Regulation drives up cost of solution at Mirror Pond

Just about 25 years ago, the city of Bend dredged Mirror Pond at a cost of $312,000. Now it faces the need to do the work again, but the price tag has skyrocketed, and it could cost as much as $5 million to do the same job.

My, how things have changed.

What has not changed is the necessity of the job. Mirror Pond is perhaps the single most identifiable feature of Bend and has been so almost since the day the city was formed. It shows up on postcards, on Christmas cards and in family photos. It is the focal point of the city’s most visible park, Drake, and enhances the recreational opportunities that already abound there. If Bend has a heart, it is found in the quiet waters of Mirror Pond.

Almost everything else has changed.

Twenty-five years ago, the city and its citizens were not obligated to consider a variety of alternatives to dredging. That alone will drive up the cost of the current project tremendously. So, too, will the need to answer to a whole host of agencies as the project progresses. Today, the project will involve the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of State Lands and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, each of which will seek specific information about the project before it allows dredging to progress.

It may well be, as officials have suggested, that it isn’t that regulation has driven the cost of the project up so much this time as interest in the project. That may be true, as far as it goes. It simply doesn’t go far enough.

Interest in all things environmental has grown in the years since the first dredging was completed. There’s more emphasis on keeping water clean and cool, more emphasis on wildlife that lives in and along the river, more worry about downstream impacts from work on the pond itself. Too, there’s far more emphasis on public involvement in any project of this type than there was in the early 1980s.

All that interest has served to increase regulation of such things as a Mirror Pond dredging, and that regulation plays a major role in the high price predicted for the current project. So yes, interest has driven the price right up, but it’s done so by increasing the regulatory hoops the city must go through to get the project done.

Source: The Bulletin ©2009

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