Traffic may lessen if pond changes

I note there is considerable controversy surrounding the Franklin Avenue/Riverside Boulevard/Broadway Street construction activity. Listening to the pro vs. con discussion, I wonder why there is no discussion about the real need for spending over $1 million for improvements at all. I question why improvements in pedestrian safety and vehicle parking are any issue, because as Mirror Pond becomes a mosquito-ridden swamp or a raging river as some feel it should become, I don’t believe there will be much pedestrian traffic or vehicle parking in that area anyway.

Charles Porter

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Secret nonsense

With so much flawed thinking, it is hard to know where to begin to assess the process that led to a secret meeting on the future of Mirror Pond.

As Bulletin reporter Hillary Borrud revealed, the Bend City Council and Bend Park & Recreation District created an ad hoc, joint committee in July to recommend a solution to Mirror Pond’s silting.

Foregoing the you-should-know-better advice we give our children, they got caught with their fingers in the jar of secret dealings.

Notwithstanding the apparent contempt for the public meetings law of the state, our ad local hoc-ers added insult to injury by thumbing their noses at the holy grail of transparency.

Fortunately, they came to their senses and decided to hold future meetings in the open, with public notice and access.

But the bad taste remains.

Doesn’t this make you wonder how capable or wise our leadership is when it can so badly stumble into predictable and completely unnecessary trouble?

One of the justifications for the secrecy is that land and property negotiations cannot be responsibly done in public.

But understanding that a properly constructed public process allows for executive sessions to conduct such negotiations in private, it’s hard to believe that this was the motivation.

Given the suspicions that secrecy cultivates, it is understandable why another motivation, born of a flawed process, has been suggested.

Let’s start with the basics.

Mirror pond is the iconic vista of downtown Bend.

Not that something else could not be in the future, but today it is a creature born of the Pacific Power & Light dam at Newport Avenue.

As backed-up ponds will do when fed by rivers, it is being transformed by silt.

What the city and park district face is less a complicated question than a white-hot political potato.

And what do stalwart leaders do with so hot a potato? They throw it to someone else.

Dredging the silt out of the ponds is, to a very sincere and very vehement group of our citizens, a wholly unnatural activity.

To not dredge is, to another group, to cave in to the Thousand Friends of Every Weed, Slug and Mud Beast found in and around the pond.

The great flaw in this has two parts.

The first was an exercise in junk science called an online survey.

It found the community split. Wow. Don’t you feel informed?

I would love to see our elected officials develop backbones, make decisions and then justify their views at the polls, but if you are going to use a survey as a deflective shield, at least make it scientific.

Spend a few bucks on this rather than on lawyers to defend your secrecy impulses, and do it right.

Second, let’s focus on the real issue, which is the dam.

No dam, no pond.

Conversely, no pond as we know it, no need for a dam.

That’s the key issue.

Personally, I think the pond should be preserved.

But, to spend millions of dollars on dredging, or even some lesser approach, when the pond could or should disappear, is the height of sentimental foolishness.

My real concern is whether the leaders who brought us to this impasse have the capacity to deal with a sophisticated issue that cuts across science, tradition, politics and culture.

Or, have they all along had a verdict that the evidence didn’t support? So they went to a secret advisory process.

Whatever, it doesn’t say much for them or their respect for us.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

No more Mirror Pond secrecy

Bend city and park officials have come to their senses and decided to let the public in on meetings to decide Mirror Pond’s future.

Last week, they had made the outrageous decision to throw up a Great Wall of secrecy around the pond.

They changed their minds a day after The Bulletin protested.

Now they need to please keep it straight that government should not hide what’s going on from the public.

How did they get this so wrong?

Last month, the City Council and the park board formed a subcommittee to “select and refine a final preferred vision for the future of Mirror Pond.” The subcommittee also needs to sort out the dam’s future and the ownership of the land under the pond.

It held a meeting Tuesday at the Bend Park & Recreation District office to get started.

No public notice was provided of the meeting. No agenda was available.

When members of The Bulletin showed up, they were told they could not attend.

Don Horton, executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District, said it’s not a public meeting.

Neil Bryant, the park district’s lawyer, was also there. We showed him some relevant statutes. We called our attorney.

One excuse they gave was that the subcommittee was not going to make a final decision. We showed them the minutes that say the committee is supposed to “select and refine a final preferred vision for the future of Mirror Pond.”

Bryant told us he had not researched the matter. On Wednesday, he prepared a confidential legal memo about the issue. Bend City Councilor Mark Capell, who is a member of the Mirror Pond subcommittee, called us after receiving the memo. He said future meetings would follow Oregon’s public meetings law.

Oregon’s law doesn’t insist that every single thing at a public meeting be done in public. There are exceptions, such as for legal and personnel matters and real estate negotiations. That gives the committee the ability to negotiate some sensitive issues privately.

It shouldn’t take a newspaper making a ruckus for city and park officials to know that the public should know what its government is doing.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

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

Mirror Pond a part of city’s history

Mirror Pond and the power house are a big part of Bend’s history. I would think they have historical protection. Removal of the dam will not restore the Deschutes River to be free-flowing throughout Bend. There are three other dams or diversions. The one at Colorado Avenue is intended to be redesigned to a Class IV rapids, among other features. Removing Newport Dam will only move the silt problem downriver. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may require fish passage for the dam if electrical power generation is to continue. The first thing we need is an engineers’ evaluation of the dam. If the dam is sound, I would like to see the historical value of Drake Park and Mirror Pond preserved. If the people of Bend agree with me, I would suggest we have a cost analysis of a vacuum dredge like the ones used for removing sludge from sewage lagoons. This would be done on a continued basis as part of maintenance of Mirror Pond. This could possibly be funded jointly by parks, city, power generation, irrigation districts and property owners bordering Mirror Pond.

Bob Borlen

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Don’t let the Mirror Pond committee drift

The art of figuring out what to do with Bend’s Mirror Pond requires answers to specific questions: What does the community want? What is the future of the dam?

The process Bend has used so far has discovered neither. It seemed determined to make a rendezvous with a destiny that didn’t include figuring out what the community should do.

The Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District Board have now formed a new committee.

Let’s try something different this time.

Let’s use the best methods to find out what the community wants.

Relying on online questionnaires may put a notch in somebody’s playbook of gathering community input. It doesn’t say much at all about what the community wants.

We know Bend’s leaders are acutely sensitive to having hefty community involvement, because it is important, and because of the questions the City Council took on its surface water project. It still needs to be a community process that will answer questions.

Do a scientific poll. Of course, polls have limitations. Short of a communitywide vote on every option, there is no better way.

But first, let’s find some answers about the dam and spell out for the public whatever is known about the ownership of the riverbottom.

Pacific Power can’t say how long it will keep the dam. Roger Raeburn, manager of dam safety at Pacific Power, doesn’t have a study that says the dam may last “x” more years.

That shouldn’t stop the new committee from getting answers on its own about what’s possible. For instance, does the city really have a chance to keep the dam if Pacific Power doesn’t want it?

No matter what is decided about Mirror Pond’s future, the leaders who make the decision are going to be beset with questions and complaints. That is part of leadership. Don’t set the new committee again on course to drift.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Preserve Mirror Pond

Thank you, Bruce Brothers, for your article of July 10 in The Bulletin regarding the Bend Park & Recreation District’s ideas for our beloved Mirror Pond. This idea of tall reeds and wetlands in our downtown park is so out of place. Instead of “Mirror Pond” they would call it “Mirror Mudflats.”

I answered the survey online with my thoughts, to dredge it and keep it the way it has been for years and years, and for years to come! When the lumber companies were in business, they dredged it when needed. It has been neglected for 30 years, so of course it needs attention. There shouldn’t be any discussion to do anything except dredge it.

The Bend Park & Recreation District has the money to dredge it, so there is no need to put another tax on property owners. This atrocity to even suggest that we turn this scenic downtown jewel into mudflats is absurd. The voters of Bend should make the decision in regard to Mirror Pond. Too many of our rights are being stripped away. I hope you agree with Bruce Brothers and many others, so we can keep our Mirror Pond and Drake Park as the icon of Bend.

Some things we just don’t tread on, and our Mirror Pond is one of them!

Judy Thorgeirsson

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

We Don’t Need No Education

When water was drained from the Mirror Pond early this morning, ugly mud flats took shape in the big basin, with waterfowl feasting on crawdads. This is a view upstream showing the extensive mud flats in the cove that fronts on Drake Park near the band stand. This is one of the most extensive areas of siltation in the pond.  11-25-1957 (Bend Bulletin Photo)
When water was drained from the Mirror Pond early this morning, ugly mud flats took shape in the big basin, with waterfowl feasting on crawdads. This is a view upstream showing the extensive mud flats in the cove that fronts on Drake Park near the band stand. This is one of the most extensive areas of siltation in the pond. 11-25-1957 (Bend Bulletin Photo)

At today’s joint City of Bend, Oregon Government Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District Board meeting, Councilor Mark Capell helped to propagate one of Mirror Pond’s craziest and most ignorant myths: “Mirror Pond never had a problem with silt until after the mills quit dredging the mill pond in the 1980s.” Mirror Pond has had a problem with silt and weeds since the 1920s. Here is an example from the 1950s.

Related: Mud flats, weeds

Mirror Pond decision requires focus on dam

If the community wants to preserve Bend’s Mirror Pond, it all comes down to the dam. Will Pacific Power maintain it? If not, is there any way for the community to take it over or otherwise preserve its pond-creating effect?

If the answer to both of those questions is no, options to save the pond in its traditional form are severely limited.

Yet both the park district and the power company report they haven’t tried to find those answers, because they’re waiting to see what the community wants.

They supposedly will learn about the community’s desires today when survey results are presented to a joint meeting of the Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District board.

But today’s presentation won’t actually tell them what residents prefer; it will tell them only what a few self-selected people think. An unscientific survey will be offered, and may be interpreted as meaning far more than it does.

The park district’s Mirror Pond Project Manager, Jim Figurski, and Pacific Power’s Regional Community Manager, Angela Price, say they will consider the questions about the dam only once this process tells them what the community wants.

That’s backwards, because the community can’t know what it wants, or what it’s willing to pay for, unless it knows the dam’s future.

Figurski said he expects the council and park board to identify a preferred option by the end of the month. Then the work starts on the details of how it could be accomplished and at what cost.

We’ve argued repeatedly for preserving Mirror Pond, but the future of the dam is critical. It would be foolish to spend millions dredging the pond if the dam that makes it possible has a short-term future. We hope the decision-makers will put the survey results in proper perspective and demand real information before narrowing the options.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Save Mirror Pond

We have lived in Bend for 46 years, and before that, as children, we visited Bend during the summer months to camp and fish. It was always a special treat to attend the river pageant, which was held on Mirror Pond each year.

Mirror Pond is what makes Bend a place like no other. Mirror Pond and Drake Park are in the very heart of the city and reflect its beauty. Many new- and old-timers have made wonderful memories over the years celebrating special occasions, such as 4th of July, concerts, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other special events; not to mention just walking in the park with your youngsters, and even pushing babies in strollers or carrying them on your back while watching children playing on the lawn laughing. And having fun while we enjoy their laughter and the beauty of the green grass, etc., in the park with Mirror Pond flowing so gently along. Kids love to fish in the river also.

Without Mirror Pond, we would be just another city with a river running through it. We have something very unique, and to let it disappear, of our own doing, would truly be a shame. Anyone you know who has ever visited Bend will always have a comment about Drake Park and Mirror Pond. Don’t let it dry up and be just a river with marshland, weeds and mosquitoes. This would be a real disaster and would truly ruin our city and the unique beauty that it is known for.

Joyce Scott