Preserve Mirror Pond to save money and recreation

I recently attended the Bend Park & Recreation District board/Bend City Council/consultant meeting. At the recap meeting, the presenters were careful to describe the survey we all took as not very revealing. So let’s look at some facts revealed at the meeting by the consultants and project manager.

When we originally dredged the river in 1984, we had about 300,000 cubic yards of sediment in the river. We now have about 300,000 cubic yards of sediment in the river. In 1984 we removed 60,000 cubic yards of fill from the river, and that project has lasted 30 years, up until today, and we are right back to where we started. This new dredging proposes the removal of 100,000 cubic yards of fill from the river. Choosing a one-third increase in previous removal amounts would cost more and make the other options such as dam removal look more cost-effective in comparison. According to the consultants, the minute you dredge the siltation increases at a speed directly proportional to the amount of fill you remove. More removal means faster siltation.

A discussion occurred between Scott Reed, a park board member, and the consultant as to whether the river was actually in a state of equilibrium as far as depositing and removal of the silt. The consultant didn’t want to commit as to whether we are currently at equilibrium, but did admit that it does occur and we could be at that point. Equilibrium could make dredging unnecessary and multimillion dollar contracts disappear. His concern was that weeds could fill in the pond if we didn’t dredge. That’s interesting because that is exactly what they are looking to have happen by returning the river to its natural course as depicted in the artist’s rendition.

Let’s next look at the dam removal option. If we simply dredge the river, the taxpayers have no cost in dam removal or river mitigation issues. That all falls on the power company. If we agree to the “grand plan” of dam removal and river restoration, we are not only asking the taxpayers to pay for and take responsibilities for all activity and decisions regarding mitigation, but possible lawsuits if the “grand plan” does not work out as intended. We could be opening the door for lawsuits from downstream problems. Increased siltation that occurs after dam removal, the next downstream dam and the irrigation company diversions will be impacted by the siltation that will occur after dam removal. This could well cause liabilities we the taxpayers could be party to rectifying in the future.

Aside from the financial impact, let’s look at the recreation issues and changes we will face on dam removal and mitigation. Some 80,000 people moved to Bend enjoying the view of Mirror Pond and not the view of the upper or lower Deschutes, which would be our new view. They enjoyed the passive recreation it provides and all the park activities such as fishing, Pole Pedal Paddle, the Fourth of July party and the Duck Race. All those opportunities will probably disappear as the shores are filled in with brush, cattails and the like. The park will take on the look of Farewell Bend Park with fences for safety and a path well away from the river that is but a walking trail, not a passive recreational experience. Not only will we be destroying the view we all moved here for, we will be changing the entire recreational use of the park and giving it to the ducks and weeds while taking it away from the people.

Save the pond, mitigate our costs and enjoy our recreation. Let the private utility pay for removing its dam and pay for the mitigation of the river and its shoreline issues, if and when it so desires.

— Donald Smith lives in Bend and was a park board member for 16 years.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

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