Ask most Bend residents and most visitors what they think of when they think of Bend, and one thing is sure to top the list. That’s Mirror Pond, along which Drake Park runs through the heart of Bend.
Yet the pond is in danger of disappearing even as city government and others continue to study the issue to death.
The newest attempt to decide what to do with the pond, which is becoming ever more clogged with silt, was announced this week. The city, the local park district, Pacific Power and William Smith Properties have combined resources and hired a project manager to study the problem and analyze possible solutions. Hooray! Let’s all just hope it doesn’t take Michael McLandress of Brightwater Collaborative LLC six years to complete his work.
That’s how long a current fix to the pond’s silting problems has been in the planning stages. First news accounts of the effort appeared way back in 2004, and they’ve cropped up every few months since then. Unfortunately, the planning continues apace while we seem no nearer an answer than we were six years ago. Most recent estimates of the cost to fix the pond were $5 million, though that may well have changed by now.
Contrast all that with the last dredging of the pond, which occurred in 1983. Neighbors along the pond got together and came up with a plan to remove the silt that had built up there; they went to City Council, got the plan approved and the project was done in under a year. Total cost? Just about $300,000.
Clearly, Bend is a more complicated place today than it was way back in 1983. Any plan to clear silt — the product, in part, of fluctuating river flows that occur when water is impounded upstream — must include a variety of options from which to choose. Those options no doubt will cover the spectrum from doing nothing to a full-scale attempt to restore the pond to what it looked like when it was created in 1910 after Pacific Power built the dam on its south end.
In reality, though, doing nothing is really not an option, nor are other possibilities that do not restore the look of the pond. It’s simply too important a part of Bend and its history to be allowed to disappear under silt and vegetation. That may be more “natural,” but natural is hardly the goal in this case, or, if it is, it shouldn’t be. Rather, the goal should be to preserve this one part of Bend’s history that doesn’t center on timber or snow or agriculture but instead is valued and always has been valued simply because it is beautiful.
It’s unclear why, after six years, we’re not much closer to clearing the pond than we were in the beginning. We are not, however, and every added delay is likely to drive costs up still further. Knowing that, McLandress and those who hired him should set themselves an aggressive schedule and get the job done. Finally.
Officials from local government and the private sector recently teamed up to hire someone who they hope can find a solution to the long-standing sedimentation problem in Bend’s Mirror Pond.
The pond, which was created in 1910 after the construction of the Pacific Power and Light dam on the Deschutes River near Newport Avenue, is considered by many to be a crown jewel of downtown Bend.
But over the years, increased deposits of silt from upstream have essentially clogged the pond, creating shallow mud flats that have altered its aesthetic character while also contributing to water quality problems on the river.
To find a fix, the city of Bend, the Park & Recreation District, Pacific Power and the company behind the Old Mill District, William Smith Properties, pooled some money to pay for a project manager who will now study the problem and find out how much it would cost to hire someone to then analyze the various options to get rid of the sediment.
“We need someone to sort of carry the ball,” City Manager Eric King said. “None of us (has) the resources on our respective staffs to dedicate to this project.”
In November, the group, working through the nonprofit, Bend 2030, decided unanimously to hire Michael McLandress of Brightwater Collaborative LLC to spearhead the Mirror Pond sedimentation project over the next year.
McLandress has lived in Bend for the past six years, and before that was in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently, he was the construction project manager for the 67,000-square-foot Miller Elementary School in Bend that became the first Oregon school east of the Cascades to receive a gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“There was a consensus among the four funding partners that he was the best guy for the job,” King said. “He definitely has a project management background, which is what we were looking for, and he has kind of immersed himself in the community.”
The contract between Bend 2030 and Brightwater Collaborative LLC is for $44,100, and goes through the end of next year. As a part of the deal, McLandress will have to review and refine the cost estimates and scope of work outlined in a 2009 study that was prepared by the city, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and Portland consulting firm ICF Jones & Stokes. That study found it could cost up to $5 million to finish work on a solution for Mirror Pond’s sedimentation issue.
While McLandress’ contract does not call for him to actually come up with the various solutions — which could range anywhere from dredging the pond to removing the Newport Avenue dam to doing nothing and letting nature take its course — he will be responsible for finding a firm to do that study. He will also be involved in finding the funds to perform that alternatives analysis, which some have estimated could cost up to $500,000.
Matt Shinderman, who is a Bend 2030 board member and professor of natural resources at Oregon State University-Cascades Campus, said the hefty cost of the alternatives analysis is one of the major reasons officials wanted to hire a third party like McLandress to scrutinize figures and come up with a refined budget. He added that even if McLandress’s review doesn’t change anything, it is warranted because it’s such a lofty project with a number of different facets.
“It’s just a really complicated project, and as much as I would like for there to be a neat and tidy solution, you’re dealing with almost 100 years of legacy there that you can’t make that go away,” Shinderman said. “I think the group is really interested in not rushing the process because it is highly visible. It’s a big deal, and I think there’s genuine interest in coming up with a long-term viable solution that kind of maximizes the net benefits.”
Perhaps the easiest, and certainly most visible, culprit of Mirror Pond’s sedimentation problem is the dam at the Newport Avenue Bridge. The dam slows the movement of the water and whatever sediment that might be in it, causing the sediment to build up along the edges of the pond. But studies have found there are a number of other factors leading to the high amount of sediment.
“It’s really a symptom of the problems upstream,” Shinderman said. “And it’s not just one problem.”
He said there are some places along the Deschutes River that have had the native vegetation removed or replaced by “turf grass.” The loss of that vegetation makes the banks unstable and causes erosion that deposits sediment in the river.
A much larger issue, however, is the management of the Wickiup Reservoir about 60 miles upstream, Shinderman said. Water released from the reservoir can have a dramatic impact on flows and discharge more sediment into the river depending on the season. According to the 2009 Mirror Pond study, water flows can vary by more than 1,500 cubic feet per second between summer and winter.
“The Mirror Pond group is not going to resolve those issues,” Shinderman said. “(But) what we would like to do is, through this process we would like to bring in all the various partners upstream. And as we’re doing this project, have them do projects upstream that will make this worthwhile.”
McLandress said he’s looking forward to undertaking such a complex project, and is especially excited about it since it’s one that will leave a lasting impression on the community where he now lives.
“Mirror Pond is such an iconic part of Bend that it begs to be fixed,” McLandress said. “This is the first time that we’re really coming to a great synergy in trying to solve the problem.”
One of the most important aspects of his job, he said, will be getting input from the public on what should be included in the scope of work for the alternatives analysis. Like Shinderman, he understands the complexities of the project and realizes a solution will likely involve stakeholders from throughout the region.
He also said he realized this won’t be easy, and with all the various stakeholders, might even involve some controversy.
“The trick is how as a community, based on our values and our changing social fabric, can we adapt to the change that’s happening in Mirror Pond and the change that has been occurring in Mirror Pond for generations,” McLandress said.
“Mother Nature has been altered, and she’s fighting back. We have to make a decision on how we want to adapt to the changes of the appearance of Mirror Pond and to what degree we want to pay for the fix to keep it as is or modify it so water flows faster through the pond and distributes the silt in a different way.”
Attendees: [x] denotes present
[X] Mel Oberst /MO
[ ] Eric King /EK
[X] Angela Jacobson /AJ
[X] Don Horton /DH
[X] Bill Smith /BS
[X] Matt Shinderman /MS
[X] Michael McLandress /MM
MM described Job Cost Report, a tool used to track job cost relative to progress, It will help highlight Tasks that may take more time than allotted.
OWEB reimbursement- no discussion.
Post-meeting note: after email correspondence with SC, MS from B2030 will coordinate and forward MPSC’s final response to Mike Riley, B2030 Treasurer, for decision on reimbursement.
MM provided 3-month overview showing intermittent TAC “work sessions” for refining the Alternative Analysis scope of work, and subsequent MPMB meetings for “final draft” presentation, discussions at key decision-making points in the process. Schedule anticipates possible early-March final draft submittal to MB.
PHASE 1A TASKS:
1. #2A- Technical Advisory Committee (TAC):
MM presented proposed TAC members for Tasks 2, 3, 4. This list was also presented to SC members in rough draft form at the individual SC meeting sessions held over recent two weeks. Some names were added since then. MM described the concept of the TAC formation, which is based on a “long list” of members with technical expertise, and shall be resources for MM to draw from in refining scope and budget and eventual RFP during the Phase 1A process. A small “working group” from the TAC will be selected by MM to help complete
Task #3A&B – (“Review and Refine Scope of Services and Budget for SubK”).
Once the working group refines the draft scope, it will be issued to the TAC for iterative comment and refinement as called for. SC agreed no written invitations were necessary to “formalize” TAC candidates. MM will refine TAC list further based on this meeting’s discussions and submit to SC for final approval.
Oregon Regulatory Agency TAC:
It was discussed of the importance to begin building relationships with the
various permitting and regulatory agencies such as ODFW, DEQ, DSL,
ODWRD. MM will research key personnel and develop those contacts, adding
some to the TAC for agency representation.
#3A&B – Review and Refine Scope of Services and Budget for SubK:
MM noted first “working session” to begin refining scope and budget is set for Dec 22nd, with TAC members John Runyan of ICF, Ryan Houston of UDWC. DH felt using Runyon and Houston poses possible bias issues and suggested an outside consultant be selected to render a second review and opinion. MS agreed with DH. MM will provide second consultant to SC for approval. Schedule anticipates an approx. 7-week duration for the scope and budget refinement process
MM suggested pulling together a “local” Public Stakeholder meeting comprised of just the landowners adjacent to MP. It is felt this meeting is important to partner with and provide a voice to these key public stakeholders during the refinement process. SC agreed, and MM will arrange and inform SC of that meeting.
#4A – Write RFP for SubK for Alternatives Analysis:
It is anticipated that the RFP will resemble in style and format much like the recent RFP issued for the Colorado Street/Whitewater Park. Similarly, the MP RFP will not be prescriptive in context or format, and will be written based on desired outcomes necessary for an Alternatives Analysis process required of NEPA.