Solution to Mirror Pond will come from partnership

With regard to Mirror Pond and the various strategies to study/dredge one of Central Oregon’s defining scenic places, I wonder if all the folks involved with managing Mirror Pond realize the amazing opportunity that this “problem” presents.

Silt happens. When Mirror Pond was last dredged in the mid-1980s, it was a quick fix. There was general agreement then that the pond would need dredging again in 25 years or so. Nothing was done at the time to prepare for that eventuality, however. Central Oregon was in the middle of a recession — sound familiar? — with double-digit unemployment.

The strain and pain of that earlier recession did teach us to rely on ourselves and build community partnerships to move forward. Regional economic strategies, the Bill Healy transitional housing complex, the Oregon State University-Cascades Campus and the partnership for fire protection between the city and the rural fire protection district — all are examples of community partnerships with broad participation that accomplished great things, relying on innovation and synergy, more than just another tax measure.

For Mirror Pond, an opportunity exists to develop a similar dynamic partnership among the pond’s managing and regulating agencies. The city of Bend and Bend Park & Recreation District manage the land and public use of the park surrounding Mirror Pond. PacifiCorp operates and manages the dam that forms Mirror Pond. And Central Oregon’s irrigation districts control the water that flows through Mirror Pond.

For any one of those managing agencies, Mirror Pond does present a difficult, possibly insurmountable problem. For all four agencies working together, an equitable and lasting solution could be achieved long before we reach a point where crossing the pond no longer requires a bridge.

In order to seize the opportunity that Mirror Pond offers, all of the managing agencies need to accept the challenge and take responsibility for fixing it. The first step is a commitment from the four Mirror Pond management agencies to jointly fund a study. Share the cost, share the risk, as they share the benefits.

Now, a study doesn’t do anything to fix Mirror Pond. It will, however, provide a foundation and structure to support the best possible fix for the pond and for the community.

The best fix for Mirror Pond will come with:

  • An analysis of the regulatory and environmental impacts associated with dredging the pond.
  • An evaluation of the best management practices and most recent engineering technology.
  • Public involvement.
  • A broad-based community commitment to a long-term solution.

A study will do all those things and one more. It will provide the key to matching state/federal funding for a stable, lasting fix for Mirror Pond.

Any emergency quick-fix dredging of the pond will still require some environmental assessment that will more than likely be challenged in court because it is a quick fix, not the right fix.

A study, backed by a committed community partnership, opens up wider access to state and federal funds, while offering the strongest possible application for assistance in a highly competitive environment for state and federal support.

All it takes to make this happen is for the managing agencies to step up, take responsibility and do right by the pond. This beautiful, heavily used and highly valued piece of Central Oregon deserves it.

And who knows? If the agencies can work together to fix Mirror Pond, what other community issues could be resolved by building partnerships and finding the “opportunities?”

Source: The Bulletin

Letter wrong on silt

It amazes me that so much blatant misinformation is regularly printed for public consumption. The specific piece that prompted this letter was written by Robert Fouse, and published as an “In My View” article on Jan. 4.

In it, Fouse brings forth the idea that individual community members dredge Mirror Pond using 5-gallon buckets and haul the “wonderful” dirt home for garden use. The first problem is his claim that a 5-gallon bucket holds 2.5 cubic feet of dirt, when it’s actually two-thirds of one cubic foot, only 27 percent as much. This means it would take 373 percent as many buckets as he calculates to do the job.

The second problem is that the silt deposited in desert rivers is usually sterile degraded rock that won’t grow anything initially, but is colonized over time by pioneering species. These plants stabilize and enhance the soil so that later generational species can make use of it. Silt is definitely not in the same class as compost in the benefits provided to a garden.

My wish is that a public informational source such as The Bulletin would do at least a minimum examination of the “facts” given to it before blindly publishing erroneous information.

Mark Rubbert

Source: The Bulletin

Can dam pay for pond?

Before I could consider supporting the use of local taxpayer dollars for the dredging of Mirror Pond, I would need to know more — a lot more — about the operation of the hydroelectric dam served by Mirror Pond.

Specifically, why can’t the electricity generated by the dam include a surcharge, paid into a trust fund, to help with the periodic dredging of Mirror Pond? Surely the power company already includes a surcharge for maintenance and operation of the dam. If the presence of Mirror Pond makes the dam economically feasible, then those who benefit from the dam’s presence should be asked to pay a significant share of the dredging bill.

Finally, is that dam subject to occasional licensing? If so, by whom? We need to know more.

Karen Berky

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Mirror Pond dredging debated

Momentum is swinging toward putting a bond before voters in November to fund the dredging of Bend’s Mirror Pond.

Friday, members of the Mirror Pond Management Board met to consider options for cleaning the pond, which has been filling with sediment since it was last dredged 28 years ago. Until recently, the board had been leaning toward commissioning a study to determine how to address the sedimentation problem, and possibly creating a special taxing district that could provide a long-term funding stream for upkeep of the pond.

After Friday’s meeting, the board is now moving in the direction of a dredge-first, ask-questions-later approach.

Dredging will inevitably be part of cleaning up Mirror Pond, members indicated, and the public is unlikely to be willing to foot the bill for further study.

“I don’t see the public supporting a study — just a study alone,” said board member and Bend City Councilor Tom Greene. “They want results.”

A steering committee assembled by the board concluded that dredging should come before an extensive study. A comprehensive study would cost about $500,000, and none of the organizations represented on the board — including the city, Bend Park & Recreation District, Pacific Power and Bill Smith Properties — are willing to provide the funding.

Parks District director Don Horton said it’s not clear how much public support there is for a bond or a taxing district. To find out, the park district will include questions about the project on a soon-to-be-conducted survey of residents.

In the meantime, Bend community development director Mel Oberst will be directing his staff to develop better estimates of the cost of dredging, and to research the extent of federal and state permitting that would be required.

Current cost estimates for dredging the pond are between $2 million and $5 million. The last dredging in 1984 was performed for $312,000.

Not all members of the board are committed to the new direction. Ryan Houston, executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, cautioned that board members could be “shooting ourselves in the foot” by proceeding with dredging ahead of a thorough study. A dredging that fails to take into account how water moves through the area could result in the pond silting up soon after the work is completed, he said, requiring additional costly measures.

Unless measures are taken to remove the silt from the pond, it is believed the river will eventually recede to a narrow channel lined by swampy shallows on either side. Horton said the area just upstream of the Colorado Avenue bridge, an area that was once routinely dredged when it served as a log storage pond, is a good model of what an unaltered Mirror Pond might look like in 50 years.

Source: The Bulletin

Dredging Mirror Pond Isn’t the Answer

Some 25 years ago Mirror Pond was dredged for several hundred thousand dollars. Within a very short time, it was obvious that silt was returning. The Bend Bulletin’s solution is a “simple bond measure” to dredge the pond once again. Apparently, a permanent taxing district, which would offer long-term financing, is too “complex” for Bend voters. So, instead voters will be asked to spend millions for this “solution” and, once again, kick the can down the road leaving our children and grandchildren with a problem most likely costing in the tens of millions of dollars.

A permanent taxing district would be the responsible move, but it is not simple like a bond. So no big deal, choose the simpler funding option since, most likely, many of these decision-makers will be gone when the problem arises once again.

Bob Almquist, Bend

Source: The Source Weekly ©2012

Yes, for a bond measure to dredge Mirror Pond

Yes, yes, yes to the idea of dredging Mirror Pond first and then trying to figure out the long-term picture later.

It was refreshing to hear that notion stated so directly by members of the steering committee working on this question.

“Something has to be done to remove the sediment immediately, regardless of what we do in the long term,” said Matt Shinderman, Oregon State University-Cascades Campus natural resources instructor.

“It’s kind of a two-stage process. The first is to dredge the pond, and the second is to do a longer-term study of what needs to be done to the pond,” said Don Horton, executive director of Bend Park & Recreation District.

Yes, indeed.

Earlier plans to spend $500,000 on a study of options faltered because the price was so high and no one had the money to pay for it. Estimates to dredge the pond range from $2 million to $5 million.

The group is awaiting citizen response from an upcoming park district survey before deciding if it should ask voters for a one-time bond issue to dredge the pond, or the formation of a permanent special taxing district.

A permanent taxing district is a complex question. Voters would need to consider whether they want to continue to carve out special tax obligations as they have for other things — such as the library and sheriff’s office — that previously were paid for by the general fund. And, voters wouldn’t know exactly what they’d get in the future with that obligation. Recommendations to return the river to its natural state, for example, would be far less popular than preserving the town’s crown jewel by dredging.

We favor a simple bond measure, because we think voters will support something they value and can understand.

Source: The Bulletin

Committee: Dredge Mirror Pond

First things first: Mirror Pond needs to be dredged. At least that’s what the people studying the sedimentation problem in the pond say.

Initially, officials wanted to analyze a range of possible fixes to the silt problem in Mirror Pond that included everything from doing nothing to removing two dams and allowing the Deschutes River to flow freely.

After learning that such a study would cost $500,000 and that no one was willing to pay for it, the steering committee created to guide this effort shifted its focus.

“Something has to be done to remove the sediment immediately, regardless of what we do in the long term,” said Matt Shinderman, who sits on the committee and is an Oregon State University-Cascades Campus natural resources instructor. “It’s already starting to get to a point where you’re going to have extensive mudflats and potential wetland vegetation coming in.”

Once that vegetation takes root, he said, it could become a lot more difficult to do any work in the pond, because federal wetland protections create more regulatory hurdles.

Silt has been accumulating at the bottom of Mirror Pond ever since Pacific Power & Light Co. built a hydroelectric dam near the Newport Avenue bridge in 1910. The last time it was dredged was in 1984, at a cost of $312,000.

The latest cost estimates for dealing with the pond’s sediment problem came in between $2 million and $5 million. Those figures were from a 2009 study.

As with the $500,000 alternatives analysis, no one has offered to pay for dredging Mirror Pond. The group looking into the issue includes the city of Bend, the Bend Park & Recreation District, Pacific Power, William Smith Properties Inc. and the nonprofit Bend 2030.

Two funding ideas have been floated recently. One is to form a permanent special taxing district. The other is to include a Mirror Pond fix in a one-time bond measure. In either case, it would be up to voters to decide.

Bend Park & Recreation District Executive Director Don Horton said the district is planning a survey that will ask residents if they would support either option for Mirror Pond. That survey, which is also gauging support for other possible bond measure projects, is expected to be sent out in a couple of weeks.

Horton noted that a bond measure would only provide a one-time source of funds, while a taxing district would supply money long-term. Like Shinderman, he said the immediate need is to dredge Mirror Pond first.

But Horton also highlighted the importance of an in-depth siltation study that would look at dam removal options and others — such as reconfiguring the shape of the pond — that would help cut down on the sedimentation.

“It’s kind of a two-stage process,” he said. “The first is to dredge the pond, and the second is to do a longer-term study of what needs to be done to the pond.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Dredge Mirror Pond

I agree with Barbara Buxton’s letter of Dec. 30 concerning the use of Bend Park & Recreation District funds to dredge Mirror Pond.

As a native of Bend, I grew up during the era of beautiful floats and gigantic swans floating downriver during the Bend Water Pageants. Today the floats would be stuck in the mud and silt that has filled in our beautiful pond. Drake Park and Mirror Pond are the crown jewels of our community and of our park system. People come here to enjoy their beauty, but if something is not done soon, we will have nothing but a mud flat to show visitors. Try taking your kayak, raft or canoe out in that!

As a taxpayer, I would like to see the city of Bend or the Bend Park & Recreation District spend its money on dredging Mirror Pond before it is too late.

Sue Fountain

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Mirror Pond frustrations

For years now, the silt has continued to pile up in Bend’s Mirror Pond while officials have struggled to find a solution.

Committees are formed, meetings held, staff briefly hired.

But the silt continues to pile up amid reports that there just isn’t enough money to deal with it.

Two Bulletin readers wrote last week urging the Bend Park & Recreation District to drop its new projects and concentrate on the pond. They reflect the frustration many feel when they read about wonderful plans while the prime jewel of the city deteriorates.

The park district doesn’t have sole responsibility for Mirror Pond, but it is the agency with money to do optional things. A bridge at the First Street Rapids or the purchase of the old Mt. Bachelor Park and Ride property are great, but hardly essential. So why not just focus on Mirror Pond?

One answer, according to the park district’s Executive Director Don Horton, is that the district is constrained by state law to spend its money only on recreation. Although rescuing Mirror Pond may contribute to recreation, he said, many other issues are involved.

The district does plan to include questions about Mirror Pond in an upcoming survey, asking respondents if they think a special district should be formed for Mirror Pond or if they prefer a bond issue for a one-time fix.

Results of the survey will help guide the park district in deciding among its many high-priced possible projects, Horton said.

Meanwhile, City of Bend Community Development Department Director Mel Oberst has agreed to take on a coordinating role on the Mirror Pond issue, working with the park district and other interested parties, as well as researching requirements of state and federal agencies. Oberst said the park district’s survey results will help guide the next steps for the group.

We’re in favor of preserving Mirror Pond, and we hope the group’s work will lead swiftly to a public vote if that’s what’s needed. A bond issue for studying alternatives would be a hard sell, but voters are likely to support one that offers a clear path to preserve the pond.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012