Mirror Pond decision depends on the dam

Central Oregon abounds in pristine river scenes, where water follows natural paths edged by marshy areas and riparian shrubbery.

In downtown Bend, though, for decades we’ve had something else: an urban pond, a landscaped place, partly lined with retaining walls and walkways.

We’d like to keep it.

It’s not that we don’t value the natural, but we like the urban landscape as well. Bend ought to be able to have both, and Mirror Pond is our special exception. Some who share our view have called it the city’s crown jewel.

We’ve argued for dredging, even if it’s expensive, even if it has to be done again in 20 years. We’ve argued that people would likely be willing to pay for it if given a straightforward choice. Without a vote, or at least a scientific survey, though, we can’t be sure that’s true.

Instead the Mirror Pond Steering Committee launched the current series of meetings and questionnaires and consultant’s renderings. Lots of opinions have been expressed, but we still have no idea what the majority in Bend wants and would support.

Meanwhile, the process focused attention on a critical factor: The dam that created the pond a century ago isn’t a sure thing going forward.

Pacific Power owns the dam, and although there appear to be no plans to remove it in the short-term, there’s no assurance of its long-term survival. It’s entirely possible it won’t make business sense for the company to preserve it at some point.

We can’t argue for spending millions dredging the pond unless we know the dam will be there long enough to justify it. That’s where the focus of attention should be, not on alternatives that turn Mirror Pond into one more natural river scene.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Option A1: Do Nothing Scenario

Option A1: a “Do Nothing’ scenario where no work is proposed for Mirror Pond. This plan illustrates conditions 30 years from now. Invasive plants (cattails and reeds) have begun to fill in the mud flats. Most sediment passes through the river channel.

Option-A1

General Description: In this option Mirror Pond has been left alone for roughly 30 years and no work has been done. New invasive vegetation has populated the areas that are currently mud flats. The channel location typically follows it current alignment. The system is at full capacity for sediment and sediment continues to move downstream through the system.

  • Cost: No cost
  • Permitting: No permits required
  • Habitat: Evolving emergent plants at water’s edge –shrub/scrub plants higher up
  • Maintenence: No new maintenance activities
  • Recreaction: Fishing, floating, boating, swimming, bird and animal watching.

Option A1 - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option B1: Dredging similar to 1984

Option B1: Dredging similar to 1984 dredging. Concrete and stone walls adjacent to public parks are replaced with a more natural edge. Wetland plants have developed along the river’s edge.

Option B1

General Description: Mirror Pond is dredge similar to 1984 dredging. The existing concrete and stone walls adjacent to public parks have been removed and a more natural edge has been planted. After 30 years, emergent wetland zones have been developed along the river’s edge and accumulation of sediment continues during that 30 years. Mirror Pond is once again at full capacity of sediment storage and dredging Mirror Pond again will be required.

  • Cost: Estimated at $5.7 million to dredge and remove 60,000 cubic yards of sediment and replace concrete and stone walls.
  • Permitting: Requires Federal, State, and City permits that are likely to require addressing release of silt downstream.
  • Habitat: Dredging may need to be repeated every 30 years.
    • Other maintenance activities focused on plantings and habitat at edge of pond.
  • Recreation: Fishing, floating, boating, swimming, bird and animal watching.

Option B1 - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option C1: Sediment Re-use on Site

Option C1: moves and stabilizes existing sediments on site to create new lawn areas next to public park lands with a natural wetland edge conditions.

Option C1

General Description: Mirror Pond is partially dredged and the removed sediment is re-used on site. The dredged sediment is used to create new lawn areas next to public park lands and a natural edge conditions of riparian shrubs. Thirty years from now, the emergent zonea and riparian shrub zones are fully mature. Mirror Pond is once again at full sediment capacity.

  • Cost: Estimated at $3.5 million to move sediment on site and create new wetlands and grassy uplands adjacent to Drake, Harmon, and Brooks parks.
  • Permitting: Requires Federal, State, and City permits.
  • Habitat: emergent plants at water’s edge- schub/scrub plants higher up. Deep waters temporaily improve water quality favoring trout and cool water species.
  • Recreation: Fishing, floating, boating, swimming, bird and animal watching.

Option C1 - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option D: Dam Removal and Move Channel

Option D: The dam is removed as part of the project and channel has been modified while moving sediment in order to create lawn areas adjacent to parks and reduce the extent of wetlands adjacent to homes. The existing concrete and stone walls adjacent to public parks are replaced with a more natural edge. Sediment moves through the system in a more natural manner.

Option D

General Description: The dam is removed as part of the project and the channel has been modified to a new location. Adjusting the location of the channel accommodates creating lawn areas adjacent to parks and reduces the extent of wetlands adjacent to homes. Thirty years from now, the plantings are fully mature and sediment is moving through this section of the Deschutes River in a more natural river process.

  • Cost: Estimates at $6.4 million to move sediment on site creating new channel, riparian habitat and grassy uplands adjacent to Drake, Harmon, and Brooks parks.
    • Maintains open water in front of residences and maximizes the potential for the upland adjacent to public properties.
  • Maintenance: Maintenance activities focused on planting and habitat at new park land and wetland areas.
  • Permitting: Dam removal requires Federal, State, and City permit process that could be done in conjunction with other project permit requirements.
  • Habitat: Emergent plant’s at water’s edge–shrub/scrub plants higher up. Deep waters temporarily improve water quality favoring trout and cool water species.
  • Dam Removal: $4.2 million cost of dam removal is responsibility of dam owner.

Option D - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option A2: Dam Removal by Dam Owner

A2 Dam Removal: When the dam is removed existing water levels drop and flow back into the original channel. (Illustrated 5 years after dam removal)

Option A2

General Description: In this alternative the Mirror Pond dam is removed by its owner at no expense to taxpayers. Side slopes down to the river are graded and replanted as required by federal and state regulators.

  • Soils would be exposed until new wetland plantings develop.
  • The dam removal process requires mitigation for any exposed soils.
  • $10.9 million cost for removing the dam is the responsibility of the dam owner.

Option A2 - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option C2: Sediment Re-use on Site then Dam Removal

C2 Dam Removal: If the dam is removed in Option C1, this is a possible outcome. After the dam is removed existing water levels drop and flow into original channel.

Option C2

General Description: After partially dredging Mirror Pond and re-using the sediment on site, the dam is removed. When the dam is removed, the existing shallow waters retreat to the original channel. New lawn areas next to public park lands remain. The emergent zones and riparian shrub zones are re-graded to meet the new channel and require additional plantings for these zones.

Option C2 - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Overseer is named for Colorado dam project

The first major project funded under last year’s Bend Park & Recreation District bond measure took a step forward Tuesday, with the district’s board of directors hiring a contractor to oversee the construction of the Colorado Avenue Dam safe passage through completion.

Hamilton Construction of Springfield was awarded a construction manager/general contractor contract, an arrangement that will have Hamilton working closely with state and federal regulatory agencies and the engineers designing the project over the next several months. Once the design is set and regulatory issues are addressed, Hamilton will provide the district with a guaranteed maximum price for construction of the project.

The project will convert the area into a three-channel system with separate areas designed for safe passage, whitewater play and a wildlife/fish corridor.

Tuesday’s bid award grants Hamilton $52,900, while the overall estimated cost of the safe passage project is estimated at $7.3 million. The project is expected to break ground in spring 2014 and be completed by spring 2015.

Chelsea Schneider with the park district told the board Hamilton will work with local contractor Jack Robinson and Sons for the duration of the project. By being involved from the design stage onward, Hamilton will be able to monitor the design and engineering of the project to ensure it can be constructed safely and on budget, she said.

“There’s unknowns now, and we felt we needed them on board to help guide what direction the design goes,” Schneider said.

Park district director Don Horton said views differ as to whether the CM/GC style of bidding a project is less expensive than going out for competitive bids at every stage of the process. However, in the case of the safe passage project, Horton said there is a risk that if design and engineering were to proceed without input from a contractor, the construction bids solicited at the end of that process could come in well over budget.

The award of the bid for the dam project came on the same night the board approved the district’s overall budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Like most governments in Oregon, the park district’s budget year begins on July 1 and ends June 30.

Due to the passage of last year’s $29 million bond and adjustments to reserve funds, the 2013-14 budget totals $72 million, as compared with last year’s $34 million budget. Most of the bond funds will not be spent during the upcoming year, however, and will remain in district accounts as the district works its way through the list of projects approved by voters.

The district expects to spend 8 percent more than last year. That doesn’t count bond-related funds and money generated through systems development charges (known as SDCs) assessed against new construction.

Much of the additional cost expected in the coming year is due to staffing increases that replace some of the positions cut in recent years. Park district staff declined from 92 full-time positions in 2009-10 to 83 in the current budget year; next year’s budget creates four new full-time positions.

Park district staff will be required to start chipping in to fund their health and retirement benefits, both of which have been significant drivers of the district’s personnel costs in recent years.

Beginning in the upcoming budget year, full-time employees will begin paying 10 percent of their health insurance premiums and 25 percent of the premiums for their dependents — currently, the district picks up 100 percent of health insurance premiums for full-time employees, and such employees pay 20 percent of their dependents’ premiums.

Similar changes are in store for retirement benefits provided under the state’s Public Employees Retirement System.

On top of its own obligations to the PERS system, the district has also historically paid each employee’s obligation, an amount equal to 6 percent of each employee’s salary. Under the new district budget, employees would begin paying their own obligations, starting with 1 percent of salary and increasing by 1 percent per year over the next six years. New employees hired after July 1 would pay their full 6 percent obligation upon meeting PERS eligibility.

Employees are slated to receive cost of living increases of 1.6 percent and merit-based pay increases of up to 3 percent.

Due to a rebound in residential construction, the district expects revenue from SDCs to jump 27 percent in the upcoming year. Funds generated from SDCs are used to expand park facilities to accommodate the influx of new residents.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013