WASHINGTON — Bend’s hopes for federal funding to quickly move forward with its plans to dredge Mirror Pond were dashed Thursday after the project wasn’t included in a U.S. House energy and water spending bill.
The House Appropriations Committee released a list of earmarks attached to the bill Thursday. The Senate version of the energy and water bill, passed in June, also did not include Mirror Pond funding.
It’s possible for earmarks to be added any time before the bill is passed, but that’s unlikely in this case, according to congressional aides. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, sought $490,000, which would have gone toward the planning and engineering work in preparation to dredge the pond of layers of built-up silt.
Without federal funding, Bend will have to delay its plans to remove built-up silt from the pond, said Bend City Councilor Jim Clinton.
“Had that been approved, then the city would’ve gone more quickly to do the dredging than it’s now able to do,” Clinton said. “Now, we have to backtrack a little bit because that was not forthcoming.”
The City Council has debated strategies to fix Mirror Pond for more than a year, since it became clear that sediment was building up in the downtown Bend pond. Sandbars dotted with trees and shrubs have popped up in places, as the water becomes shallower. Councilors last discussed a report drafted by a panel of water experts in Marchbut did not decide how to proceed.
Clinton said he thinks the city will next gather public input on how to prevent the pond from disappearing, ideally before the end of this year.
But before that happens, Bend needs to find money to fund the public process and start study work recommended by the city’s experts earlier this year, said Wendy Edde, a water resource specialist at the city of Bend. Clinton said any fix will run into the millions of dollars.
“At this point, the big hurdle is to find money,” Edde said.
Part of the Deschutes River that spans from the Tumalo Avenue Bridge to the Newport Avenue Bridge, Mirror Pond was formed in 1910 when a power company installed a hydroelectric dam on the Deschutes River just north of the Newport bridge.
The city wants to partner with other agencies and groups that have an interest in the pond, Edde said. That could include irrigation districts that control the flow of water through the Deschutes, federal agencies and other groups, she said.
Sedimentation in the pond first became an issue in the mid-1970s, when the lumber mills upstream stopped using the river to float logs. Because the pond is unnaturally wide, the river slows down and deposits the sediment it has picked up along the way.
The city dredged Mirror Pond in 1984 at a cost of $1.5 million, much of which came from federal grants. At the time, the project engineer predicted that Mirror Pond would have to be dredged in another 20 years. Any solution, Clinton said, will likely be a mix of dredging, stream rehabilitation and other strategies to help prevent sediment from building up again.
“Scientifically, it’s pretty much understood what should be done,” Clinton said. “There’s the question of how and who is going to pay for it.”
Source: The Bulletin ©2007