Mirror Pond committee sessions to be open

The Mirror Pond ad hoc committee is a governing body under state law and its Aug. 13 closed-door meeting should have been public, Bend City Attorney Mary Winters said Wednesday.

“We do want to clarify that that meeting that was held last week will be held again, noticed and held Tuesday,” Winters said. “This is a governing body under the public meetings law.”

Winters spoke at a City Council meeting after councilors voted to amend a motion they made in July to create the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee. The amendment Wednesday states the committee will work with city and park district employees and a consultant “as an exploratory, fact-finding body to advise and assist project staff and the consultant team regarding issues pertaining to the future of Mirror Pond.” The committee will also “engage Pacific Power to become part of the exploratory process.”

However, the council let stand the July 16 motions by the City Council and Bend Park and Recreation District board that created the ad hoc committee. The committee goal is to select and refine a final plan for the future of Mirror Pond, the landmark body of water along the Deschutes River in the heart of Bend. The July motions were based on a prototype written by parks Executive Director Don Horton, which called for the committee to “work with project staff and the consultant team to select and refine a final preferred vision (option) for the future of Mirror Pond.”

But a closed-door session of the ad hoc committee Aug. 13 raised the question: Did the committee violate Oregon public meeting laws by meeting in executive session and without prior public notice? After one private meeting, officials said future meetings will be public.

Wednesday, City Council approved the same motion adopted Tuesday by the Bend Park and Recreation District board of directors, said City Councilor Victor Chudowsky. Chudowsky is a member of the ad hoc committee, but was on vacation and did not participate in the meeting last week.

The Mirror Pond ad hoc committee includes two Bend city councilors, two park board members, Horton, Bend Community Development Director Mel Oberst and as many as three citizens who have not yet been selected.

In other business Wednesday night, city councilors heard an update on a collaboration between the city and Tumalo Irrigation District to look for opportunities to leave more water in Tumalo Creek. The city takes much of its water from the creek, and hopes to begin work this fall on a $24 million project to install new intake equipment and a pipeline from Bridge Creek to the city water storage facility. The Forest Service has indicated it will likely issue a permit for the project, although that process is not complete. Opponents of the project might also file a lawsuit to stop it, as they did last year.

The city can take up to 18 cubic feet of water per second from Tumalo Creek. Tumalo Irrigation District is the other major water user on Tumalo Creek, taking an average of 55 cubic feet per second at the height of irrigation season in August, according to the Oregon Water Resources Department.

As recently as the 1990s, a section of Tumalo Creek near the Deschutes River ran dry during the summer irrigation. This section begins after the irrigation district diversion. Currently, at least 10 cubic feet per second runs through this section, and the city and Tumalo Irrigation District established a goal of doubling that to 20 cubic feet per second. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife set an optimal goal of 32 cubic feet per second of water in this lower section of Tumalo Creek.

It would likely cost $12 million to $14 million to complete a project to pipe an existing open irrigation canal, engineer Jon Burgi said Wednesday night. Burgi works as the irrigation district’s engineer through the firm David Evans and Associates, Inc. This project would allow the city and irrigation district to reach their goal of 20 cubic feet per second in the lower reach of Tumalo Creek, Burgi said. Matching grants are available for the project.

City councilors did not commit to provide any funding on Wednesday, although some said they are interested in supporting the effort.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

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