Mirror Pond dredging could cost Pacific Power customers, river floaters

Subcommittee will discuss options for raising $6.7 million

Julia Shumway @jmshumway | The Bulletin

A new City Council subcommittee will consider ways to pay for dredging Mirror Pond that could mean higher utility bills for Bend residents or fees for people floating the Deschutes River.

Six of Bend’s seven city councilors voted Wednesday to form a subcommittee to discuss paying to remove silt from the pond, and the Bend Park & Recreation District plans to vote Oct. 2 on whether it will do the same. It’s the latest movement in what’s been more than a yearlong effort from Mirror Pond Solutions, the private group that owns the land under the pond, to get the city, park district and Pacific Power and Light to help foot the $6.7 million bill to remove three decades worth of accumulated silt from the pond.

Mayor Casey Roats and city Councilors Bruce Abernethy and Bill Moseley will serve on the subcommittee, and they’ll look at 12 options. But they plan to most seriously discuss four options: charging Pacific Power a franchise fee that would be passed down to ratepayers, instituting a park user fee, having the city or park district contribute money from their general funds and seeking more private donations.

“My gut sense is it’s going to be some kind of a hybrid mix,” Abernethy said.

The new group’s meetings will be open to the public and press, unlike two meetings held this summer by several councilors, park board members, City Manager Eric King, park district Executive Director Don Horton and representatives from Mirror Pond Solutions. City legal staff said those discussions, which resulted in the list of funding options the new group will consider, could remain closed because no formal decisions or recommendations came from the meetings.

Every funding option should be discussed and vetted, Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said.

“We need to be smart about how we move through this financially with the city,” she said.

Two local businessmen — Old Mill District developer Bill Smith and Taylor Northwest construction company owner Todd Taylor — formed Mirror Pond Solutions a few years ago, after the family that had owned the land under the pond gave it to them. They had the permits required to start removing 75,000 cubic yards of silt from the pond this summer, but private donations have raised only about $320,000.

Mirror Pond Solutions has paid $434,000 for permits, but that total is not counted in the $6.7 million dredging estimate.

Other entities haven’t been eager to contribute. The city and park district have their own upcoming costly projects in the area: a $6.5 million park project to repair crumbling riverbanks and connect the Deschutes River Trail, and an estimated $11.5 million that the city will have to spend to replace or update 13 stormwater outfalls and stop debris from entering the pond through the city’s stormwater system.

City Councilor Barb Campbell, who opposed forming the subcommittee, said it doesn’t make sense for the city to pay for a project in a park when it has its own infrastructure projects to fund.

“We’re talking about spending city of Bend money dredging a pond that is in the middle of a park in a city that has a separate parks district,” Campbell said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

https://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/bend/6534910-151/mirror-pond-dredging-could-cost-pacific-power-customers

Mirror Pond and Downtown Redevelopment Concept

November 7, 2014

OVERVIEW
After several years of public engagement and technical exploration, the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee is proposing a concept for the future of Mirror Pond for public input. The concept detailed in this summary satisfies stakeholders who wish to retain Mirror Pond and those who wish to see a more free-flowing river with enhanced wildlife habitat. This concept, called the Mirror Pond and Downtown Redevelopment Concept also offers a vision for the renewal of a critical area in Bend’s downtown core, with opportunities for new parks, restaurants and mixed-use development. The concept will not increase taxes and would be funded and managed by a partnership between the City of Bend, Bend Park and Recreation District, PacfiCorp and the private sector.

UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM

  • Mirror Pond is a collector for sediment flowing through the Deschutes River, which backs up into the pond behind Newport Avenue Dam, owned by PacifiCorp. This sediment build-up, if left alone, would eventually create a wetland, picturesque views would be diminished and river recreation would be impacted.
  • The pond was last dredged in 1984 to remove sediment. In recent years, a need to address the sediment build-up became increasingly acute.
  • Stakeholders have been divided on the best way to address sediment build-up, leading to an extensive community-wide debate on the future of Mirror Pond.
  • Factors influencing the debate include:
    • The PacifiCorp-owned dam is 100 years old and no longer produces adequate power to justify continued corporate investment.
    • When dredging last occurred in 1984 there were fewer regulatory requirements. Today, regulatory requirements make dredging challenging and more costly.
    • The dam is in poor condition; repairs will be costly.
    • The land under the pond is owned by a family trust of one of the founding families of Bend. Two local citizens have an option to purchase the land in order to help shepherd a solution.
    • Neither the City of Bend nor the Park and Recreation District (BPRD) have ownership of the pond.
    • BPRD owns approximately 60% of land adjacent to Mirror Pond between Newport and Galveston Avenues.

DEVELOPING A SOLUTION

  • The Mirror Pond Steering Committee was created to oversee the development of a series of scenarios to address the sediment build-up in Mirror Pond.
  • A Mirror Pond Technical Advisory committee provided scientific input and data from which to base the alternative scenarios.
  • Scientifically based illustrations were developed to depict the scenarios.
  • The scenarios were taken to the public for input.
  • Community meetings and on-line surveys resulted in input from over 4,000 people.
  • Community input indicated a division between those who preferred the river to flow in a more natural-like manner versus those who preferred the current look of the pond be maintained.
  • While respondent first choice interests were divided between keeping the pond and returning the river to a natural-like path, there was a second choice scenario that satisfied most respondents. It maintained the pond while improving wildlife habitat and providing fish passage.
  • Results also indicated seven community interests that were shared respondents, including:
    • Maintaining the historic character and picturesque appeal of Mirror Pond.
    • Maintaining or improving public spaces.
    • Enhancing natural habitat.
    • Providing fish passage.
    • Reducing the quantity of sediment deposited in the river/pond.
    • Reducing the frequency that the pond needs to be dredged.
    • Identifying funding with minimal burden on taxpayers.
  • Following extensive community input, the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee, made up of representatives from the City of Bend, Bend Park and Recreation District and citizens, was tasked with reviewing public input and working with PacifiCorp regarding the future of the dam and exploring possible solutions that would address shared community values. The Mirror Pond and Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment concept resulted from this work.

THE MIRROR POND AND DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT CONCEPT

The Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee is proposing for community consideration a project that preserves Mirror Pond, allows for a more free-flowing river, creates wildlife habitat and will encourage dynamic riverfront mixed-use development in downtown Bend.

Concept Outcomes

  • PacifiCorp would divest from their power production interests at the site by relinquishing ownership of the dam and moving the substation to another Bend location. A sub-committee of the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee is currently in communication with PacifiCorp regarding this scenario.
  • PacifiCorp would gift the dam to a public entity (City and/or Park District) who would then oversee conversion of the dam into a water impoundment constructed as a series of pools and riffles in the river. This new impoundment would cause a rise in the river water level behind it, resulting in the preservation of Mirror Pond near its average historic level.
  • The new pools and riffles would provide fish passage where none exist today.
  • The banks along the river would be reshaped to help to reduce sediment buildup and enhance habitat.
  • Pacific Park, the two Mirror Pond parking lots, and PacifiCorp’s powerhouse, parking lot and substation would be repurposed into new mixed use development including public spaces, plazas, restaurants, small businesses, housing and public parking.
  • Private property owners in the area would see value in redevelopment as a means to enhance their investments and support the community’s economic vitality.
  • The Deschutes River Trail would wind through downtown Bend, connecting people to parks, schools and business.
  • A public-private partnership involving the City of Bend, Park District, PacifiCorp and private sector interests would lead and fund redevelopment.
    • The Park District’s role would include selling what is now Pacific Park and using the funds generated to create a new Pacific Park near what is now the substation, improving the Deschutes River Trail through Bend’s urban core, and creating new public places.
    • The City’s role would include encouraging development on what are now the two Mirror Pond parking lots, updating storm water systems, and building a new parking structure. Funds would be generated by a combination of proceeds from land sales/rent, the formation of an urban renewal district, and/or development fees.
    • PacifiCorp’s role would be to divest in the dam and substation.
    • Private development’s role would be to invest in new mixed use development, including retail, commercial/office and housing.

NEXT STEPS

The Mirror Pond Ad Hoc committee is inviting the community to give input on the Mirror Pond and Downtown Redevelopment Concept. Should the concept receive widespread support, an independent consortium would be formed to oversee a development plan. The City and Park District would lead the elements of the project on public lands and make improvements to the dam and pond.

PUBLIC INPUT

A public input period on the proposed concept will be open from November 2014 to January 2015. The public may offer input through the following opportunities:

  • www.mirrorpondbend.com
  • Public meetings – dates/locations TBD
  • Other outreach opportunities to be advertised through TV, radio, news and social media.

Illustration of the Mirror Pond and Downtown Redevelopment Concept
Mirror Pond / Downtown Concept

Mirror Pond / Downtown 2

Illustration of the Mirror Pond and Downtown Redevelopment Concept
Features include:

  • Buildings indicated in blue are envisioned for redevelopment along the river.
  • New public space exists where the dam and substation currently exist.
  • Conversion of the dam into an impoundment, constructed of a series of new pools and riffles that preserve Mirror Pond and provides fish passage.
  • The historic powerhouse is repurposed into a restaurant or other business.
  • Brooks Park is expanded, narrowing the river channel.
  • The Deschutes River Trail connects new development with downtown.
  • Public plazas and viewscapes maintain connection with the riverfront.
  • The banks along the river provide habitat for nature.

30,000 feet

Your opinion matters. Please go to the Mirror Pond website and share your perspective.  Go to www.mirrorpondbend.com

Please fill out the Mirror Pond Downtown and Redevelopment Concept questionnaire.

PDF: Mirror_Pond_and_Downtown_Redevelopment_Concept

Bend City Councilor is optimistic Mirror Pond deal can be reached

Bend City Councilor Mark Capell just met with the CEO of Pacific Power that owns the dam last week and is encouraged they will be able to work something out to satisfy most people.

“What we’re trying to do is come up with a public-private partnership of some sort to answer the question, the community is really divided on what to do with Mirror Pond — river or a pond. The one thing that people feel really strongly about is they don’t want to spend any money and with a public-private partnership we can accomplish that as well.”

Councilor Capell is part of the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc committee tasked with deciding what to do with Mirror Pond.

Capell expects to have designs for the public to look at and offer input on in the next couple weeks.

Source: KBND

Another Mirror Pond ballot measure is in the works

Measure would require city of Bend to get permits before acquiring dam

By Scott Hammers | The Bulletin

A measure that would limit the city of Bend’s ability to acquire the Mirror Pond dam could be headed for the November ballot.

Spencer Dahl, who’s been active in the various committees and public meetings surrounding the future of Mirror Pond, submitted the paperwork to begin collecting signatures for the measure a little over a week ago. If 15 percent of registered voters within the city sign his petitions by Aug. 6, it will go before voters in the November election.

Dahl’s measure would prohibit the city from taking ownership or control of the dam unless it has already obtained one of two permits: the federal permit needed to operate the dam as an updated hydroelectric generation facility, or the state water right permit to operate it as a nongenerating dam.

The idea of the city or the Bend Park & Recreation District acquiring the dam that creates Mirror Pond has gained traction since December, when dam owner Pacifi­Corp announced it was no longer interested in operating the dam long term. The utility has since repaired a hole in the dam that prompted the announcement, but is continuing to discuss the possible transfer of the dam with officials from the city and the park district.

Dahl said his ballot measure is an attempt to focus the discussion on what he believes is the central issue: Should the Mirror Pond dam continue to be a hydroelectric facility or not? He said his research suggests it’s unlikely the state would grant the water rights needed for the dam to remain if it’s not generating electricity, and if that’s the case, many of the ideas now up for discussion may be pointless.

“If we’re spending money on coming up with all these plans and ideas that may or may not happen without this water right, why don’t we focus on getting this water right first?” Dahl said. “It’s absolutely critical — without the water right, all these plans are a waste of time and money.”

Dahl said he’s personally open to a variety of options for Mirror Pond and the dam, though he’s fairly certain the current dam will eventually come out. He said there’s no need to rush a decision: The recently repaired leak washed away much of the sediment that had accumulated on the floor of the pond, and with the repairs, the dam could have another 10 to 20 years as a viable power generation facility.

“I think there’s a great sense of false urgency in the whole process,” he said. “From the beginning: ‘Mirror Pond’s going to disappear if we don’t do this right away.’ They’ve been saying that for the last 10 years.”

Dahl’s measure is distinct from two Mirror Pond ballot measures being advanced by Foster Fell. Fell’s proposed ballot measures would bar the city and the park district from spending public funds on any improvements at the Mirror Pond or the dam without providing for fish passages and habitat restoration.

https://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/2003373-151/another-mirror-pond-ballot-measure-is-in-the

Dam inspection report under wraps

Bend park officials say PacifiCorp to decide on disclosure

By Hillary Borrud | The Bulletin

Bend Park & Recreation District officials say they will let the utility company that owns Mirror Pond dam decide whether the public gets to see a taxpayer-funded inspection report on the structure .

At least on the surface, that decision appears to be at odds with how city councilors and utility company officials want to proceed. In fact, each party involved has a different idea on how the park district should handle the report. A PacifiCorp spokesman said the decision on whether to release the report is up to the park district, while two city councilors involved in the process said on Monday the report is part of an important community discussion and should be released to the public. PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said the utility would like to see the report and possibly redact sections of it before the public would see it.

The park district, a government agency that is separate from the city of Bend, hired Phoenix, Ariz.-based contractor Gannett Fleming Inc. to inspect the dam on the Deschutes River last month and provide an independent opinion of its condition. The inspection is supposed to provide crucial information on future dam maintenance costs for city councilors and park district officials, who are negotiating to acquire the dam from owner PacifiCorp.

The park district will pay $23,500 for the inspection and report, Mirror Pond Project Manager Jim Figurski wrote in a recent email. However, Figurski and park district Executive Director Don Horton wrote in emails that because they signed a nondisclosure agreement with PacifiCorp, the utility has the legal right to decide whether the district can release the report. Figurski and Horton declined to provide a copy of the report to The Bulletin without permission from PacifiCorp.

City Councilor Mark Capell said on Monday that because this is an independent inspection report on the dam, it should not contain any of PacifiCorp’s proprietary information. Capell and City Councilor Victor Chudowsky are both members of the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee, a group that includes park board members and citizens and is tasked with deciding the future of Mirror Pond.

“In my opinion, the community needs the information to make a good decision,” Capell said. “So it’s information that needs to be released.”

Chudowsky agreed. “I think the main thing is the community needs to know whether we’re taking over an asset or a liability, and how big that asset or liability is,” Chudowsky said. “It’s critical information, absolutely critical.”

Last fall, the century-old dam sprang a leak and after PacifiCorp conducted its own inspection, company officials said repairs at the hydroelectric project would be too costly to pencil out for their ratepayers. It was the third leak in five years at the dam. Then in February, the utility company changed course and agreed to repair the leak. A PacifiCorp spokesman said in February that the utility estimated the repairs would cost $250,000.

Gannett Fleming has written a report on its inspection of the dam. However, Horton wrote in an email that in his opinion, the inspection report is not yet complete. “I reviewed it late last week and will be asking the consultants to clarify some of their findings,” Horton wrote in the April 7 email. Horton did not say what he asked the consultants to clarify .

The nondisclosure agreement, which names the park district as a potential purchaser of the dam and the city of Bend as an interested party, states that documents created with confidential information from PacifiCorp can only be released with the utility’s consent. It’s unclear at this point whether there is any confidential information from PacifiCorp in the inspection report.

Gravely confirmed last week that the utility wants to see the report before the public does.

“I think ultimately they own the report, so it will be their decision,” Gravely said of the park district. However, he said, the utility company does want to review the park district’s report before it is released to the public and might ask the district to redact sections of it.

“I think the only thing we would want to do first is to make sure there’s no commercially sensitive, confidential information that was provided under the nondisclosure agreement,” Gravely said. “We wouldn’t have a problem with the report itself being released and that would ultimately be their decision.”

Gravely said PacifiCorp employees have not yet seen the report, so he did not know what type of information the utility would consider to be commercially sensitive and want to redact.

Gravely said PacifiCorp executives have not met with local officials since December to negotiate the possible transfer of dam ownership because officials were waiting to learn the findings of the inspection.

https://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/1967812-151/dam-inspection-report-under-wraps

A close look at Bend’s Mirror Pond dam

The committee looking into what should be done with Mirror Pond got an up-close look at the leaking dam there Wednesday, joining representatives of Pacifi­Corp on a tour of the more than 100-year-old facility.

The ad hoc committee, formed last fall, includes representatives from the city of Bend, the Bend Park & Recreation District and the general public. It will weigh in on the relative merits of dredging the pond, keeping the dam, which is owned by PacifiCorp, removing the dam and other alternatives.

The group’s tour came one day before a team of consultants hired by the park district is due to arrive in Bend to inspect the dam. PacifiCorp has been lowering the level of Mirror Pond in recent days to allow for a safe inspection, but water levels should be headed back up this weekend.

Jim Figurski, the head of the park district’s efforts on Mirror Pond-related matters, said the inspection should provide a better idea of what kind of maintenance costs the city or park district would have to bear if they were to acquire the dam from Pacifi­Corp. PacifiCorp has committed to repairing a hole that opened up in the dam last fall, dropping water levels to nearly 7 feet below seasonal normals, but is looking to divest itself of the dam as a generation facility.

“Part of the analysis is what would we need to do for a 50-year or more fix, not just a 10-year fix or a near-term fix,” Figurski said.

He expects the consultants will have a complete report for the committee by the end of the month.

On the back deck of the powerhouse, members of the tour group learned Wednesday how the gates at the base of the dam can be manipulated to control how much water flows out, allowing the dam operator to maintain Mirror Pond at a consistent elevation.

They peeked into buckets of bottles, cans and old tennis balls that are scattered across the dam property, all of them retrieved from the pond above the dam with the help of a long-handled net.

Descending a ladder to a wide lawn hemmed in by the dam on the upstream side and barbed wire on the downstream side, the group examined a now rarely used gate at the north edge of the spillway, where boards can be removed to discharge ice and debris into a crudely constructed rock and concrete sluice gate.

Water seeps through several points along the concrete dam face, nourishing thick cushions of moss sprouting from the stained walls, and as suggested by the footprints dotting the mud below, a handful of raccoons and other small animals that find their way through the fences.

Mark Tallman, vice president of renewable resources for PacifiCorp, said the seepage is a cosmetic problem more than a safety issue.

“The dam is just like a drafty house, it’s just old,” he said.

Visitors donned fireproof suits before venturing inside the powerhouse, where three large generating wheels sat idle Wednesday on account of the lowered water levels. When turning, the three generators can produce enough electricity to power 300 to 400 homes.

Tallman told tour members the powerhouse is still potentially dangerous even when the generators aren’t spinning due to a live power line running across the ceiling that — under the right circumstances — can throw off high-voltage arcs. The controls for the adjacent substation are also inside the powerhouse, Tallman said, cautioning the visitors to avoid touching any of the equipment.

“It is possible, if you accidentally touch or move the wrong handle, you could put Bend in the dark,” he said.

Scott Wallace, a member of the park district board and a member of the ad hoc committee, said he expects the behind-the-scenes tour will prove useful once the engineering report is complete. Until Wednesday, Wallace said he only had a hazy idea of what went on at the Mirror Pond dam.

“I grew up in Bend, and this is the closest I’ve ever come to the powerhouse,” he said.

City Councilor and committee member Victor Chudowsky said he was impressed by the architecture of the powerhouse. If the city or the park district acquires the dam someday, it would be ideal if the powerhouse could be preserved, he said, possibly as some kind of small museum where visitors could learn about how electricity is generated and about a notable piece of Bend history.

Chudowsky said the tour confirmed much of what he already knew — that the dam is old, and in places, starting to fail. Though its days as a power generation facility may be numbered, the dam may still be the easiest and least expensive way to preserve Mirror Pond into the future, he said.

“Really, what we need to be deciding is, is this an asset or a liability, then go from there,” Chudowsky said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

Utility to fix Bend’s Mirror Pond dam

PacifiCorp announced on Tuesday that it will repair the leak in Mirror Pond dam in April, in time for people to enjoy higher water levels on the Deschutes River this summer.

One of the wooden panels in the dam began leaking in October, and since then, the water level has sunk, leaving visible the mud flats that have been building up in the Mirror Pond section of the river. The utility stopped generating power at the dam after it discovered the leak, and executives have been meeting with a Bend city councilor and the executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District to discuss the possibility of transferring ownership of the dam to a government agency.

PacifiCorp plans to install a steel sheet piling upstream of the leaking panel, according to a news release from the utility.

Once the dam is repaired, PacifiCorp will again begin generating electricity at the dam, Mark Tallman, PacifiCorp’s vice president for renewable resources, said in the release.

Tallman also said it is possible Mirror Pond would have filled up anyway this summer, when more water will be released from Wickiup Reservoir.

In December, PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said it would not be cost effective to repair the dam because it produced a meager amount of electricity. On Tuesday, Gravely said utility executives decided to repair the dam for different reasons.

Gravely said PacifiCorp hopes that repairing the dam will make it easier for the utility and local officials to reach an agreement to transfer the dam to a local government agency. “We don’t intend to generate (electricity) long-term, so fixing one leak for that purpose wouldn’t make sense.”

Gravely said PacifiCorp estimates that fixing the leak will cost $250,000.

Park district Executive Director Don Horton recently called for PacifiCorp to repair the dam to prevent further damage to the structure and ensure the river will be safe for boaters and others recreating on the river this summer.

Regarding PacifiCorp’s announcement, Horton said, “It shows that PacifiCorp has been listening to the community’s needs and trying to do their part in this negotiation process that we’re going through, to figure out a long-term solution to Mirror Pond and the dam.”

PacifiCorp also met privately on Tuesday afternoon with City Councilor Mark Capell and Horton to continue negotiating a possible transfer of ownership of the dam. Capell and Horton are members of the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee tasked with deciding the future of the pond. They were joined in the negotiating session by Ned Dempsey, a citizen member of the committee. Dempsey is a civil engineer who owns a home across from Drake Park.

The committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. today to discuss a proposal from committee member and park board Chairman Scott Wallace to appoint Dempsey to the small group that is meeting with PacifiCorp. However, Horton said Tuesday that Wallace went ahead and appointed Dempsey without waiting for a public meeting.

Capell said that during the meeting Tuesday, Bend officials and PacifiCorp discussed proposals from firms that want to conduct an independent inspection of the dam on behalf of the park district. Capell had to leave the meeting during discussion of a proposal from HDR, a large engineering firm where Capell’s brother Paul Capell works. Capell has said PacifiCorp should repair the Mirror Pond dam and give it to the community, and on Tuesday, he said the announcement that the utility will repair the dam does not mean it will be worth more. “It’s not going to make them any money, for sure,” Capell said. Nonetheless, Capell said the utility’s decision to fix the leak is a positive development. “I thought that was an outstanding step forward by (PacifiCorp),” Capell said.

Mirror Pond will be back

Mirror Pond will make its return before the start of spring despite the leak in the dam that creates Bend’s iconic lake.

Considering the current dry weather and taking in account the current water levels at the Wickiup Reservoir, the Oregon Water Resource Department is expecting Wickiup to be full around March 10-20. This could change by a few weeks if the weather changes.

Local Watermaster Jeremy Giffin said he will likely open Wickiup around the first or second week of March to where the outflow of water equals the inflow (from the current 36 cubic feet/second up to around 600 CFS). This will increase the flow through Mirror Pond from around 450 CFS to over 1000 CFS. It is estimated that the pond should fill and spill over the dam at around 600 CFS.

Giffin said that he will be releasing roughly the same amount of water this summer as in years past. “For the peak part of the summer (June through August) the flow through Mirror Pond should range between 1300 and 1600 CFS, again depending on the type of weather we are having and the type of crops in North Unit Irrigation District,” he added.

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In March, the flow through Mirror Pond will increase from around 450 CFS to over 1000 CFS.
In March, the flow through Mirror Pond will increase from around 450 CFS to over 1000 CFS.

Legislation to save Mirror Pond?

By Lauren Dake / The Bulletin

Being a former state senator, Bend-based attorney Neil Bryant understands lawmakers’ tendency to bristle at the thought of crafting a carve-out law aimed at narrowly helping an individual or entity. But when it comes to the century-old iconic Mirror Pond in Bend, he’s betting the Legislature would be receptive.

In November, Pacifi­Corp said the dam responsible for creating the pond is deteriorating. A large hole needs to be repaired and the company said it no longer makes financial sense to continue generating power using the dam.

City and park district officials recently said they would like to explore how to keep the pond intact. There are many issues to resolve, one of which is the ever-complicated matter of water rights.

And that’s where Bryant thinks lawmakers could come in.

Right now, the dam has water-storage rights associated with generating power.

The potential legislation would apply narrowly to Mirror Pond and allow a special water right for storage based on recreation and aesthetic purposes.

It’s one strategy.

“Hopefully, the Legislature would understand and say, ‘This is reasonable,’” Bryant said.

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said he’s certainly concerned Bend wouldn’t be the same without the pond.

“I think it’s important to the future of Bend to save Mirror Pond in the form I think we all know and love in that downtown area,” Knopp said. “And if a bill is needed and city leaders are in pretty general agreement that’s the direction they want to go, I would be happy to introduce a bill to save Mirror Pond.”

Bryant noted the legislation would help maintain the status quo as far as the water rights are concerned. The current water rights to store water are based on generating power and are non-consumptive, meaning the water goes back into the river.

“Whoever has the water right, it’s still non-consumptive, they aren’t taking the water to irrigate or for other purposes,” he said. “It’s to store water in the river. The physical water isn’t changing, you just need an expanded water right for recreation.”

Other ideas are being considered as well. For example, someone could transfer their water storage rights to Mirror Pond.

Jayson Bowerman, with the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, said he’s hoping the city can move beyond the polarizing conversation of whether to keep the dam or return the river to its natural free-flowing state to create a more unique situation. There are ways to engineer a dam, he said, that would still allow for recreation and restore portions of the pond to its natural state.

“We’re looking for solutions … to bridge the interests of (those) who want to retain Mirror Pond and those who want to see the natural river. We want both,” he said.

Knute Buehler, a Republican who is running for House District 54, the seat being vacated by Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, said he believes Mirror Pond is an icon of Bend and should be preserved. He’s open to ideas.

“Whenever you have a big transition point, there is always an opportunity to create something new. I think people should think out of the box,” he said.

Since the discussion is in its early stages, it’s impossible to know how the legislation would be drafted.

“If there is needed legislation (to preserve the pond) at the state level, I would be very interested in looking at that,” Buehler said.

Craig Wilhelm, the Democratic candidate for House District 54, said he’s looking forward to the process continuing at the city level before he weighs in.

“It’s just one of those things, it’s at the city level and as a legislator, I (would) have to listen to the constituents,” Wilhelm said.

Knopp acknowledged there are often unanticipated challenges to passing legislation.

“There is always going to be opposition, but the key is, the community of Bend is supportive of moving in the direction of saving Mirror Pond. … If we’re doing a specific bill to allow a water right fix and it’s not costing the state a lot of money, it’s more likely to gain traction with legislators,” he said.

“I think this is unique and has obviously been a characteristic of Bend for a long time,” Knopp said.

Source: The Bulletin 2013

Preserve the Pond?

After dancing around the issue for nearly two hours—and for years before Monday evening’s meeting inside the Bend Park & Recreation District office building—the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee casually called a vote: Should we keep Mirror Pond or not?

Suddenly, at least a few of the roughly 50 community members in attendance sat up straighter.

And in a snap, a unanimous decision was made. All eight of the ad hoc committee members present chose to preserve the pond. (Committee member Matt Shinderman was notably absent on Monday.) While ultimately not a final resolution, the vote seems to move the committee toward focusing all its attention on making the pond stick around.

The surprising move elicited at least one “boo!” from the back of the room, and even seemed to top last week’s dramatic revelations in the latest chapter of Bend’s most watched soap opera.

For those who took a brief Thanksgiving vacation, previously on “As The Dam Leaks”: last Monday, Pacific Power announced it was ready to offload the leaking, 103-year-old Newport Avenue dam—the very structure that creates Mirror Pond. That same day, two local businessmen stepped forward to explain that they have been brokering a deal to buy the land underneath the pond—and essentially, the pond itself—with the plans to preserve the city’s icon and famous pale ale namesake.

In this week’s episode, Monday’s ad hoc committee vote—coupled with the pending purchase of the mud beneath the pond—seems to have fully tipped the hand of the city’s power brokers: Keep the pond, even though public sentiment remains split.

That split wasn’t fully addressed at Monday night’s meeting. Early this year, an unscientific park district survey revealed that roughly 47 percent of residents want a free-flowing river, while nearly 43 percent prefer to keep the dam and with it, the pond.

But instead of serving as a closing chapter and settling the pond-or-river debate, the ad hoc committee’s decision on Monday simply raises more questions, such as who will pay for the dam which, after all, is necessary if a pond is to remain?

Acquiring the dam from Pacific Power and repairing and updating the more than a century-old structure will cost millions, the crowd was told on Monday. And there are other prickly issues, too, said a park district attorney: Transferring the water rights attached to the dam will be a complex process, and one without precedent. Yet, in spite of all the mounting legal and financial arguments, there was scant mention of returning the pond to a free flowing river and forcing Pacific Power to pay for the associated costs of dam removal and stream restoration.

“We do know that the damage to the dam is fairly significant,” said Park District Executive Director Don Horton. “My guess is that fish passage will be a requirement,” he added, referring to updates likely required, should Pacific Power sell or transfer ownership of the dam. “And we’ll need to find a way to transfer that [water] right to another use.”

Park district attorney Neil Bryant said that asking for a legislative exception to the state rule, mandated by the Oregon Water Resources Department, is likely the best option, but one that would need to wait until January 2015, the next full session in Salem. Other avenues, such as seeking a transfer of the water right, would likely draw protests from community members and conservation groups, Bryant noted.

Next to speak during Monday’s public meeting was Todd Taylor, CEO of heavy construction company Taylor Northwest and one of the two men to form Mirror Pond Solutions (the other is Bill Smith, developer of the Old Mill District). Taylor explained that he and Smith are prepared to purchase the 23.5 acres beneath Mirror Pond—from the Galveston Avenue bridge to the Newport Avenue bridge—for somewhere between $225,000 and $327,000. The amount would cover title research, mapping and testing of the sediment.

“This is not a profit center,” Taylor said. “We took it on because of our passion for this pond.”

City councilor and ad hoc committee member Mark Capell said he was similarly passionate about maintaining the pond, but worried that negotiating with Pacific Power over the dam would continue to be a sticking point.

“They want money,” he explained. “We want them to rebuild and give it to us. We’re a long way apart,” he added.

As a Hail Mary, Capell mentioned that perhaps a “small mom and pop” utility company would take over ownership of the dated dam and its power-generating facility, a move that could preserve the pond and address the water rights problem. Capell and Horton are scheduled to meet with Pacific Power again later in the week.

Following those comments, Horton made the call that eventually initiated a committee vote.

“We’re going to find a way to preserve the pond,” Horton declared. With somewhat Solomon wisdom, Horton went on to explain that both sides could be happy if, in addition to keeping the pond, fish and recreation passages were added to the dam as well as natural features along the banks, to better appease those who want a free-flowing river. Removing the dam, he said, would please only those who want a river, and likely alienate those who want to preserve the pond.

“There’s still a public process to go through,” Horton added, referring to the notion that, ultimately, there will be a public vote whether to preserve the pond. “I understand both sides.”

After the meeting, city councilor and ad hoc committee member Victor Chudowsky agreed, putting to rest, briefly, any fears of the committee steam-rolling ahead with its own agenda.

“There will be a vote,” Chudowsky promised.

Source: The Source Weekly 2013