Dam inspection report under wraps

Bend park officials say PacifiCorp to decide on disclosure

By Hillary Borrud | The Bulletin

Bend Park & Recreation District officials say they will let the utility company that owns Mirror Pond dam decide whether the public gets to see a taxpayer-funded inspection report on the structure .

At least on the surface, that decision appears to be at odds with how city councilors and utility company officials want to proceed. In fact, each party involved has a different idea on how the park district should handle the report. A PacifiCorp spokesman said the decision on whether to release the report is up to the park district, while two city councilors involved in the process said on Monday the report is part of an important community discussion and should be released to the public. PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said the utility would like to see the report and possibly redact sections of it before the public would see it.

The park district, a government agency that is separate from the city of Bend, hired Phoenix, Ariz.-based contractor Gannett Fleming Inc. to inspect the dam on the Deschutes River last month and provide an independent opinion of its condition. The inspection is supposed to provide crucial information on future dam maintenance costs for city councilors and park district officials, who are negotiating to acquire the dam from owner PacifiCorp.

The park district will pay $23,500 for the inspection and report, Mirror Pond Project Manager Jim Figurski wrote in a recent email. However, Figurski and park district Executive Director Don Horton wrote in emails that because they signed a nondisclosure agreement with PacifiCorp, the utility has the legal right to decide whether the district can release the report. Figurski and Horton declined to provide a copy of the report to The Bulletin without permission from PacifiCorp.

City Councilor Mark Capell said on Monday that because this is an independent inspection report on the dam, it should not contain any of PacifiCorp’s proprietary information. Capell and City Councilor Victor Chudowsky are both members of the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee, a group that includes park board members and citizens and is tasked with deciding the future of Mirror Pond.

“In my opinion, the community needs the information to make a good decision,” Capell said. “So it’s information that needs to be released.”

Chudowsky agreed. “I think the main thing is the community needs to know whether we’re taking over an asset or a liability, and how big that asset or liability is,” Chudowsky said. “It’s critical information, absolutely critical.”

Last fall, the century-old dam sprang a leak and after PacifiCorp conducted its own inspection, company officials said repairs at the hydroelectric project would be too costly to pencil out for their ratepayers. It was the third leak in five years at the dam. Then in February, the utility company changed course and agreed to repair the leak. A PacifiCorp spokesman said in February that the utility estimated the repairs would cost $250,000.

Gannett Fleming has written a report on its inspection of the dam. However, Horton wrote in an email that in his opinion, the inspection report is not yet complete. “I reviewed it late last week and will be asking the consultants to clarify some of their findings,” Horton wrote in the April 7 email. Horton did not say what he asked the consultants to clarify .

The nondisclosure agreement, which names the park district as a potential purchaser of the dam and the city of Bend as an interested party, states that documents created with confidential information from PacifiCorp can only be released with the utility’s consent. It’s unclear at this point whether there is any confidential information from PacifiCorp in the inspection report.

Gravely confirmed last week that the utility wants to see the report before the public does.

“I think ultimately they own the report, so it will be their decision,” Gravely said of the park district. However, he said, the utility company does want to review the park district’s report before it is released to the public and might ask the district to redact sections of it.

“I think the only thing we would want to do first is to make sure there’s no commercially sensitive, confidential information that was provided under the nondisclosure agreement,” Gravely said. “We wouldn’t have a problem with the report itself being released and that would ultimately be their decision.”

Gravely said PacifiCorp employees have not yet seen the report, so he did not know what type of information the utility would consider to be commercially sensitive and want to redact.

Gravely said PacifiCorp executives have not met with local officials since December to negotiate the possible transfer of dam ownership because officials were waiting to learn the findings of the inspection.

https://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/1967812-151/dam-inspection-report-under-wraps

Repairs to Bend’s Mirror Pond dam complete

Repairs to Bend’s Mirror Pond dam complete

By Scott Hammers | The Bulletin

PacifiCorp has completed repairs to the Mirror Pond dam, a spokesman said Wednesday, and believes water levels in the pond should return to normal this summer.

The recent repairs were prompted by a leak in the dam that emerged in early October. Within days of the discovery of the leak — described as a basketball-sized hole below the normal waterline — Mirror Pond began dropping, exposing wide mudflats that extended through Drake Park and upstream of the Galveston Avenue Bridge.

PacifiCorp, the owner of the dam, inspected the damage and concluded the century-old dam was too damaged to warrant further repairs. In late November, the company announced it was ready to decommission it or transfer it to another entity.

In February, the utility reversed course and agreed to repair the dam.

Spokesman Bob Gravely said Wednesday that crews completed nearly all of their work Friday, driving large pieces of metal sheeting into the bedrock beneath the upstream side of the dam. Gravely said because the equipment and crews were available, PacifiCorp also added sheeting to another two of the 13 wood and rock “bays” that make up the spillway visible from the Newport Avenue Bridge.

During last fall’s inspection, the two bays added to the repair operation were found to be holding water but in danger of failing, Gravely said. Six of the 13 bays in the spillway have now been repaired using the same technique in recent years. Gravely said discussions between PacifiCorp and the Bend Park & Recreation District about the district’s possible acquisition of the dam have been temporarily suspended until the district’s inspection report is complete.

“On hold would be the wrong word, but once the Parks Department decided to do its own inspection, I think both sides agreed it would make sense to wait until both sides had their own sets of numbers and projections before continuing the talks,” he said.

Gravely said PacifiCorp repaired the dam even though officials believe the new leak was allowing too little water through to affect the level of the pond once the Deschutes River returns to full summer flows. Water running through smaller leaks in the dam tends to displace the timbers and rock inside, he said, creating larger leaks if not repaired.

“Anything I guess could still happen, but this will significantly increase the likelihood that the dam will maintain the water levels for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Source: https://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/1928314-151/repairs-to-bends-mirror-pond-dam-complete

Central Oregon City Club hears Mirror Pond options

Repairs to leaking Bend dam underway

By Scott Hammers | The Bulletin

Three alternative solutions for the future of Mirror Pond were presented Thursday at a meeting of the City Club of Central Oregon.

The City Club invited a panel to make the case for the three possibilities under consideration by the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee, a group made up of representatives of the city of Bend, the Bend Park & Recreation District and the general public.

Formed last fall primarily to look into what should be done about silt accumulating in Mirror Pond, the group’s focus has shifted with the emergence of a leak in the Mirror Pond dam, and the announcement by PacifiCorp that it is no longer economically feasible to use the dam for power generation.

Separately, PacifiCorp began repairing the leak Thursday, a process spokesman Bob Gravely said should be complete by Tuesday.

At the City Club event, Bend City Councilor and ad hoc committee member Victor Chudowsky said he and the other members of the council have committed to preserving Mirror Pond but are committed to keeping the current dam only if viable. David Blair argued for a hybrid alternative that would maintain the level of the pond, while replacing the dam with a new structure. Ryan Houston of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council described the ecological benefits of dam removal and a free-flowing river.

Scott Wallace, chairman of the Bend Park & Recreation District Board and the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee, provided a brief overview of the construction of the dam and an update on the status of an independent inspection of the dam commissioned by the two groups. He said the inspection report should be complete by early April and should include some estimates of what it would cost to repair and maintain the dam.

Chudowsky recalled how he first discovered Bend while on vacation years ago and spotted a large group of people swimming in the river near the Galveston Bridge. Mirror Pond may be an icon, he said, but it’s not just a pretty view — it’s something people use, he said, with an estimated 90,000 floaters and paddlers using the river between the Old Mill District and Drake Park each summer.

Chudowsky said removing the dam would narrow the river and quicken the current, drastically altering how locals enjoy the river today.

“Let’s remember those tens of thousands of floaters, many of them are young people, teenagers,” he said. “They don’t vote, they’re not going online to fill out questionnaires, they’re not at the City Club — they haven’t been a part of this conversation.”

Chudowsky said the city and the park district will need to carefully assess the inspection report to make sure they’re not assuming a massive liability if they choose to move ahead with acquiring the dam from PacifiCorp.

Houston said the case for removing the dam for environmental reasons isn’t particularly strong. Of the 10 dams along the Deschutes River from its source in the Cascades to the Columbia River, the Mirror Pond dam would probably rank around eighth in terms of its adverse effect on the health of the river.

The choices facing the community on Mirror Pond are really more about economics than anything else, Houston said. For 100 years, Bend residents have enjoyed the benefits of the pond created by the dam without being asked to pay for it, he said. With PacifiCorp ready to give up on the dam, residents need to decide whether preserving the pond is worth it — and how much they’re willing to pay.

With a price tag estimated at around $7 million, removing the dam would be cheaper than other alternatives that would require ongoing maintenance, Houston said, but it would radically alter the pond without providing significant environmental benefit.

“It’s not where I would put my first $7 million, if I had $7 million to spend on river restoration on the Deschutes,” he said.

Blair said although the hybrid alternative removes the dam, the area from Drake Park upstream wouldn’t have to look like it did this winter, when the combination of low water and the leak in the dam exposed wide mud flats on both shores.

The proposal outlined by Blair would include the removal of the dam and the construction of a dam-like structure a few hundred yards upstream that would allow floaters and paddlers to pass through. Downstream, the river channel could be sculpted, possibly with a series of dropping pools, he said, while upstream, a series of sediment traps could be built to allow for easier removal of silt.

Blair said it’s been difficult to draw up a firm estimate of what the hybrid option would cost. He encouraged the park district and the ad hoc committee to consider it a serious alternative and proceed with the studies needed to compare it side-by-side with preserving the dam.

Much of the discussion on how to proceed with Mirror Pond has been bogged down with talk of water rights and other permitting issues that appear to make some alternatives impossible, Blair said. As any of the alternatives under consideration would probably require intervention by the state Legislature, the community should instead focus on what it wants, he said, and stop being “intimidated” by supposed regulatory hurdles.

“We will create a great place, no matter what,” he said.

https://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/1904600-151/city-club-hears-options-for-mirror-pond

A close look at Bend’s Mirror Pond dam

The committee looking into what should be done with Mirror Pond got an up-close look at the leaking dam there Wednesday, joining representatives of Pacifi­Corp on a tour of the more than 100-year-old facility.

The ad hoc committee, formed last fall, includes representatives from the city of Bend, the Bend Park & Recreation District and the general public. It will weigh in on the relative merits of dredging the pond, keeping the dam, which is owned by PacifiCorp, removing the dam and other alternatives.

The group’s tour came one day before a team of consultants hired by the park district is due to arrive in Bend to inspect the dam. PacifiCorp has been lowering the level of Mirror Pond in recent days to allow for a safe inspection, but water levels should be headed back up this weekend.

Jim Figurski, the head of the park district’s efforts on Mirror Pond-related matters, said the inspection should provide a better idea of what kind of maintenance costs the city or park district would have to bear if they were to acquire the dam from Pacifi­Corp. PacifiCorp has committed to repairing a hole that opened up in the dam last fall, dropping water levels to nearly 7 feet below seasonal normals, but is looking to divest itself of the dam as a generation facility.

“Part of the analysis is what would we need to do for a 50-year or more fix, not just a 10-year fix or a near-term fix,” Figurski said.

He expects the consultants will have a complete report for the committee by the end of the month.

On the back deck of the powerhouse, members of the tour group learned Wednesday how the gates at the base of the dam can be manipulated to control how much water flows out, allowing the dam operator to maintain Mirror Pond at a consistent elevation.

They peeked into buckets of bottles, cans and old tennis balls that are scattered across the dam property, all of them retrieved from the pond above the dam with the help of a long-handled net.

Descending a ladder to a wide lawn hemmed in by the dam on the upstream side and barbed wire on the downstream side, the group examined a now rarely used gate at the north edge of the spillway, where boards can be removed to discharge ice and debris into a crudely constructed rock and concrete sluice gate.

Water seeps through several points along the concrete dam face, nourishing thick cushions of moss sprouting from the stained walls, and as suggested by the footprints dotting the mud below, a handful of raccoons and other small animals that find their way through the fences.

Mark Tallman, vice president of renewable resources for PacifiCorp, said the seepage is a cosmetic problem more than a safety issue.

“The dam is just like a drafty house, it’s just old,” he said.

Visitors donned fireproof suits before venturing inside the powerhouse, where three large generating wheels sat idle Wednesday on account of the lowered water levels. When turning, the three generators can produce enough electricity to power 300 to 400 homes.

Tallman told tour members the powerhouse is still potentially dangerous even when the generators aren’t spinning due to a live power line running across the ceiling that — under the right circumstances — can throw off high-voltage arcs. The controls for the adjacent substation are also inside the powerhouse, Tallman said, cautioning the visitors to avoid touching any of the equipment.

“It is possible, if you accidentally touch or move the wrong handle, you could put Bend in the dark,” he said.

Scott Wallace, a member of the park district board and a member of the ad hoc committee, said he expects the behind-the-scenes tour will prove useful once the engineering report is complete. Until Wednesday, Wallace said he only had a hazy idea of what went on at the Mirror Pond dam.

“I grew up in Bend, and this is the closest I’ve ever come to the powerhouse,” he said.

City Councilor and committee member Victor Chudowsky said he was impressed by the architecture of the powerhouse. If the city or the park district acquires the dam someday, it would be ideal if the powerhouse could be preserved, he said, possibly as some kind of small museum where visitors could learn about how electricity is generated and about a notable piece of Bend history.

Chudowsky said the tour confirmed much of what he already knew — that the dam is old, and in places, starting to fail. Though its days as a power generation facility may be numbered, the dam may still be the easiest and least expensive way to preserve Mirror Pond into the future, he said.

“Really, what we need to be deciding is, is this an asset or a liability, then go from there,” Chudowsky said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

Mirror Pond levels to drop next week for dam inspection

Bend, Ore. — PacifiCorp will lower the Mirror Pond water levels next week to facilitate another inspection of the dam.

The inspection will be conducted by Gannett Fleming, an engineering firm from Phoenix, for the Bend Parks and Recreation District as part of deliberations around the potential acquisition of the dam from PacifiCorp to maintain Mirror Pond after the facility is no longer used to generate electricity.

The drawdown will begin Tuesday morning and will continue gradually until about midday on Friday. The pond will be allowed to refill starting Friday afternoon and should be full again by the Sunday morning. The inspection itself is scheduled to occur on Thursday and Friday. According to BPRD employee Jim Figurski, for safety and security reasons, access to the inspection will be limited to BPRD personnel, the inspectors and PacifiCorp.

Because of increased flows compared to last October when the Mirror Pond was drawn down to facilitate a PacifiCorp inspection, water levels are not expected to drop as dramatically this time, although it will likely be noticeable.

As was the case during the October drawdown and refilling of Mirror Pond, PacifiCorp will monitor water quality and conduct fish surveys consistent with state regulatory requirements.

PacifiCorp inspected the dam on October 31 after a leak developed in one of the structure’s wooden panels. The inspection concluded that while the facility was safe, it would not be cost effective to rebuild the entire facility to generate power for current and future generations of customers across PacifiCorp’s six-state territory. Since then, the company and representatives of the Bend Parks and Recreation and the City of Bend have been in discussions around potentially transferring the dam to a local entity so the community can realize its vision for the future of Mirror Pond.

PacifiCorp has announced plans to install sheet pile reinforcement in front of the leaking panel. The reinforcement work is planned to take place in April, or earlier if permitting is complete and a contractor is in place. The company does not anticipate needing to lower Mirror Pond levels again for that procedure.

Source: Bend Bugle

 

Editorial: PacifiCorp does what is right

PacifiCorp has now demonstrated a gift for doing what’s right on Mirror Pond. It just needs to demonstrate a few more gifts.

The company announced Tuesday that it would fix one of the leaks in the dam.

The leak helped make the pond look and smell about as pleasant as inhaling a noseful of skunk.

There was the potential that lower water levels would continue right through the summer. Boating and paddling could be curtailed. Floating wouldn’t be much fun. Swimming would be reserved for people with short arms. And for accuracy’s sake, the pond’s name should be switched to Muddy Pond.

In December, PacifiCorp said the dam would not be repaired, because it was not cost effective for the amount of power it produced. The tune has changed. Mark Tallman, PacifiCorp’s vice president for renewable resources, says it fully understands the community’s concern about the potential for low water levels during summer recreation months.

“It’s possible Mirror Pond would have remained full this summer without this fix, but in our view this is the right action to take at this time,” Tallman said.

It will enable PacifiCorp to restore hydro generation. PacifiCorp also says it should help negotiations with the Bend community to determine if keeping the dam intact is a better option than removal. The cost of the repair is estimated at $250,000.

With that issue seemingly resolved, the Mirror Pond committee is working on getting the community better information so it can make a good decision. The public really needs to know how much it would cost to remove the dam and do any mitigation and how much it would cost to continue to operate the dam and keep the silt buildup under control.

We support keeping the pond, but that does depend on what it would cost.

Now that PacifiCorp has taken this right step, what will it do next?

PacifiCorp’s new release about fixing the dam acknowledges it may have some interests that are not the same as the community’s.

“The company is very committed to trying to find the best possible outcome regarding this facility that balances the community’s priorities for Mirror Pond and our regulatory obligations,” it says. And it goes on to add that “we are hopeful an agreement can be reached that allows this to happen and also protects the interest of our rate-paying customers in Bend and throughout our six-state service area.”

We hope that is true, too.

Utility to fix Bend’s Mirror Pond dam

PacifiCorp announced on Tuesday that it will repair the leak in Mirror Pond dam in April, in time for people to enjoy higher water levels on the Deschutes River this summer.

One of the wooden panels in the dam began leaking in October, and since then, the water level has sunk, leaving visible the mud flats that have been building up in the Mirror Pond section of the river. The utility stopped generating power at the dam after it discovered the leak, and executives have been meeting with a Bend city councilor and the executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District to discuss the possibility of transferring ownership of the dam to a government agency.

PacifiCorp plans to install a steel sheet piling upstream of the leaking panel, according to a news release from the utility.

Once the dam is repaired, PacifiCorp will again begin generating electricity at the dam, Mark Tallman, PacifiCorp’s vice president for renewable resources, said in the release.

Tallman also said it is possible Mirror Pond would have filled up anyway this summer, when more water will be released from Wickiup Reservoir.

In December, PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said it would not be cost effective to repair the dam because it produced a meager amount of electricity. On Tuesday, Gravely said utility executives decided to repair the dam for different reasons.

Gravely said PacifiCorp hopes that repairing the dam will make it easier for the utility and local officials to reach an agreement to transfer the dam to a local government agency. “We don’t intend to generate (electricity) long-term, so fixing one leak for that purpose wouldn’t make sense.”

Gravely said PacifiCorp estimates that fixing the leak will cost $250,000.

Park district Executive Director Don Horton recently called for PacifiCorp to repair the dam to prevent further damage to the structure and ensure the river will be safe for boaters and others recreating on the river this summer.

Regarding PacifiCorp’s announcement, Horton said, “It shows that PacifiCorp has been listening to the community’s needs and trying to do their part in this negotiation process that we’re going through, to figure out a long-term solution to Mirror Pond and the dam.”

PacifiCorp also met privately on Tuesday afternoon with City Councilor Mark Capell and Horton to continue negotiating a possible transfer of ownership of the dam. Capell and Horton are members of the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee tasked with deciding the future of the pond. They were joined in the negotiating session by Ned Dempsey, a citizen member of the committee. Dempsey is a civil engineer who owns a home across from Drake Park.

The committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. today to discuss a proposal from committee member and park board Chairman Scott Wallace to appoint Dempsey to the small group that is meeting with PacifiCorp. However, Horton said Tuesday that Wallace went ahead and appointed Dempsey without waiting for a public meeting.

Capell said that during the meeting Tuesday, Bend officials and PacifiCorp discussed proposals from firms that want to conduct an independent inspection of the dam on behalf of the park district. Capell had to leave the meeting during discussion of a proposal from HDR, a large engineering firm where Capell’s brother Paul Capell works. Capell has said PacifiCorp should repair the Mirror Pond dam and give it to the community, and on Tuesday, he said the announcement that the utility will repair the dam does not mean it will be worth more. “It’s not going to make them any money, for sure,” Capell said. Nonetheless, Capell said the utility’s decision to fix the leak is a positive development. “I thought that was an outstanding step forward by (PacifiCorp),” Capell said.

Mirror Pond Dam Repair Planned for April

BEND, Ore. – PacifiCorp will reinforce a section of the company’s dam in downtown Bend to address a leak in one of the structure’s wooden panels that developed in October of 2013. The installation of steel sheet pile upstream of a leaking panel is planned to begin in April.

The company stopped generating power at the dam following the leak, and announced in November that it is not cost-effective to rebuild the entire facility to generate power for current and future generations of customers across its six-state territory. PacifiCorp has since been in formal discussions with Bend Parks and Recreation and the City of Bend regarding a potential transfer of the dam to a local entity for the purpose of maintaining the Mirror Pond impoundment.

“Though the dam remains safe, we fully understand the community’s concern about the potential for low water levels during summer recreation months,” said Mark Tallman, PacifiCorp’s vice president for renewable resources. “It’s possible Mirror Pond would have remained full this summer without this fix, but in our view this is the right action to take at this time.” Tallman said. “This reinforcement is also anticipated to restore hydro generation for the year, and should provide the community with more certainty about the structure and Mirror Pond during the summer season and going forward.”

The company used the sheet pile technique previously to address similar leaks in other wooden panels, known as bays. The work involves driving long pieces of interlocking steel sheets into the river bed to create steel facing on the upstream side of the leaking panel.

“This action will also facilitate further discussions with community leaders to determine if an agreement can be reached that enables PacifiCorp to clearly demonstrate that placing the dam under local control is better for all our customers than dam removal or other alternatives,” Tallman said.

“The company is very committed to trying to find the best possible outcome regarding this facility that balances the community’s priorities for Mirror Pond and our regulatory obligations” said Scott Bolton, PacifiCorp’s vice president for community and government relations. “That includes taking steps like this reinforcement as part of our community commitment, and our support of efforts by community leaders to preserve Mirror Pond’s future.” Bolton added, “We are hopeful an agreement can be reached that allows this to happen and also protects the interest of our rate-paying customers in Bend and throughout our six-state service area.”

Mirror Pond will be back

Mirror Pond will make its return before the start of spring despite the leak in the dam that creates Bend’s iconic lake.

Considering the current dry weather and taking in account the current water levels at the Wickiup Reservoir, the Oregon Water Resource Department is expecting Wickiup to be full around March 10-20. This could change by a few weeks if the weather changes.

Local Watermaster Jeremy Giffin said he will likely open Wickiup around the first or second week of March to where the outflow of water equals the inflow (from the current 36 cubic feet/second up to around 600 CFS). This will increase the flow through Mirror Pond from around 450 CFS to over 1000 CFS. It is estimated that the pond should fill and spill over the dam at around 600 CFS.

Giffin said that he will be releasing roughly the same amount of water this summer as in years past. “For the peak part of the summer (June through August) the flow through Mirror Pond should range between 1300 and 1600 CFS, again depending on the type of weather we are having and the type of crops in North Unit Irrigation District,” he added.

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In March, the flow through Mirror Pond will increase from around 450 CFS to over 1000 CFS.
In March, the flow through Mirror Pond will increase from around 450 CFS to over 1000 CFS.

Leaky Dam Could Affect Deschutes River Summer Recreation

A leak in the dam that forms Bend’s Mirror Pond could lead to unsafe water levels for people hoping to float the Deschutes River by inner tube this summer.

The leak is about the size of a basketball. It’s kept the dam offline since October. The dam’s owner, Pacific Corp, now says it no longer makes financial sense to operate the dam. So last month, the city and the district began exploring the possibility of taking it over as a way to preserve Bend’s iconic Mirror Pond.

But Park District Executive Director Don Horton says if a deal does happen, it’s unlikely to come before the summer, when up to a thousand people a day float the Deschutes. He wants Pacific Corp to make those repairs a priority.

“We have time,” Horton says. “We won’t see floaters until June. However, we need to get the hole fixed as soon as we can.”

Pacific Corp spokesman, Bob Gravely says the dam is safe, adding that any deal that would need to take into account the interests of ratepayers.

Source: OPB News