The city of Bend has time before Mirror Pond turns into a series of wetlands, a group of water experts said Wednesday afternoon.
Meeting for the first time – eight months after Bend city councilors recommended the group gather – the water experts said they didn’t see an urgency to dredge Mirror Pond in the next year or two.
City staff and councilors intend for the group, whose members work on water quality, management, habitat, hydrology and restoration, to lend their technical expertise in what to do with the growing silt at Mirror Pond.
The group also suggested the city hire facilitators to gather public feedback on what to do at Mirror Pond, an icon of Bend and the heart of Drake Park.
The consensus the group came to Wednesday differs from what city staff believed to be true five months ago. Staff suggested that if nothing was done, the growing sediment may turn Mirror Pond into wetlands. That could put Mirror Pond under more stringent federal regulations, making dredging of the pond even more difficult.
On Wednesday, Public Works Director Ken Fuller asked the group to determine if the sedimentation problem was an urgency.
“As we do nothing, choose to do nothing for five years, is that going to limit us?” Fuller said.
The group of water experts said the dredging could wait, because the sedimentation at the bottom of Mirror Pond is rising slowly.
“It’s at least five or 10 years away,” said Ryan Houston, executive director for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council.
During Wednesday’s meeting, members of the group questioned what their role was in the process and if council would listen to their responses.
Councilor Jim Clinton, who was in charge of gathering the committee, said from what he has heard from other councilors turning Mirror Pond into wetlands is not an option.
“The majority of councilors, would, I think, say Mirror Pond in the future needs to look like it has in the past,” Clinton said.
In the November 2004 meeting, the City Council looked at alternatives for Mirror Pond that included doing nothing; dredging the pond from bank to bank; just dredging the river’s channel; removing the dam; enhancing the wetlands; and restoring the river to its natural course. The solution also could be a combination of restoring the river and dredging.
The city also wants to start working on a long-term solution for Mirror Pond, which would involve input from those further upstream.
For the last three decades, growing sedimentation on the riverbed has been an increasing problem at the pond.
Mirror Pond was formed in 1910 when a power company installed a hydroelectric dam on the Deschutes River just past the Newport Avenue Bridge. Sedimentation was not an issue until the mid 1970s when the mills downstream stoped using the river to float logs.
Sediment that once stopped at the mill pond now continues downstream to be deposited at Mirror Pond. In 1984, the city dredged Mirror Pond at a cost of $1.5 million. At the time, the project manager predicted that the pond would have to be dredged in another 20 years.
And the city says the sedimentation is more than just a city problem. Water released from Wickiup Reservoir for irrigation generates more sediment than would occur naturally. The sudden changes in the river’s flow erode the stream banks and wash dirt and debris downstream.
“It’s a very artificial situation here. It’s not a natural thing. But people have a lot of affection for a lot of things that are not natural besides Mirror Pond,” Clinton said.
City staff hopes to have a recommendations to the City Council at the beginning of 2007. Between now and then, the city also intends to gather input from Mirror Pond stakeholders, conduct public surveys and form a community task force.
Source: The Bulletin ©2006