What would a tax do?

Mirror Pond can’t be allowed to become Mirror Mud Flat. But the problem is money. Estimates from a few years ago placed the cost of a fix at between $2 million and $5 million.

Because of the laws involved, you can’t just get a backhoe and start dredging out the silt. There must be a study that looks at alternatives and considers the impacts. The study could cost another $540,000.

The city doesn’t have that kind of money. The park district certainly didn’t budget for it. There isn’t enough money to even do the study.

One solution being floated is to put a taxing district on the May ballot to create a long-term funding mechanism.

Our question: What would that money pay for?

Mirror Pond isn’t natural. It’s man-made. It was formed by building a hydroelectric dam near the Newport Avenue Bridge in 1913.

The Deschutes River carries sediment. The dam acts like a wall slowing down the river. Some of the sediment is dropped. The sediment builds up. It happens at dams across the world. In Mirror Pond, it is building mud flats. The city dredged the pond before in 1984.

Many Bend residents may be willing to pay into a fund that would keep Mirror Pond a pond. But is that the solution the taxing district would pay for?

One proposed solution has been to take out the dam. The pond might shrink to look more like the river in other parts of town. It could add more land to Drake Park. That “solution” could also create problems downstream as the silt moved. The next stop for the silt could be the irrigation diversion dam near The Riverhouse.

Is that what the tax would pay for? Moving the problem? And if the dam is removed, would a long-term funding mechanism be necessary?

Then there’s the $540,000 study. That looks like spending half a million to find out what everybody knows. But basically, to comply with the law and if there’s any hope of getting federal money to help pay for what’s done, there needs to be a scientific analysis of water quality, the critters in the water, the sediment and alternatives.

Mirror Pond is one of Bend’s signature landmarks. We can’t let it fill in. But the community is going to be have to filled in on some details before it would ever support a tax.

Source: The Bulletin ©2011

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