Mirror Pond to be drained for Dam work

Mirror Pond will be drained to one of its lowest levels in history next week while crews repair the historic—and leaky—dam that backs up the Deschutes River and forms one of Bend’s best known landmarks.

Pacific Power, the owner of the 80-year-old dam to the north of the Newport Avenue bridge, has asked the Deschutes County watermaster to greatly reduce the flow of the Deschutes into Mirror Pond.

That will enable crews to install a fabric liner along the face of the aging wood crib dam, said Rich Barney, a Pacific Power spokesman in Portland. The liner should cut down on the leakage through the rock and wood structure, the first dam ever built on the Deschutes.

Barney emphasized that the maintenance is routine and that the structural integrity of the dam is not at risk.

Beginning Sunday, the Central Oregon Irrigation District and the Arnold Irrigation District will divert water from the Deschutes upstream from Mirror Pond. Members of those irrigation districts should take advantage of this opportunity to fill stock ponds and cisterns.

“We’re going to try to take as much water out of the river above the pond as we can,” Barney said. “We’ve taken it down before to work on the dam, but this time we’re trying to get roughly a foot lower than we ever have in the past.”

Barney said the dam repair work will begin Monday and take about three days to complete. Severe cold weather could prevent the work from taking place, he said.

The dam and nearby powerhouse today produces less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the electricity delivered by Pacific Power to customers in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties.

The structure, built by the now defunct Bend Water, Light &Power Co.. took several years to construct. Cement for the project was hauled by horse-drawn wagons from Shaniko, about 100 miles away. The dam itself—15 to 20 feet thick at the base—was made from wood cribs filled with lava rock.

When the switches were first thrown at the powerhouse during a ceremony in 1910, a total of 375 electric light bulbs sprang to life across Bend.

Once the power was flowing through the lines, maintenance was led to one man who worked with a wheelbarrow full of tools.

Pacific Power bought the dam in 1930. The powerhouse now serves as the company’s dispatch center in Bend.

Source: The Bulletin ©1990