Blurred vision for Mirror Pond

Imagine it’s the year 2030 in Bend. If you are like us, you envision Mirror Pond remaining a pond — not deteriorating into a mud flat.

The Bend City Council shares that vision. It’s just that the council’s focus sometimes goes blurry.

The council has $200,000 set aside in the current budget for Mirror Pond. It’s not the $700,000 that the city had hoped for because a $490,000 contribution from the federal government isn’t coming. At least $200,000 is enough to do some limited dredging.

Councilor Jim Clinton says the $200,000 will buy the city some time to come up with a more permanent solution. Dredging the pond is a temporary fix. The pond was last dredged in 1984 at a cost of $312,000. Sediment has been piling up in the pond since then.

We don’t know the best way to spend the $200,000. But wouldn’t it be nice if the city was closer to its vision of Mirror Pond and its $700,000 goal?

It could have been. Remember the city’s joy ride into visioning known as Bend 2030?

The city held public meetings. Some residents got motivated to think about the future of the city. A visioning document was produced. And the City Council embraced it, declaring that it would review its long-term plans to promote alignment with the vision.

What has happened since then? Well, Bend 2030 gets mentioned in passing from time to time at council meetings. We would think if something significant was going on, it would be reported at a council meeting.

The trouble with Bend 2030 was that it purported to show citywide agreement from limited input. And many of its starry-eyed hopes and dreams required new taxes, regulations and fat expenditures to build difficult to sustain projects, such as a performing arts center or a museum of fine arts.

The price tag for the visioning process was more than $160,000. The city’s continuing contribution is supposed to be in the form of half the assistant city manager’s time being dedicated to making the vision a reality. That means the city’s contribution is looking more like $200,000, so far.

The point is from the hundreds of thousands of dollars the city spent on visioning, what it got was less money to create the reality everyone wants.

Source: The Bulletin ©2007

Mirror Pond fix is in the works

The city of Bend will probably do limited dredging and take other small steps in an effort to reduce silt buildup in Mirror Pond, in addition to making plans for long-term solutions that could involve changing the Deschutes River’s flows.

The steps will be funded with $200,000 the city set aside for Mirror Pond in its current budget, though the amount is a far cry from the combined $700,000 it was hoping to have at its disposal for restoring the landmark. A $490,000 request for federal money fell through this summer when the city was unable to secure federal dollars for the project.

The $200,000 will not go far in removing sediment that has accumulated since the pond was dredged in 1984, but it will give the city a few more years to come up with a long-term solution, Councilor Jim Clinton said.

In the long run, city officials would like to take broader action to level out the seasonal fluctuations in releases from Wickiup Reservoir, which contribute to the amount of silt in the Deschutes.

“It would buy us some time until we can put a bigger project together, which appears like it would be a multi-year project,” Clinton said at a Bend City Council work session Monday night. He said that unless the city takes action, the heavy silting in the pond that lets geese stand upright at its center will only continue to get worse.

The $200,000 in this year’s budget will likely go toward a short-term fix, which could include limited dredging, as well as public outreach to show people how Mirror Pond’s appearance would improve with some work.

It is too soon to say when actual work in the pond would occur, though the city’s Public Works Department is expected to come back to City Council in the coming months with additional details of how it plans to use the $200,000.

Councilors had mixed thoughts on how to move forward, given the high cost of dredging.

“Until I see what would Mirror Pond look like and what would the costs be, I don’t have a clue whether this is a good approach or not,” Councilor Mark Capell said. “I mean, it sounds logical to say, ‘Let’s see if we can delay the filling in of Mirror Pond with sediment.’”

Mirror Pond, which is featured in Bend’s official logo and appears in many photographs emblematic of Bend, was created when a small hydroelectric dam was built in 1909 just north of the Newport Avenue Bridge.

When Bend’s sawmills operated upstream from Mirror Pond, operators would regularly dredge their portion of the river, which included large ponds used to float logs. That kept much of the silt from making it to Mirror Pond, according to a 2006 report.

When the sawmill ponds were filled in as part of the redevelopment of the Old Mill District, the Deschutes picked up speed, carrying the sediment into Mirror Pond. Once the river slowed there, sediment began settling.

Now, the river has carved a distinct channel through the pond and silt is building up more slowly than before. A detailed 2005 study of Mirror Pond found parts of the river channel were as deep as 12 feet, while large portions elsewhere in the pond were less than 21 inches deep.

The city last dredged Mirror Pond in 1984 at a cost of $312,000, almost half of which was funded by a federal grant.

Officials are hesitant to estimate how much dredging would cost this time around. The city failed to secure $490,000 in federal funding this year, which would have paid for planning and engineering, city water specialist Wendy Edde said.

“Cost really depends on what the final project would be,” she said before the meeting. “It really depends on what you decide to do with the river.”

Councilors acknowledged that simply dredging the whole pond won’t take care of the problem.

“Until we do something about the continuing flow of sediment down the river, we’re going to be faced with this periodically,” Councilor Bill Friedman said.

He added, “What we’re doing is Band-Aiding it for a while to buy some time.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2007