Don’t study Mirror Pond, dredge it

Are you kidding me? For three years, five separate entities have been meeting about how to address the sediment in Mirror Pond. Three years! The resounding “pop” when these groups finally pull collective heads out of that very dark place will be heard around the entire region.

Just as the Eiffel Tower is the iconic symbol for Paris and the Golden Gate Bridge is the iconic symbol for San Francisco, Mirror Pond is the iconic symbol for Bend, and rightly so.

The only acceptable solution for Mirror Pond is to dredge it. The only questions should be when to do it and how to pay for it. Those “should” be the only remaining questions, but these five groups cannot even agree on which entity is responsible for the pond. My God. Make the city of Bend responsible and get on with it.

According to The Bulletin article, one of the key questions is “who would pay for the further study of dredging.” Further studies! How about reviewing how it was done in 1984 and what the results were. There might be some hints there.

I suggest we ask for bids from all dredging companies in the Pacific Northwest, requiring them to submit a basic plan along with their bid. If theirs is the winning bid, have them engineer the project.

The government entities here in Central Oregon have unfortunately become a microcosm of our national gridlock. Is there nobody in town with a strong enough character to take control of this?

Dennis Flannery
Bend

Bend Parks Board’s Mirror Pond Play

Last week the Bend Parks Board wisely put the breaks on a plan to include a Mirror Pond management study in a proposed November bond request that includes a number of attractive projects, including the completion of the Bend River Trail through some key property acquisitions, the reconstruction of the perilous Colorado Avenue spillway and the construction of a seasonal ice rink on the former site of the Mt. Bachelor Park and Ride lot. The district, which owns much of the land around Mirror Pond in the form of Drake and Harmon parks was under a fair amount of pressure to take the lead on the Mirror Pond project.

We’re glad that they didn’t for several reasons.

First and foremost, the city and its supporters, led by the Mirror Pond Management Committee, have taken a deeply flawed approach to the long-term management of the river, yes, it’s actually a river—not a pond. The city continues to operate under the assumption that the community can and should do everything that it can to preserve Mirror Pond in its “historic” state, which is to say a man-made reflecting pool that serves as a de facto silt dump for the entire upper basin. Of course, the city isn’t the only disappointing actor in this drama. Perhaps the biggest deadbeat is Pacific Power, which has done nothing to accept responsibility for the dam that ought to be at the center of the debate. The company’s Central Oregon representative recently offered, lamely, that it would continue to operate the dam as long as it provided a “benefit” to its customers. Keep in mind that the dam, which may or may not even be providing power at this point, cranks out, at best, enough juice to power a whopping 500 homes.

Whatever you think of the concept of Mirror Pond, maintaining it in the current state is a costly proposition, somewhere on the order of $2 million to $5 million based on estimates for a large-scale dredging project, similar to what the community did three decades ago when the issue last arose (see a pattern here?). Of course, much has changed in that time, including our understanding of natural resources and the role of things like wetlands and floodplains in a healthy ecosystem. But don’t take our word for it—the experts, including Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff, say the same thing. The only long-term solution is to remove the dam and restore the river. But that advice has fallen on deaf ears.

Once again instead of listening to the experts and thinking progressively about one of the city’s most important resources, Mirror Pond advocates are trotting out the same tired excuses. “It’s an icon.” “It’s part of Bend’s history.” The same old lines that we’ve heard before and that have contributed to the ongoing gridlock on the issue.

Of course as long as the city and Mirror Pond advocates continue to resist restoration of the river as an option, they’ll continue to find that grant monies and other sources of funding for progressive environmental projects are elusive. Voters ought to take the same approach when the committee rolls out a “fund our dredging” campaign in the fall. In the meantime, we’re giving parks board members the Slipper for not weighing down an important parks’ bond with a loaded Mirror Pond study.

Source: The Source Weekly

Mirror Pond’s future still unclear

While a state wildlife official has said removing the dam that creates Mirror Pond would be a permanent solution to sediment buildup in Bend’s signature body of water, members of a board trying to determine what to do about the clogged pond say that’s not going to happen.

State and federal wildlife managers, as well as state land, water and environmental officials, met with the Mirror Pond Management Board earlier this month. At the meeting, Mike Harrington, assistant district fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend, told the board that fish would benefit from reopening the stretch of the Deschutes River known as Mirror Pond.

“I think that would be the best option for everyone,” he said in a telephone interview after the meeting. “You won’t have to dredge the pond on a periodic basis.”

Those involved in the project want to keep Mirror Pond, though, said Don Horton, executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District.

“It’s been an icon of Bend for 100 years,” he said.

Finding support for the removal of the dam and the demise of Mirror Pond would be a major challenge, said Bend City Manager Eric King.

“I think Mirror Pond is an iconic symbol of Bend,” he said.

Since summer 2009, the management board — which includes leaders from the city of Bend, the Park & Recreation District, Pacific Power, neighborhood associations and watershed restoration groups — has been meeting about how to address the sediment situation in the pond. There is also a separate Mirror Pond Steering Committee, started in November 2010, which is tasked with developing and implementing a long-term plan for dealing with the silt in the pond. The board advises the committee, which has members from many of the same groups.

Pacific Power and Light, which is now Pacific Power, built a small power dam in downtown Bend in 1910 and created Mirror Pond. Silt regularly collects in the pond, creating mud flats that degrade the water quality in the river. Dredging has been the solution in the past. The last time the pond was dredged, in 1984, it cost $312,000. A 2009 study estimated that dredging would now cost between $2 million and $5 million.

The key questions remain: Who would pay for the further study of dredging, and who would pay for the dredging itself?

“That’s the crux of the Mirror Pond issue,” said Ryan Houston, executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. Houston is on the management board. “It’s not very clear whose responsibility it is to fix it and what the fix is.”

Before his nonprofit group supports any plans for the pond, be it dredging or dam removal, there needs to be an understanding of the costs and benefits of the options, he said.

The Park & Recreation District was considering a $425,000 Mirror Pond dredging study among its project list for a November bond measure, but removed it last week.

Without the possible bond to support the study, those involved in the Mirror Pond talks are again considering putting the formation of a special taxing district on the November ballot. The district would collect taxes to fund the study.

As the discussion continues, Portland-based PacifiCorp, the parent company of Pacific Power, doesn’t have any plans to remove the dam, said Angela Jacobson, regional community manager for Pacific Power.

“PacifiCorp plans to continue to operate the Bend hydro facility as long it is the interest of our customers,” she said.

The dam helps the power company create about one megawatt of power, which produces enough electricity to supply about 500 homes, according to the company.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Bend businesswoman dies at 94

Bend has lost one of its most vibrant characters as well as a part of its history.

“She was very flamboyant,” said her daughter, Marcia Wolfe. “She was the kind of person with a different drummer.”

Virginia “Ginny” Wolfe, a longtime Bend resident and business entrepreneur, died of natural causes June 5.

She was 94.

Born in Muskogee, Okla., in 1918, Wolfe moved with her family to Bend when she was 6. She graduated from Bend High School at 16, and studied premed at Willamette University, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree. She came back to Bend and married Jake Wolfe in 1945.

The Wolfes started Jake’s Diner, WB Anderson Mobile Home Sales, and The Copper Room, a fine dining restaurant in downtown Bend, in the 1970s. Jake’s Truck Stop and Diner, now known as Jake’s Diner, used to be on South U.S. Highway 97 near Badger Road and was operated out of the house Virginia Wolfe grew up in. Jake Wolfe also helped start the Bank of the Cascades in 1976.

“They had a big part in the way that Bend was shaped,” Marcia Wolfe said.

At one point in the 1970s, the Wolfes were one of the larger employers in Central Oregon, employing more than 100 people, said Virginia Wolfe’s son, Kim Wolfe.

But Virginia Wolfe wasn’t all business. She had a fun-loving side, too. She was elected Queen of the Bend Water Pageant in 1935, and was a hand and hat model for a department store in Portland when she was young, her daughter said. Virginia also loved to wear bright, bold colors and wear flashy watches. Her grandchildren called her “Grandma Bling.”

“There was nobody that she didn’t love,” Marcia Wolfe said. “Everybody wanted her as a mom.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Bend parks likely to ask for bond

The Bend Park & Recreation District Board is likely poised to ask voters in November to approve a $29 million bond for park improvements.

If the board goes forward with the bond proposal, it will be a downgrade from its initial discussions of a $31 million bond. The board discussed bond options at a work session Tuesday night and will vote on a bond proposal and recommendation at its July 3 meeting.

Don Horton, the district’s executive director, recommended the board eliminate one project — a study that would have explored ways to get rid of silt at Mirror Pond.

That study’s cost was estimated at $400,000.

Horton told the board the Mirror Pond situation is a polarizing issue, with some people thinking the pond should be dredged and others questioning the district’s involvement. As a result, the item would consume a lot of time to explain to people, he said.

“I think the community’s still struggling on what ought to be done and who should be responsible,” Horton said.

Board member Dallas Brown said leaving the Mirror Pond project off is a good idea.

“I don’t think it’s our issue exclusively and I don’t think it’s the best thing to have on the bond,” he said.

And based on low support in a poll, the bond proposal will no longer include a skate park, a project estimated at $500,000.

The district is still crunching numbers and hasn’t fine-tuned where the rest of the cuts — about $1.1 million from the original bond proposal — will come from. The proposal calls for about $11 million of property acquisitions along with another roughly $18 million in projects.

But Horton said savings will be found throughout the proposal process and costs are only estimates at this point.

Board Vice Chairman Scott Asla called the proposal a “golden opportunity,” noting it asks the community for a smaller investment than what the cost would have been five years ago.

The goal is to keep the proposal’s tax increase at less than $50 a year for the average homeowner, Horton said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Steering Committee Minutes 6-4-2012

MIRROR POND STEERING COMMITTEE
Minutes

June 4, 2012
11:00-12:00
Awbrey Butte Conference Room
Bend City Hall
710 NW Wall Street, Bend

Attendance: Bill Smith, Angela Jacobson, Don Horton, Mel Oberst, Greg Blackmore

1. Update on Park District Bond Measure (Don Horton)

/District has held a series of open houses and an on-line web survey regarding the proposed bond measure. Open houses were fairly well attended and participants generally supported the bond measure. Approximately 500 on-line surveys were submitted, survey results were more mixed. Mirror Pond seemed to be the most polarizing project on the bond measure list. It is expected that the Park District Board will discuss the bond at the June 19 meeting and make a decision on whether (and how) to proceed at that meeting or in early July.

2. Information Regarding Meeting with State Agencies (Greg Blackmore)

/Meeting is scheduled for June 13 from 1-4. Meeting was initiated by ODFW and DSL, through discussions with Ryan Houston. The intent of the meeting is to begin dialogue with the policy/decision making bodies and ensure that the permitting agencies concerns are involved in the discussion early in the process. MPSC is open to discussion with agencies, but expressed concerns related to narrowly focused project review (myopic focus), a concern about project creep, and overly exhaustive study  requirements. Keeping the meeting on-task and contained to Mirror Pond will be important for a meaningful discussion. MPSC posed questions related to the minimum amount of study needed and the availability of funds from agencies to support their agency mission. MPSC directed staff to prepare the questions for the agencies review prior to the meeting.

3. Update on Sediment / Water Quality Research (Greg Blackmore)

/GB has been researching City data related to sediment and water quality and is preparing a memorandum that summarizes the data. BS indicated that sediment from the 1984 dredge in addition to subsequent Old Mill projects will document that the sediment is clean. It is anticipated that a report that combines 1984 dredge information, Old Mill study information, and City water quality and sediment evaluation will be necessary for the property owners and the responsible jurisdiction to enter into a shared liability agreement, or indemnification arrangement.

In addition to the indemnification/liability issue, BS expressed concerns related to the amount of study that agencies could require. It was discussed that at time of submittal, rather than ask the agencies what sort of sediment evaluation is necessary, that a thorough report, including a reasonable amount of sediment analysis be provided. In the event the permitting agencies request additional studies and assessments, an appeal to reasonable and adequate scientific assessment could be made.