it. He rejected the idea of a vote, saying the people get to decide whether to vote money for parks but the district decides how to spend it.

I must confess a bias. I have occupied an office across from Mirror Pond for the past 30 years, watching people walk along the river, play and picnic on the lawns, and fish, swim and float in the quiet waters. Visitors are quick to assure me how lucky I am to have a view of the beautiful place that makes Bend so special.

I hunt, fish and enjoy the natural rivers with which we are blessed. The Deschutes flows naturally for hundreds of miles, from Wickiup to the Bill Healy Bridge, from Bend to Billy Chinook and on to the Columbia. The continued maintenance of our beautiful pond in the heart of Bend is not too much to ask. You can visit the parks district website at www.mirrorpondbend.com. If you do not act, Mirror Pond, as we know it, will be history.

— Bruce Brothers lives in Bend.

Mirror Pond should be preserved

Mirror Pond should be preserved as an icon of Bend. This can be achieved by the city of Bend purchasing the dam owned by a private utility, with the revenue thus derived from power generation committed to dredging of Mirror Pond as needed. Bend wouldn’t be the same without Mirror Pond.

Robert Cobb
Bend