Dredge the pond

Thank you for the update on dredging Mirror Pond. I would like to invite the group who is reviewing the status to come kayaking and see the exact situation up close. To see the islands of goose turds is absolutely disgusting.

This summer, I was kayaking on Mirror Pond when I decided to get out of my boat to remove a chair that someone had tossed into a very shallow part of the pond, right off the park.

To my surprise, I was sucked into the muck and absolutely could not get out. It came up to my stomach and I just sunk right in. My husband had to come help pry me out. Later, I had another friend who flipped his kayak and it took two people to help pull him back out.

I think if they had this firsthand experience, they might see the real hazard of the situation. I cannot even believe we have people swimming and floating in it. How long before we lose a kid because they can’t get out of it?

Source: The Bulletin ©2006

Bend seeks help to fix Mirror Pond

As it did more than two decades ago, the city of Bend has taken the lead in deciding what should be done about the sediment buildup in the city’s iconic Mirror Pond.

But some at the city also believe the responsibility for the long-term solution should be one that is shared by the pond’s property owners and other state and local agencies.

The first and last time the city dredged Mirror Pond was 1984. The cost to do so was $302,000, much of which came from federal grants. At the time, the project engineer predicted that unless changes were made to the management of upstream flow, Mirror Pond would have to be dredged in another 20 years.

In the latest round of discussion on what to do with Mirror Pond, the city has issued a report on the increasing silt buildup in the pond, applied for federal money to help with a long-term solution and formed a committee of water experts to give advice on what the city should do next.

The committee of water experts has said that dredging to some degree must occur on Mirror Pond if it is to remain as it is, but they also suggest a variety of long-term solutions to the problem.

Even so, the city is not under any legal responsibility for Mirror Pond – in fact it owns just slivers of land along its banks. The largest landowner by far is the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District, which manages almost 18 acres of park land around the pond. The rest of the land belongs mainly to a few dozen homeowners.

Under state law, the Oregon Department of State Lands has jurisdiction on rivers that are considered navigable. For those that are not, such as the Deschutes River, the property owners along the banks of the river own the submerged land to the center of the river channel.

City Councilor Jim Clinton, who leads the committee that has been charged to come up with recommendations, said the city is right in taking the lead in coming up with a solution for Mirror Pond, which is part of the city’s logo.

“The Deschutes River and Mirror Pond are the jewel and crown that is Bend, Oregon. Therefore, the city feels responsible for keeping it the best it can be,” Clinton said.

However, compared to 22 years ago when the city last dredged Mirror Pond, a fix will most likely be three to four times more expensive and come with many more federal and state regulations, Clinton said. It’s a “different world,” he said.

Partnerships

In a report that will likely be released to Bend city councilors next month, the committee of water experts concluded that for Mirror Pond to remain the wide-open pool it is today, some dredging must occur. But once the sediment is removed, the city should take steps to ensure it won’t have to dredge so much in the future.

Today, water levels are so shallow during the year that sandbars have emerged with trees and shrubs, plants poke through the water and in some places, geese can stand in the center of the river.

Mirror Pond is not a natural feature. Part of the Deschutes River that spans from the Tumalo Avenue Bridge to the Newport Avenue Bridge, Mirror Pond was formed in 1910 when a power company installed a hydroelectric dam on the Deschutes River just north of Newport bridge.

Sedimentation was not an issue until the mid-1970s, when the lumber mills upstream stopped using the river to float logs. Because the pond is unnaturally wide, the river slows down and deposits the sediment it has picked up along the way.

To help decide what Mirror Pond should look like in the future and who will help maintain it, Mayor Bill Friedman believes that a committee should be formed in addition to the group of technical experts who have been meeting.

“Partnerships seem important,” Friedman said.

The group should include state and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the property owners along the banks, the owners of the two dams near Mirror Pond and irrigation districts, he said.

“To me the worst thing that could happen is to have community interests doing different things on the river at the same time,” Friedman said.

Of the property owners along Mirror Pond, the Bend park and recreation district would be the most impacted by any changes to the pond.

The park district manages five different parcels that border Mirror Pond: Drake Park, Mirror Pond Park, Harmon Park, Pageant Park and land next to the Newport bridge. The district also maintains boat launches on the pond, which is a favorite Bend spot for flat water kayaking and canoeing.

The park district has owned most of that park land near the pond since the district was formed in 1974, said Bruce Ronning, the district’s director of planning and development.

As the city did in the last round of dredging, Ronning said he believed Mirror Pond is an issue the city should be heading.

“I think the city should be the lead on it. It is a citywide issue, not just a property owners-issue along Mirror Pond,” he said.

Ronning, who was one of the members on the city’s committee of water experts, said during those meetings he made suggestions on how the sediment should be managed at Mirror Pond.

However, the park board of directors have not made any decisions on what it would like Mirror Pond to look like in the future and has not discussed the issue formally, Ronning said.

Long-term solutions

Some of the long-term solutions mentioned in the technical committee’s report to prevent sediment from growing in Mirror Pond would affect park land. For instance, one of the suggestions is to replace concrete walls surrounding the pond with more natural vegetation, which would prevent erosion.

Another idea is to relocate some of the silt dredge from the bottom of Mirror Pond to the shore line of park land, which would make the parks a little larger.

“We certainly want to be consulted and involved in any discussions that might directly impact the park,” Ronning said. “Beyond that, I don’t know what our role might be.”

Friedman said the two boards should meet to discuss Mirror Pond.

The park district might not be the only property owner along Mirror Pond that are seen as partners in the long-term fix. Clinton said that one of the ideas is forming a local improvement district, where the majority of property owners in a designated area agree to tax themselves to collect money for improvements.

Mike Hollern, who has lived along Mirror Pond for more than 30 years and is the CEO for Bend-based development company Brooks Resources Corp., said he was among those who has suggested the idea of a local improvement district, a cost that would be shared based on how much linear footage the properties have along the pond.

“The (properties) arguably benefit from having an attractive river in front of it,” Hollern said. “So it is fair.”

Through a local improvement district, adjacent property owners could help fund restoration projects that occur along their banks, Clinton said. Some property owners have already done projects on their land that decrease the amount of sediment deposited into Mirror Pond.

Hollern said he is glad the city is making Mirror Pond a “high priority” and “moving in a direction that will likely lead to action.”

Part of the discussion of who is responsible for Mirror Pond is linked to who should pay to fix it.

“Ideally, we would get some kind of grant from outside. We don’t essentially have any money to use for the project,” Clinton said.

It is the city’s responsibility, Clinton said, to design projects that can attract grant dollars.

This spring, the city submitted a federal appropriations request to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office for $2 million for “short-term minimal dredging project that would prevent wetlands from emerging.” The city did not receive that earmark, but Public Works Director Ken Fuller said they will try again.

Clinton said fixes to Mirror Pond will likely run in the millions of dollars.

Ronning said the park district hasn’t been asked to contribute monetarily to the long-term solutions at Mirror Pond.

Friedman said the mix of who pays will likely depend on what solutions the community wants. One option, he said, could be to do nothing, which would be fairly cheap.

Source: The Bulletin ©2006

Mirror Pond’s sediment buildup may be dredged

Looking north at Mirror Pond, with Newport Avenue Bridge at upper left, mud flats are visible. A committee has said that Mirror Pond, which stretches from the Galveston Avenue Bridge to the Newport bridge, would likely need to be dredged to remove sediment buildup, but that the city of Bend should seek public input and explore all options. Photo: Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

If Bend residents want Mirror Pond to remain the wide-open pool that has become an icon of the city, some dredging would likely be needed, a committee of technical water experts concluded.

But once the sediment is removed, the city should take steps to ensure it won’t have to dredge as much in the future, committee members said.

“That was a big issue. We don’t want to be dredging this thing and then dredge it again and again and again. We want a proactive solution that will last a century or two,” said Brad Kerr, a member of the committee who also designs fishing habitats.

Before any of the dredging begins, the committee suggests the city hire consultants to further study the problems facing Mirror Pond and ask the community what it would like to see happen to one of Bend’s gems located near downtown.

In the last seven months, a group of hydrologists, biologists, water managers and other experts in the water field have been meeting to discuss Mirror Pond, which is increasingly filling up with silt. The committee members came from public agencies, nonprofit organizations and private consulting businesses.

During the five meetings, the group created a report, which is still in draft form and could be released to councilors sometime this month.

Early in the discussions, the group determined that sediment buildup at Mirror Pond had not reached a crisis point, so there was plenty of time to put a plan in place for dredging.

While there are some emerging bare spots, Wendy Edde, a water resource specialist for the city, said the group didn’t see broad, major mudflats developing for the next five to 10 years.

“Not having to do something immediately is a good thing. It will allow us time to prepare, to get the information we need and put in a really good project,” Edde said.

Their conclusion came a few months after city staff had drafted a report that stated if nothing was done, the growing sediment may turn Mirror Pond into wetlands. That would have put Mirror Pond under more stringent federal regulations, making dredging of the pond even more difficult.

The report also noted that without action, the pond would “increasingly present odor and aesthetic problems.”

Today, water levels are so shallow during the year that geese can walk across the pond and plants poke through the surface of the water. Islands with trees and shrubs also have sprouted.

Mirror Pond is not a natural feature. Part of the Deschutes River that spans from the Galveston Avenue Bridge to the Newport Avenue Bridge, Mirror Pond was formed in 1910 when a power company installed a hydroelectric dam on the Deschutes River just north the Newport Bridge.

Sedimentation was not an issue until the mid-1970s, when the lumber mills downstream stopped using the river to float logs. Because the pond is unnaturally wide, the river slows down and deposits the sediment it has picked up along the way.

City Councilor Jim Clinton, who headed the technical committee, said the group agreed that it would be likely that some dredging or sediment removal would happen in the next few years at Mirror Pond, but it didn’t determine if the entire pond should be dredged. It’s also too soon to say how much it could cost.

“Everyone agreed if you wanted to keep it looking like a pond, you are going to have to remove sediment,” Clinton said. “Everyone wanted to do something after the sediment was removed to avoid doing it as frequently as every 20 years.”

The question of how much dredging should be done is tied to what the community would like Mirror Pond to be in the future.

“There is at least a majority on council that do not want to do away with Mirror Pond, but what does that mean?” asked Ryan Houston, a committee member who is also the executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. He noted for some residents, Mirror Pond could mean picturesque still-water views or stagnant water with weeds and a stench. Part of people’s connection to Mirror Pond could be tied to the concrete walkway around Drake Park or the calm water where people can paddle canoes.

“What are we trying to retain and what is up for negotiation? As a committee, we can’t answer that question. There needs to be a good public process to answer that,” Houston said. “If you interview 50 people, you would probably get 50 different answers on what attributes are worth saving.”

The long-term options of what to do to Mirror Pond depend on those answers.

The two extremes would be for the pond to return to its natural course in the river or for the city to keep the pond as it is now and dredge every couple of decades.

A more likely option is for the city to do some continual dredging in smaller sections of the pond, but to put in features that would reduce — or redirect — the amount of sediment that is dropped in the area.

Among the alternatives is to restore parts of the bank of the pond that have hard surfaces, such as the concrete wall that lines Drake Park, with more natural vegetation. Doing so would prevent erosion.

The city also could put in some man-made features underneath the water along the riverbed that would create a narrow channel in the center of the river. The man-made features, which could be a simple as mounds of dirt and rock placements, would act as ridge allowing water to move faster through the channel, carrying the sediment along with it.

“It would still look by and large like it does today,” Kerr said. “It would be deeper and keep moving sediments.”

Another option is for the city to keep Mirror Pond as it is from certain view points, such as maintaining the picture postcard setting from the city’s Riverfront Plaza. The lower part of the river could be returned to its more narrow natural course.

Also, islands that currently exist could be left in place or expanded, which would also narrow the channel and increase the speed of water flowing through the area.

“That would be less expensive to do and just as good for the river,” Kerr said. “But it doesn’t allow or doesn’t lend to more areas of open water.”

Another idea is to use some of the sediment that is dredged up to extend the land off the parks that border Mirror Pond.

What options work best should be what consultants and the public input dictate, committee members recommend.

“The potential is incredible,” Kerr said. “We have a beautiful place now. We could make something that really pops people’s eyes out. You drive to the Metolius to see really beautiful (scenery). If we have a chance to do something like that in the middle of town, I think we should take it.”

Before dredging Mirror Pond, the city of Bend needs permits from federal and state agencies. Clinton said that with the set of approvals required, dredging probably wouldn’t occur until late 2007 at the very earliest.

Source: The Bulletin ©2006