Bend considers dredging options for Mirror Pond

Bend City Council is again preparing to consider dredging Mirror Pond, along with some long-term options for reducing silt in the popular stretch of the Deschutes River that runs through downtown.

In a city council committee meeting Monday night, three councilors listened to a presentation by city staff and decided to take up the issue during an upcoming meeting with the full council.

The council is expected to consider appointing a task force of stakeholders to work with city staff on examining options for restoring Mirror Pond.

The council may also consider whether to begin holding public hearings on the issue.

Ken Fuller, director of Bend Public Works, said city staff suggest a two-part approach to restoring Mirror Pond.

“We would like to do some dredging or sediment removal, as well as work with the federal government to see if we can change the way they (manage the river) to reduce sediment buildup in the long term,” Fuller said during the committee meeting.

Upstream from Mirror Pond, the flow of the Deschutes River is regulated by Wickiup Dam.

The dam was built by the federal Bureau of Reclamation in the 1940s, as part of the North Unit Irrigation District.

During the winter, only a small amount of water is allowed to pass through the dam, while the rest of the river’s flow is stored in Wickiup Reservoir for the growing season.

Water is released from the reservoir during the summer. Just upstream from Mirror Pond, most of the river’s flow is diverted into irrigation canals that eventually flow into crop fields.

Season after season, these sudden changes in the river’s flow erode the stream banks and wash dirt and debris downstream.

Mirror Pond is becoming increasingly shallow as these sediments collect on the the floor of the pond, Fuller said. Algae and aquatic plants are sprouting up from silt on the pond floor.

If this pattern of erosion continues, Fuller said, parts of Mirror Pond may eventually look more like swampy wetlands than a glassy body of water.

Mirror Pond could become Mirror Mudflat.

Councilor Jim Clinton and Mayor Bill Friedman said that although the city is still reviewing several options, it may be appropriate to hold public meetings on the issue in the near future.

“Maybe the underlying question is, What does the community want Mirror Pond to be? What do we want it to look like?” Clinton said. “We shouldn’t start with the assumption that we want the Mirror Pond that we have now, in perpetuity.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2005