My Mirror Pond Opinion by Terry Foley

Terrence H. Foley, in whose name the Butte was purchased and dedicated as a State Park in 1928. This photo is from the early 1920′s. Photo Courtesy: Pilot Butte Partners and the Foley family.

Iconic Bend landmarks that date from our town’s beginnings are few. The dam, the brick building housing the equipment to generate electricity, and Mirror Pond are all that remain as evidence of those early, vital efforts.

Most places in the world, and the citizens who inhabit them, cherish their particular histories. They manage somehow to preserve and maintain those artifacts which connect them to their past, their beginnings – landmarks that represent their story, instill community pride and advertise their uniqueness to the world. That sentiment seems sadly missing from Bend’s current leadership and citizenry.

Someone at one of the recent Mirror Pond meetings told me that for most people now days, history is only a generation old. If that is true, then efforts to save Mirror Pond are useless and futile.

Theories as to how the river would flow and how its banks would evolve should the dam be removed are speculation, at best. What’s certain is, that Bend would lose its most widely recognized downtown feature: Mirror Pond, and that physical connection with it’s past.
Bend’s history is short, relative to Oregon, to the United States, and certainly to the rest of the world. Viable remedies for preserving Mirror Pond certainly exist. To erase this remaining connection feels short-sighted, selfish, and lacking in community spirit.

Mirror Pond Editor’s Note: Terry Foley is the grandson of Terrence H. Foley.

Poll shows support for dam removal

Those living closest to Mirror Pond overwhelmingly support removing the Newport Avenue Dam and allowing the Deschutes River to return to its natural state, according to an online survey by the Old Bend Neighborhood Association.

Residents of Old Bend — the area South of Franklin Avenue, south and east of the Deschutes River, north of Arizona Avenue and west of the Bend Parkway — preferred dam removal over maintaining the pond by a margin of 2 to 1, according to neighborhood association board member Spencer Dahl.

Those living in the River West neighborhood west of Mirror Pond were nearly as supportive of dam removal, Dahl said, while survey respondents from other Bend neighborhoods or outside of Bend were split roughly 50-50.

Dahl said although the survey of 300 self-selecting respondents is not scientific, he suspects it’s largely reflective of sentiment in his neighborhood.

“Our neighborhood has a lot of old hippies and river rats and stuff, so it’s not your typical Bend, but it is the neighborhood that’s going to be most affected by it,” he said.

The dam just north of Newport Avenue, more than 100 years old, provides power for fewer than 500 homes.

Pacific Power, the utility that operates the dam, has indicated it may be unwilling to continue operating the dam should increasing maintenance costs render it financially infeasible.

Those who responded to the neighborhood association survey described themselves as frequent visitors to Mirror Pond and the adjacent parks, with 7 percent claiming to visit daily and 35 percent at least once a week.

Respondents spend a lot of time in the water as well: 43 percent said they float the river, 31 percent reported boating and 14 percent said they’ve gone stand-up paddleboarding on Mirror Pond.

However, there are divisions among the larger paddling community. Survey respondents who kayak were much more likely to support dam removal, a move that would allow the river to flow faster, Dahl said, while stand-up paddleboarders were inclined to prefer calmer waters as seen on present-day Mirror Pond.

Dahl also represents his neighborhood on the 19-member Mirror Pond Management Board, a group assembled by the Bend City Council in 2009. The group advises the smaller Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which was created in 2010 to develop a long-term strategy to address silt accumulation in the pond. Dahl said he regards the survey as a way of supplying him with better information about his neighbors’ preferences when dealing with the steering committee.

The steering committee expects to release the results of its own online questionnaire on Thursday, according to Jim Figurski, a project manager hired by the Bend Park & Recreation District to work with the steering committee.

Figurski said Tuesday he hadn’t reviewed the findings of the Old Town Neighborhood Association survey. He said he’s interested in learning more about the audience reached by the survey, but not surprised to learn of the strong support for a dam-free river.

“Nothing about the project currently surprises me,” Figurski said. “There’s always something new coming out or something interesting happening, it doesn’t surprise me a lot.”

The steering committee’s questionnaire closed Monday night, and primarily addressed recreational preferences and the “values” — such as clean water, wildlife habitat and scenic views — that local residents associate with Mirror Pond.

Figurski said 1,858 people completed the questionnaire, which, like the survey conducted by the neighborhood association, was self-selecting and should not be regarded as statistically valid.

Beginning next month, Figurski and the steering committee will develop four alternative plans to address the siltation issue. The two “bookends,” as Figurski has called them, will likely include one proposal for dam removal and one for dredging that would maintain the pond in a state similar to what’s seen today. The questionnaire will help inform the two middle ground alternatives, Figurski said, which could both lean toward either the dredging or dam removal option, depending on what the public had to say.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond is new ‘natural’ for Deschutes River in Bend

The consideration of removing the Newport Avenue Dam and losing Mirror Pond, Bend’s beautiful icon, is unbelievable. It is like removing the Empire State Building from New York City, the Lincoln Memorial from Washington, D.C., or the Eiffel Tower from Paris.

Mirror Pond/Drake Park is the most recognizable aspect of Bend. In Bend we put old houses on historical registers to preserve them. Mirror Pond is older than most of them.It needs to be preserved.

Silt is part of river hydraulics; it happens in all of them. Dredging is commonplace in rivers throughout the world. The fact that it will be 30 years since the Deschutes River was dredged in the Mirror Pond area is amazing; it is usually done more often in similar situations. Dredging is considered maintenance in harbors, ports, mouths of rivers and lakes and ponds. Don’t act like it is something unheard of.

There are alternatives to dredging. One idea (shared, but thought of independently, by my friend Carl Vertrees, the retired publisher of The Redmond Spokesman) is to bring the water level down for a month to let the “mud flats” dry out. Bring in excavators and dig up the mud flats, load the excess soil on dump trucks and take it to the landfill to make a topsoil that the Bend area does not have. Sell it for landscaping projects and defray the costs of the soil being removed from the pond. This could be done on both sides of the river from the Newport Bridge to the Galveston Bridge. A project like this or dredging would last another 30 years; it is just maintenance.

The group that would have Mirror Pond destroyed has an attitude that everything “natural” is better. This is the attitude that would remove the Columbia River dams. If done, Jantzen Beach, Hayden Island and Delta Park in North Portland would have to be abandoned. A city there called VanPort floated away in a post-World War II flood — flooding that was mitigated by the Columbia River dams. It would only be a matter of time before flooding would destroy those areas and possibly Portland International Airport.

The Newport Dam could be modernized, the Pacific Power generator replaced with a more efficient one and the structure improved. Pacific Power, the City of Bend, and the Bend Park & Recreation District should be responsible for the costs of dredging or silt removal. We, the residents of Bend, would pay for it through our taxes to Bend and to Parks & Rec and our rates to Pacific Power.

Removing the dam and restoring the river would be much more expensive than dredging. The idea that it should cost $200,000 to decide what to do is ridiculous, and giving the steering committee the right to make the decision is questionable. A vote by residents would be much more reasonable in a decision-making process. Not everyone can or will let their position be known on the Internet. The activist-type people will flood the Internet with their opinions and will be overly represented in the results of the questionnaire. Make your opinion known.

What would an empty Mirror Pond look like? The few pre-1910 pictures of the area before the dam was built illustrate a dangerous river, one where a presidential candidate was drowned while attempting to save a young boy who fell in.

Removing the dam would take away waterfront property from owners that have been there for more than 100 years. You affect the downstream properties, subjecting them with flooding. You affect the upstream properties by pushing the river away from them, reducing their properties’ desirability and value. This opens up the steering committee, the City of Bend and the Bend Park & Recreation District to endless lawsuits.

Maintain Mirror Pond by dredging or silt removal. Preserve the look of the pond; it has become the new “natural.”

— Cary Robles lives in Bend.

Source: The Bend Bulletin ©2013

The Somewhat Surprising Results from the Unofficial Mirror Pond Survey

Further proof that the tide may well be turning:

That long, split-pea green bar on top represents the 62.26% of respondents who think“The dam should be removed and the river returned to its natural channel.”About 300 participated in the the unofficial survey, issued by the Old Bend Neighborhood Association via the website

The last two questions of the eight-question survey were also surprising/pleasing to see:

Q7 If the dam is removed, what would you like to see happen to the land no longer submerged under Mirror Pond?

12.31% — It remain in the hands of its current owners. (McKay family?, etc.)
15.77% — It becomes the property of the adjacent land owners, maintaining their river frontage.
71.92% — It becomes public property and remains in public use.

Q8 Which would you prefer?

44.32% — Mirror Pond to retain its current charm and iconic stature.
55.68% — Boat or float the Deschutes River from above the Bill Healy Bridge to below the First Street Rapids.

The unofficial survey was drafted in response to the official 19-question survey issued by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee earlier this year. While a number of the Old Bend and River West Neighborhood residents who live near or along the Deschutes River participated in the survey, the majority of respondents—nearly 54%—live outside the two neighborhoods above. You can find complete results here.

The official survey proved unpopular with scores of Bend residents, many of whom have voiced their concerns during various public meetings over the past couple of months. Polling closed today for the official survey and results should be available on Thursday, Feb. 28.

Source: The Source Weekly

Mirror Pond process flawed

At a Feb. 12 public meeting, Mirror Pond Project leader Jim Figurski doggedly defended the “Visioning Project Questionnaire” now being circulated. He proudly announced that 1,200 had so far been filled out.

He took pains to defend the scientific validity of this questionnaire, which, he said, will help determine the fate of Mirror Pond.

However, the very underpinnings of the questionnaire appear to be fatally flawed. It looks suspiciously like a political push poll: It limits choices to various versions of Mirror Pond as it now exists, and it does not allow consideration of alternatives.

The other problem is the claim this questionnaire will provide an accurate representation of a cross-section of Bend opinion. But, how can we know how statistically representative the sampling is, when the questionnaire does not even ask for the age or income grouping of respondents?

The questionnaire should be rewritten, and we are fortunate in having a data analyst and statistician sitting on the Mirror Pond Management Board — newly elected City Councilor Victor Chudowsky. We should put his professional oversight to work in fashioning a new one.

At the Feb. 12 meeting, Figurski ruled out the possibility of a referendum election to allow the public to vote on alternatives. Lacking this and realizing that tens of thousands in public funds are now being spent in this “visioning” process, it would, at least, be nice to know that a true reading of public opinion will emerge. Please, redo the questionnaire.

Foster Fell

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond Survey Results


Q1 Where do you live?

14.92% – Old Bend Neighborhood
17.63% – River West Neighborhood
53.90% – Other Bend Neighborhood
13.56% – I don’t live in Bend

Q2 Did you vote in the general election in November?

Yes – 88.14%
No – 11.86%

Q3 Please tell us which option below best describes how often you visit Mirror Pond or one of the adjacent park:

Never – 1.42%
A few times a year – 20.21%
About once a month – 20.92%
2 or 3 times a month – 22.70%
About once a week – 16.31%
2 or 3 times a week – 11.35%
Daily – 7.09%

Q4 Please tell us how you interact with Mirror Pond:

Floating – 42.86%
Boating – 30.83%
Stand Up Paddle – 14.29%
Swimming – 6.39%
Fishing – 5.64%
Nature watching – 68.80%
Scenic background for park activities – 81.20%

Q5 What do you think should happen with Mirror Pond?

62.26% – The dam should be removed and the river returned to its natural channel.
35.47% – The dam should be retained and a solution found for the sedimentation problem.
2.26% – The dam should be retained and the pond should be allowed to turn into a wetland.

Q6 If the dam is retained, which of these would you like to see?

50.19% – The pond dredged and its shape kept the same as it is now
26.24% – Change the shape of the river channel and pond, creating rapids.
14.45% – Let the pond fill in and turn to wetlands.
47.53% – Add fish passage and fish screens to the dam.
38.40% – Add people passage or river play area to dam.

Q7 If the dam is removed, what would you like to see happen to the land no longer submerged under Mirror Pond?

12.31% – It remain in the hands of its current owners. (McKay family?, etc.)
15.77% – It becomes the property of the adjacent land owners, maintaining their river frontage.
71.92% – It becomes public property and remains in public use.

Q8 Which would you prefer?

44.32% – Mirror Pond to retain its current charm and iconic stature.
55.68% – Boat or float the Deschutes River from above the Bill Healy Bridge to below the First Street Rapids.

Hydrologists discuss Mirror Pond

Hydrology experts assembled by the City Club of Central Oregon said Thursday there’s no urgency to develop a plan to address silt buildup in Mirror Pond, and suggested an approach somewhere between attempting to maintain the historic pond and removing the Newport Avenue Dam could win broad community support.

Hundreds filled a lecture hall at St. Charles Bend on Thursday to learn more about silt accumulation in the downtown Bend pond, formed by the construction of the dam 100 years ago and last dredged in 1984. In the years since then, the pond has become shallower, the result of silt washing into the Deschutes River upstream and settling on the bottom in the slow-moving waters of Mirror Pond.

Hydrologist Joe Eilers — who was joined by hydrologist Gabe Williams and Upper Deschutes Watershed Council Director Ryan Houston on the City Club panel — told the audience Thursday that dredging to preserve Mirror Pond as a pond is at best a short-term fix.

By deepening the channel, dredging causes the water to move even more slowly, Eilers said, allowing more silt to fall out of suspension rather than be carried further downstream. A pond like Mirror Pond will re-silt fastest in the first few seasons after dredging, he said, reaching 80 percent of its maximum silt-holding capacity within 10 years, and 90 percent within 20 years.

“If you’re going to go the full dredging route, you might as well buy a dredge, because you’ll be back there in the not-too-distant future,” Eilers said.

As of today, Mirror Pond probably has about 90 percent of the silt it can take, Eilers said, but it’s hard to know when it might reach 100 percent.

Icing during the winter has so far discouraged plants from taking root where they might turn shallows to dry land, he said, adding that even if the pond reaches its maximum silt-carrying capacity, the water should continue to flow.

Club member Jim Lussier, the former president and CEO of St. Charles Health System, asked the panelists what the long-term costs of doing nothing might be.

While Eilers focused on the cost of maintenance that is presumed to be needed on the aging PacifiCorp dam, Houston said the cost of inaction may be more abstract. Those who enjoy the views across the pond, its waterfowl, or paddling along the slow-moving waters could lose those amenities if Mirror Pond is left alone, he said.

“It’s not just the capital expenditures, it’s what do people care about,” Houston said.

Specifics of the future of the dam were left unaddressed Thursday. Although not on Thursday’s panel, Angela Price of PacifiCorp was in attendance. Price declined to elaborate on how long Pacifi- Corp intends to continue operating the dam, or what might happen if her company concludes the cost of upkeep outweighs its power-generating potential.

Taking out the dam completely would have a significant impact beyond the area commonly thought of as Mirror Pond, Houston said. Removing the dam would drop water levels directly behind the dam by 8 to 10 feet, he said, and the river would find a new channel through the main body of the pond. The effect could be noticeable as far upstream as McKay Park, where Houston said water levels could drop by a foot.

In response to an audience question, Houston said many of the consulting engineers working on possible solutions for Mirror Pond are also working on the Bend Park & Recreation District’s plans to develop a safe passage through the Colorado Avenue Dam spillway, and are confident they can find a way to make both projects work together.

The dam’s removal would be the best option for fish, Eilers said, lowering water temperatures and boosting the level of available dissolved oxygen by allowing the river to move faster. He said a faster-moving river through Drake Park would also be likely to drive off the geese that have multiplied in the area over the years.

Eilers suggested a fourth option — which he dubbed “designer dredging” — might be the easiest course of action. Such an approach could involve dredging out a defined channel while building up and “armoring” some areas where silt deposition is most pronounced. Other portions of the pond could be restored as above-water-level parkland, he said, such as the shallows in the wide bow just behind the Drake Park stage.

Mike Hollern, CEO of Brooks Resources and a pond-side resident, latched on to Eilers’ description of “designer dredging.” Hollern said his personal preference would be for the future pond to retain many of its present characteristics, but acknowledged that those who live closest to the water benefit most, and should contribute to a local improvement district to help pay for any work on the pond.

Hollern suggested a retaining wall backfilled with silt dredged from the pond could be used to expand Harmon Park on the west side of the river.

Houston said such a compromise could hit a “sweet spot” that could at least partially satisfy those who desire views, wildlife habitat and access to the water for recreation. Dry land for expanded parks could persuade the park district to buy in, Houston said, while developed wetlands that could help clean up the wastewater dumped into the pond by city storm drains could attract funding from the city or grants from clean water groups.

Gary Fish, founder of Deschutes Brewery, joked that the brewery would have to scrap “about 25 million pieces of printed material” depicting the pond that serves as the namesake of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, but echoed Houston’s comments about finding a middle ground between dam removal and repeated dredging.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to get everything they want, but they should get a lot of what they want,” Fish said.

Thursday’s forum was independent of an effort under way by the Mirror Pond Management Board, a group formed by the Bend City Council in 2009. The management board has an online questionnaire where local residents can share what they value about Mirror Pond and the Deschutes River at through Feb. 25. In March and April, the board will be using the public input it’s gathered to develop potential plans of action, including illustrations and cost estimates.

Past estimates have placed the cost of a 1984-style dredging at between $2 and $5 million.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

‘Integrated Solution’ Called for at City Club

Today’s City Club of Central Oregon forum was a who’s who of Bend’s movers and shakers. Not surprising given the topic: Mirror Pond.

It was perhaps the first time in recent years where river experts, hydrologists and stakeholders, as well as notables like Gary Fish, founder and CEO of Deschutes Brewery, gathered in one room to discuss options for the silt-filled pond near downtown Bend. One thing seemed clear—dredging and walking away, as was last done in 1984, is an option that has fallen out of favor.

“The way we think about rivers is in a period of change,” noted Mayor Jim Clinton, who was also on today’s six-man (no women!?) panel. He explained that the 20th century marked an era of dam building. Now, in the 21st century, we’re seeing more dams taken out, he said. Clinton advocated for what seemed to be a popular solution—a creative, multifaceted fix that might restore the river to a more natural state. Clinton called the issue a “great opportunity.”

Mike Hollern, chair and CEO of Brooks Resources Corporation, made no effort to hide his bias—he wants to keep Mirror Pond. But, Hollern, who lives along the water, said he’d be willing to help pay for a fix—and so should others who live nearby, as they benefit the most from the pond. Hollern also said while the best solution should include some dredging, maybe we could expand the grounds of the parks which would add increased green space. Such a fix would make for a narrow, deeper, faster and colder waterway—all of which would make for a healthier river.

Ryan Houston, the Executive Director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council did not reveal a solution but did answer a number of questions concerning what was and wasn’t possible. Houston called a “good solution” one that was sustainable (both environmentally and economically), fit the community’s desires, and appealed to the various user groups—fisherman, paddlers, dam owners, floaters, homeowners, etc. Like Clinton, Houston said an “integrated solution,” is the best way forward.

The sold-out event drew out four of our seven City Councilors—Victor Chudoswky, Doug Knight, Sally Russell, Mayor Clinton (Mark Capell, Jodie Barram and Scott Ramsay were absent); City Manager Eric King, E.D. of Parks Don Horton as well as county commissioners, environmentalist groups, notable attorneys and at least one former Mirror Pond project manager.

Unlike the Park District meetings, which were free, this event did have a significant barrier to entry: tickets for the City Club discussion were $35 ($20 for City Club members). Bourgeois!

Source: The Source Weekly ©2013

Oregon Field Guide: The White Salmon River Runs Free

What happens when a dam disappears and a river returns? Watch this special edition of Oregon Field Guide about the historic removal of Condit Dam.


1859[1]In 2012, the 100 foot-tall Condit Dam was removed from the White Salmon River in southeast Washington, making it the largest dam in the world ever removed. The goal was simple: Restore habitat for threatened salmon. This first-ever project tested the ingenuity of those tasked with the massive project. But it may also represent a turning point. In a region built on hydropower, is removing dams for threatened salmon the new norm?

Producer & Director of Photography – Andy Maser
Editor – Nick Fisher
Associate Producer – Hayden Peters
Additional Video – Michael Bendixen, Hayden Peters, Nick Fisher, Todd Sonflieth, Brian Lippy, Andy Johnson-Laird & Sylvain Chancel
Stock Material – Steve Stampfli, Zach Zoller, Ralph Bowman, Ryan Scott, Kevin Felts, Sam Drevo, Oregon Historical Society, Daniel Dancer, PacifiCorp,
Special Thanks – Jaco Klinkenberg, Wet Planet Whitewater, Heather Herbeck, Sam Drevo, Todd Olson of PacifiCorp, Tom Gaunt of PacifiCorp, Rod Engle of USFWS, Larry Moran of JR Merit, Tony Washines of Yakima Nation, Ed Jahn, American Rivers, American Whitewater

Appeared in episode: The White Salmon River Runs Free: Breaching the Condit Dam

For more information:

Andy Maser Films

White Salmon Timelapse Project

Dam removal will change upper Mirror Pond

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Any discussion of removing the dam at Mirror Pond must address the impacts on the river above and below the pond. I would like to comment on the section of river above the pond, between the Colorado Dam and the Galveston Bridge.

The river above Mirror Pond is free flowing, but in response to the dam, the gradient is low and the river is wide with a gentle current. There are wetlands along the banks, and a wide expanse of shallow water adjacent to a deeper channel. If the dam were removed, the river would become narrower, deeper, and faster through this section. The wide gentle nature of this stretch of water is ideal for both wildlife and recreation. For water sports, the current is not too strong to paddle upstream, and the flow is slow enough for a leisurely float. The number of people floating this section can be over 1,000 per day. Beginner stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers are common.

A narrower and faster channel would decrease the total recreational opportunities. The area has a small island and wetlands supporting great biodiversity. There is a noticeable increase in fish population in this stretch, and the osprey, otter, herons and diving ducks do very well. I once watched an otter retrieve 10 crayfish in 10 dives in the shallows. There is a beaver lodge which has been continuously inhabited for decades. This section of the river has been enhanced by the Mirror Pond Dam, from the point of view of both the wildlife and many Bend residents. Allowing the river to cut down to a faster, narrower channel would see a net loss. Here some photos of this piece of the river; Photos link

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