Use the river to remove silt

In all the fuss about dredging Mirror Pond, I am surprised no one has suggested using the Deschutes River to do the work of removing the silt from the pond. The river brought it there so why not let the river remove it?

As a retired mechanical engineer, I have given some thought to the subject and designed a fairly simple solution and built one on a small scale. I have tried to contact someone about this, but no one seems interested. Who would be interested in listening?

Harold Candland

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Welcome progress on Mirror Pond

Great news this week on Mirror Pond. We’re heartened not only by the money committed, but also the decision that a study can be done by staff rather than consultants.

The Bend Park & Recreation District decided Tuesday to spend $100,000 on a study of the silt problem in Mirror Pond, matching the city of Bend’s earlier commitment for the same amount.

Progress has been stalled because of the perceived need for $500,000 to have a study conducted by consultants. The breakthrough this week comes from park district Executive Director Don Horton, who said the combined $200,000 will be enough for staff to do the needed analysis.

Horton said the funding decision will allow the study to start within the next few months. That’s music to our ears; the wait has already been far too long.

We also like the idea of using the talent of local staff, rather than turning to outside consultants. There’s plenty of expertise here, and staff members are quite capable of researching issues where they need to know more.

Silt buildup in Mirror Pond, the city’s central downtown feature, has been turning it into a mudflat. The prime cause is the nearby hydroelectric dam that slows the water flow, causing sediment to drop and build up in the pond. The pond was last dredged in 1984 at a cost of $312,000. Estimates to do it today run from $2 million to $5 million.

Although many have supported dredging to restore the pond, some have suggested other solutions, including removing the dam and returning the pond to its original river status.

We support dredging, and we think the community does as well. We’ll never know for certain, though, until voters are offered a clear-cut choice to support preserving the city’s unique treasure.

Source: The Bulletin

Fix Mirror Pond

Hooray for my new best old friend Dennis Flannery for his letter bringing to light the folly of the Mirror Pond dredging problem. I have lived here for over 20 years and have never seen the “gee whiz, golly” approach to a problem more apparent than in this case. The pond is in the city — fix it! We don’t need or want another “study” to the tune of $400,000 or $500,000. It’s mud. Aren’t river deltas pretty fertile? Sell it as topsoil! There is probably enough there to fund the entire project! My God, I read with amazement in the newspaper that Bend has had an “unexpected windfall of revenue” recently and that, golly, we need to decide what to spend it on. Certainly the police need some vehicles and there are road repairs which need to be commenced, but what of the leftover million or so? Stop the “woe is me” mentality, take some of this windfall money and get this thing started. It’s embarrassing how long this discussion has gone on.

Mirror Pond is the crown jewel of our community and it’s time we got this project under way! Let’s hold a bake sale. We recently started construction on three (or four, I lose count) roundabouts, and after all, they didn’t cost us anything. I can even suggest contacting the folks at Lake Wildwood, Calif. (near Sacramento), for help in solving this problem. Theirs is a similar problem and they just deal with it.

John Speckmann

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Mirror Pond project takes a step

The Bend Park & Recreation District voted Tuesday to spend $100,000 to study a solution to the silt problem in Mirror Pond.

Don Horton, the district’s executive director, said in a staff recommendation that the money would match the $100,000 the city of Bend has put up for the study.

Mirror Pond — which is considered a part of Bend’s identity — is in danger of becoming mudflats if nothing is done to dredge two decades of accumulated silt. The nearby hydroelectric dam slows the water and sediment through the pond, causing some of the sediment to settle along the edges and build up over time.

Horton said he believes the combined $200,000 will be enough for an internal planning and development team to conduct an analysis to find a solution to the siltation problem.

The Mirror Pond Management Board originally wanted to hire outside consultants, a job estimated at $500,000. They can reduce this cost and expedite the overall analysis process by using internal staff, Horton said.

The actual dredging project is expected to cost between $2 million and $5 million.

Now that the group has the initial funding, Horton said it can make the project a priority and begin an analysis within the next few months.

“My instinct is always that staff will do it better than a consultant,” said Ted Schoenborn, a park and recreation director. “I think it’s a great model for a community-wide project. It’s exactly the kind of thing we’ve always thought was appropriate.”

Community members have suggested dredging the pond immediately for aesthetic purposes, removing the dam entirely to fix the silting problem or doing nothing about the silt.

The last time the pond was dredged was in 1984 at a cost of $312,000.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Mirror Pond dam passes inspection

A state dam inspector examined Mirror Pond dam Friday and found no immediate causes for concern in the century-old structure just downstream of the Newport Avenue Bridge.

“For an old dam of this size, it is in a condition you would expect it to be,” said Keith Mills, dam safety officer for the Oregon Water Resources Department.

He spent about an hour on and around the dam, photographing it and taking notes. PacifiCorp, a Portland-based power company, owns the small hydroelectric dam.

The dam was due for a regular state inspection.

The dam creates Mirror Pond, the signature waterway of Bend that is subject to ongoing discussion about how to remedy its silt buildup. One of the options mentioned in the talks among stakeholders is removing the dam and reopening the river, although city officials have said draining Bend’s icon is highly unlikely.

Along with creating Mirror Pond, the dam produces about one megawatt of electricity, enough power to supply about 500 homes, according to PacifiCorp.

The company plans to keep the dam, and power production, in place “as long as it is in the economic interest of our customers,” said Bob Gravely, PacifiCorp spokesman. Friday’s inspection didn’t reveal anything to change the company’s stance.

While the federal government regulates large power dams, like the Pelton Round Butte dam complex on the Deschutes near Madras or the dams on the Columbia River, the Water Resources Department keeps tabs on small power producers and irrigation water diverters. The inspections are done every three years.

The dam was one of seven that Mills, who works out of Salem, inspected this week during a trip through Central Oregon. After finding no reasons for immediate repairs he said he will now further review his photographs and compile a report on the dam by the end of the year.

PacifiCorp is involved with both the Mirror Pond Management Board and the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which are groups of stakeholders trying to determine what to do about silt buildup in the pond. The silt is creating ever-growing mud flats, clogging the Deschutes River as it passes through Mirror Pond.

Along with the power company, the city and the Bend Park & Recreation District, the stakeholders include neighborhood associations, watershed restoration groups and William Smith Properties, which owns the Colorado Avenue dam upstream of the pond.

In 1984 the solution was to dredge the pond at a cost of $312,000. A 2009 study estimated dredging would now cost between $2 million and $5 million. Recent discussions have centered on how to fund further study of a dredging project.

Last month an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist told stakeholders that fish would benefit from the removal of the dam and the reopening of the river. City and Park & Recreation officials rebuffed the idea.

At the time, Bend City Manager Eric King said it would be hard to find support for the removal of the dam and the end of Mirror Pond.

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

PacifiCorp will stay involved in the larger talks and work with the stakeholders to decide how to tackle the silt situation, Gravely said.

“That’s not going to be a company decision,” he said. “That is going to have to be something that the community is heavily involved in.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Related: Dam Inspection for Mirror Pond Dam 2012

Wild river ideal for downtown

The Upper Deschutes River is in part a wild and scenic river, and residents and visitors to the greater Bend area enjoy its beauty and many uses. Once the river reaches Bend it stops being a wild and rushing river and turns into a wide, shallow, warm body of water resting behind a tiny Pacific Power dam.

Pacific Power generates about one megawatt of power, which equals about the power used by 500 homes. The Portland General Electric power plant in Boardman produces 550 megawatts of power. The new mini-power generating plant north of Bend on the irrigation canal produces 3-3.5 megawatts of power, enough to power 2,100 to 2,450 homes. Another mini-generating plant is under consideration for the Wickiup Dam, which would generate power for more than 2,000 homes. Instead of water going through a spillway, the water released from the dam would be diverted and used to turn a turbine, generating electricity. The new generating plants do not create silt beds or impede the passage of trout and salmon.

The Central Oregon Irrigation District’s newest project — Juniper Ridge, built in 2009 and operational since late 2010 — produces slightly over three megawatts of electricity with a capacity of five megawatts. The District’s Siphon power plant plus Juniper Ridge have created economic benefits for the district and together generate $700,000 in annual revenue. The Juniper Ridge facility revenue is expected to increase to $1 million annually after the project is debt-free in about 16 years, according to the State Department of Energy.

The amount of power generated by Pacific Power’s Mirror Pond dam versus newer generating plants does not warrant its continued use.

Dams are being removed in the Western United States to allow rivers to return to the natural state and allow fish to migrate to their original spawning grounds. What were good ideas 60 to 100 years ago does not mean the resulting impacts are viable today and should be continued just because they exist.

There are many logical reasons for removing Mirror Pond dam, including:

Elimination of the cost of dredging the pond every five to 10 years at a cost of several million dollars.

Creating a new and unique wild river in downtown Bend.

Providing fish with cold, clean water rich in oxygen versus the shallow reservoir behind the dam with its warm water, which impacts fish and is low in oxygen.

Mirror Pond’s dam — like dams on other rivers that no longer serve a viable purpose — should be removed and the Deschutes River returned to a natural free-flowing river with riparian zones and habitat for wild, native redband trout. The restoration project would include removing the muddy areas and creating a natural landscape which would be advantageous to the residents living next to Mirror Pond.

A free-flowing Deschutes River would allow new recreational activities in downtown Bend such as:

  • World-class kayaking events.
  • New rafting routes for commercial and personal uses.
  • Underwater viewing of fish and other wildlife viewing.
  • Greatly improved trout fishing in downtown Bend.
  • Educational opportunities for schoolchildren in downtown versus busing to remote areas.
  • New river walks connecting Bend’s river walk trail system.
  • Help reduce goose and wild fowl droppings on the walks and in parks.

The current pond, while being around for a long time, has a negative impact on the economy. Proposed engineering studies at $450,000 plus dredging at $2 million to $3 million every five-plus years produces no positive impact on the economy. Replacing the pond with a natural flowing river would have a positive impact on Bend and Deschutes County’s economy. A vibrant Deschutes River flowing through the largest city in Central Oregon will be a great attraction for locals and visitors.

— Gerald Hubbard lives in Bend.

River likely to be crowded

With temperatures expected to be around 90 today and edging to within sight of triple digits on Sunday, crowds likely will be flocking to lakes and rivers around Central Oregon looking for a chance to cool off.

Although high-profile, recreational drownings have been rare, a handful of floaters, swimmers and boaters are killed every year in Central Oregon waters. Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said most accidents on the water are avoidable.

For river floaters, Kettering advises people to steer clear of cheap flotation devices.

“No pool toys,” she said. “Pool toys such as the flimsy air mattresses and the things people get out there on that are designed for still water like a swimming pool as opposed to a river with rocks and limbs and other things that could puncture it.”

River users need to know where they’re going before they get into the water. Kettering said nearly every year, the fire department encounters a river floater who put in at Meadow Camp planning to float in to Bend, unaware of the sizable rapids they would encounter. Floaters or boaters should scout their route by land before launching.

Even on well-traveled routes like the Deschutes River float through Bend’s Old Mill District, Kettering said people need to remain aware of their surroundings. Despite an abundance of warning signs advising floaters where to exit the river, nearly every year a few people end up going through the Colorado Dam spillway, Kettering said. Floaters went though the spillway at least twice last year, and in 2006, a woman was pulled though the spillway and killed.

Alcohol is a common factor in water accidents, Kettering said, and should be avoided by anyone planning on boating or floating.

While not legally required for most river floating, Kettering said a life jacket is still a good idea. Inflatables such as inner tubes that are bound together are considered boats under state law, she said, and users are required to carry one life jacket for every person aboard — the same rule that applies to canoes, ski boats, fishing boats and other craft. Children 12 and younger are required to wear a life jacket while on a boat.

“Whether you’re a good swimmer or a poor swimmer or somewhere in between, anybody can get in trouble out there on the water, and a life jacket can be the difference between making it out and not,” she said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Don’t forget the pond and skate park

Bend Park & Recreation District officials take community input seriously. They do polls and hold community open houses to determine what taxpayers want, and they tailor their plans accordingly.

Back in 2004, that meant scrapping plans for a bond issue to build a westside version of Juniper Swim & Fitness Center.

This year, it means the district will go forward with plans for a $29 million bond to fill in gaps on the river trail, build an ice rink and help Oregon State University-Cascades Campus with expansion plans, among others.

What they won’t do with this bond, however, is move forward with a study of Mirror Pond or the building of a skate park.

Mirror Pond is too controversial and not solely a park district responsibility, said Executive Director Don Horton, and the skate park suffered a “lack of support from voters.”

That made them unattractive items for a bond issue, Horton said, and we can’t dispute that reality. To enhance chances of bond approval, the district needs to focus on the things voters are willing to pay for. Attracting controversy doesn’t enhance chances of bond passage, and we support the bond.

Still, what to do about Mirror Pond and a skate park?

A few years ago, most of the public talk about Mirror Pond focused on finding the money to pay for dredging. More recently, the panel discussing next steps is hearing from those who think big changes would be better, possibly removing the dam and returning the river to a more natural course. What had seemed obvious has become controversial, at least among those trying to fix the problem.

Without a poll or a vote, we can’t know if attitudes have really shifted, but we think there’s still enormous support for preserving the pond by dredging. If voters were given a clear option for that, we think there’s a good chance they’d vote to pay for it. If, however, they are asked to pay for studies with unknown result, support would be much less certain.

The skate park has different issues. Lack of support in surveys is not surprising, and shows the danger in relying entirely on such tools. Skateboarders are less likely to respond to a survey or to attend meetings, and the unsavory reputation of skateboarders survives despite being outdated.

Across the nation, other communities have provided impressive new facilities for skateboarders, a group that now includes many responsible adults as well as youngsters. Yes, it’s a small group, but it’s also a small cost relative to all the other planned expenditures.

Horton says work toward a skate park will go forward using resources the district already has, rather than money from the bond. That sounds fine. We would understand if advocates are skeptical, though, given the long time they’ve been meeting with park district officials and seeing other projects move ahead to completion.

Permanent solution for silt

Having read and heard quite a bit about dredging the accumulated silt in Mirror Pond, I have come up with the perfect solution to the problem.

A few things need to be understood by all. These include the facts that the residents of Bend will never permit this iconic piece of Bend to become a swampy marshland, that the silt has accumulated slowly over a period of decades, that the silt that has accumulated in Mirror Pond is just silt and not toxic waste, and that dredging the silt in one large operation is too expensive and would be opposed by some people with lawyers.

My solution, the perfect solution, is to install a very small-scale dredging apparatus on the south side of the Greenwood Avenue bridge that would be capable of removing the silt at twice the rate that the silt is accumulating and that could be moved around the area of deepest silt accumulation. This apparatus could be completed submerged and not visible, except to fish, frogs and ducks.

A relatively small pipeline — probably not more than a few inches in diameter, but that would have to be determined by a competent engineer — could run from the dredger intake to one of three or more places. The pipeline could simply run around the Pacific Power dam at the Greenwood Avenue bridge, further down the river past the next diversion dam; or to some downstream parcel of land onto which the dredged silt could be temporarily deposited.

The problem of merely moving the silt around the Pacific Power dam is that the silt would accumulate at the next downstream diversion dam. That just moves the problem from Mirror Pond to the next diversion dam. Although it is a fact that all dams get silt behind them over time, nobody wants their dam to “silt up.”

Making the pipeline long enough to get around that next diversion dam would be more expensive and would only move the silt further downstream to the next diversion dam.

Depositing the dredged silt on a downstream parcel of land is also not going to be cheap, but the silt may have some value to farmers, home gardeners or to local landscaping companies for topsoil — ever try to grow something in a lava bed like the ground in much of Bend? That might provide some revenue for this project.

This mini-dredge could be run at full capacity for a number of years (perhaps with some project power from the Pacific Power dam) until enough silt was removed to assure the continued existence of Mirror Pond in an acceptable state and then run at a rate that moves newly accumulated silt out of Mirror Pond.

Lots of Bend citizens would get behind this project financially, including me, which may help to get this project funded. I’m certain that the city, the Bend Park & Recreation District and Pacific Power would love to have a simple, cheap and elegant solution to this problem and would be able to find some funding for it. This plan has the advantage of being a long-term solution to the problem of accumulation of silt behind the Pacific Power dam, rather than a near-term fix — like a huge dredging project — that would have to be done again in a few decades.

I await your congratulations and the appreciation of the citizens of Bend!

— Dennis Sienko lives in Bend.

Source: The Bulletin: Permanent solution for silt

Obituary: Virginia Wolfe

vwolfeMay 25, 1918 – June 5, 2012

Bend Water Pageant Queen 1935

Virginia “Ginny” was destined to live life as she saw it, mostly in interesting ways that we envied. She was a strong-willed girl who was fortunate to have parents that loved, and encouraged her to find her own path.

Born May 25 1918, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to Greek and Lillian Beaston, they moved to Bend, Oregon soon after, where she was raised by her mother, and stepfather, Bill Anderson. She was athletic, and loved the game of tennis. After graduation from Bend High, she attended finishing school in Seattle, before graduating from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Ginny’s beauty, and outgoing personality, were instrumental in her being elected Queen of the Bend Water Pageant in 1935.

She met and married the love of her life, Jake Wolfe in 1945. Jake was an Iowa boy, fresh home from the war. During the course of their 51 years together, they raised three children, Kim, Scott, and Marcia, who were with her at her time of passing in La Quinta, California, June 5, 2012. At one time she ran the Keystone Trailer park, helped start WB Anderson Trailer & Marine Sales, and was a strong supporter of Jake’s decision to found The Bank of the Cascades. Jake passed in 2001. He, equally supported her desire to open The Copper Room fine dining restaurant and bar, loving the experience and its patrons, becoming “Ginny” to all. They traveled the world in their later years and never stopped having fun while enjoying the spectacle of life and nature.

Her passing was a beautiful time, with her children at her side, holding her hand, with the strains of Amazing Grace in the background. Her dog “Woof” gave her one last kiss, and she slipped away.

Virginia Wolfe