Park district to survey dam

Bend Paddle Trail Alliance pitches alternative plan

By Hillary Borrud | The Bulletin

The Bend City Council, Bend Park & Recreation District board and Mirror Pond ad hoc committee have all expressed a desire to maintain Mirror Pond, a section of the Deschutes River that backs up behind a dam. Officials have mostly discussed preserving the pond by keeping the dam. But the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance wants officials to consider another option to maintain Mirror Pond. At a Mirror Pond ad hoc committee meeting Friday, members of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance presented a drawing of their vision for the pond to the committee. The proposal includes: 1. A narrower river channel with increased water velocity between Galveston Avenue Bridge and the Drake Park footbridge. There could be zones designed to capture sediment, and this sediment would be removed “every 15 years or so.” 2. A safe passage for fish and boaters between Coyner Point and the location of the current Mirror Pond dam. 3. An alternative dam or flow structure to maintain the water level in Mirror Pond. 4. An extension of the river trail along the east bank, from Drake Park to Pioneer Park 5. A series of rapids and pools, from Coyner Point through the existing dam site 6. Redevelopment of the dam site and other properties in the “currently blighted area between (Bend Brewing Company) and the former park district headquarters,” to help pay for other part of the project.

The Bend Park & Recreation District plans to commission an independent engineering survey of Mirror Pond dam, executive director Don Horton said during a meeting of the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee on Friday.

“Basically, what we’re looking at is an engineer’s analysis of the condition of the dam,” Horton said. This analysis would also include lists of necessary repairs to maintain the dam for the next 15 years and the next 50 years.

The Mirror Pond ad hoc committee also heard from members of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, who pitched an alternative to keeping the existing dam. Members of the group said their vision would preserve Mirror Pond while improving the section of the Deschutes River for fish and for boaters.

“I would really implore you to consider other alternatives to just saving or fixing the dam,” said Will Blount of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance.

David Blair, also a member of the alliance, said the group is “seeking a somewhat more sustainable, somewhat more river-like approach, a somewhat more environmentally oriented approach — but it would retain the pond.”

Tom Carlsen, who lives in a waterfront home on Mirror Pond, said he represents a group called the Save Mirror Pond Committee. Carlsen said his neighbors have already noticed “odor problems” due to the low water level in the pond, and said local governments should repair the existing dam in order to fix the problem as soon as possible.

“It’s innovative, but we’re concerned with the time and cost to implement such a concept,” Carlsen said of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance plan.

Horton said he hopes to hire an engineering consultant within a month to conduct the survey, and he estimated it will cost approximately $25,000.

Horton and City Councilor Mark Capell are negotiating the possible acquisition of the dam from PacifiCorp, a Northwest utility that operates as Pacific Power in Oregon, which owns the dam.

PacifiCorp discovered a leak in the dam in fall 2013, and after the utility’s chief dam safety engineer inspected the structure, the company announced it no longer made sense to continue operating the hydropower project.

PacifiCorp now plans to decommission the dam or transfer ownership to another entity.

Angela Jacobson Price, regional community manager for Pacific Power, said the company is talking with the park district about granting access to the dam for an independent engineer to conduct the inspection on behalf of the park district.

Price also confirmed that PacifiCorp plans to file an application with the Oregon Water Resources Department to amend its water rights. That would make it possible for a future dam owner to keep the structure without necessarily generating power.

Currently, PacifiCorp has water rights that allow the utility to hold water behind the dam in order to generate power.

Bend Community Development Director Mel Oberst, a member of the ad hoc committee, said the park district should ask the engineer who will survey the dam to include an estimate of the cost to build fish passage on the dam, something Oberst believes the state will require if PacifiCorp transfers ownership and water rights to another entity. But Horton said he believed the state might not require fish passage, so the district does not need to determine right now how much it might cost.