Agencies urge big look at little dam

Three governments with a stake in the fate of Mirror Pond are trying to convince federal decision-makers that a Bend hydroelectric project’s impact far outweighs it size.

In a joint submission being sent to Washington. D.C., today the city of Bend, Deschutes County and the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District are urging the Federal Energy· Regulatory Commission lo hold a local hearing on Pacific Power’s downtown hydro dam.

The company is seeking renewal of a 30·year license to operate the dam. The three entities want FERC to require a full environmental impact study. which could cost the company as much as $2 million.

They say such expense is warranted. even though the 83·year·old plant powers fewer than 500 homes and meets just 1 percent of Bend’s power needs. They want a chance to make their case in Bend.

The hydro project created Mirror Pond, which the local governments describe in their letter as a 40-acre Deschutes River reservoir that has become “a focal point of the community.”

Conservation groups, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Interior Department also have intervened. They are raising safety and environmental issues.

The local governments say Pacific Power “has not responded to these issues in any meaningful way.”

Their concerns· include the dam’s structural integrity and the effectiveness of on inflatable rubber tube. called a “crest.” that the company proposes to install along the top of the dam to prevent ice blockages.

Silt buildup caused by the dam is a major problem requiring periodic costly removal, they say. They cite one case in which a child became stuck waist-deep in silt.

Manv of the issues. such as ways to aid Deschutes river fish passage, need to be addressed even if the dam’s turbines are removed, the governments contend.

Duane Blackwelder, a Pacific Power employee, told city commissioners Wednesday that they could cut dredging costs by using a log to sweep the channel and pull up silt. He also raised a fairness issue, saying other dams along the river have escaped similar scrutiny because they don’t generate power.

Commissioner John Wujack responded, “We only have this opportunity for the next 30 years to improve this fish passage.”

Mayor Terry Blackwell said, “We didn’t say they have to dredge the pond, but to address the issue.”

Clark Satre, the company’s regional manager, said the agencies’ request for a larger study “implies that there have been no environmental studies or consideration, and that’s not tho case.”

The cost of energy from the plant, figured over a 30·year period, comes to 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to an estimated 4.7 cent cost for replacement power, Satre said.

He said, “One could argue that’s so small a difference, and so small a project, why would you worry about it? On the other hand, every resource is important as power demands increase.”

Source: The Bulletin ©1993

Comments, Recommendations, Terms and Conditions and Prescriptions from City, County, and Parks & Rec

VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS

February 4, 1993

Honorable Lois Cashell Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
825 North Capitol Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20426

Re: PERC Project No. 2643-001, Bend Hydroelectic Project

Dear Ms. Cashell:

Enclosed for filing with the Commission in the project referenced above are the original and 14 copies of COMMENTS, RECOMMENDATIONS, TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND PRESCRIPTIONS.

Copies of this document have been served on all parties listed on the attached certificate of service.

Sincerely,

John Hossick,
City of Bend Planning Director


The City of Bend, Oregon, Deschutes County, Oregon and the Bend Metropolitan Park & Recreation District jointly submit the following Comments, Recommendations, Terms and Conditions, and Prescriptions in~his proceeding.

1. The City of Bend, Deschutes County, and the Bend Metropolitan Park & Recreation District have previously intervened in this proceeding because they are the local government entities most directly affected by the project which is the subject of this proceeding. They will be referred to as “these intervenors” in this document. The comments of the City of Bend represent the comments of the Bend Development Board, as well as the City.

2. The project consists of a dam on the Deschutes River, related power generating facilities and Mirror Pond, a 40-acre reservoir that stretches upstream adjacent to the central downtown core and residential areas in the City of Bend. Drake Park and five other parks, owned and maintained by the Bend Metropolitan Park and Recreation District occupy 23 acres wlihirf the project reach. Drake Park is a focal point of the community. Mirror Pond and the adjacent Drake Park is an important aesthetic resource as well as recreational resource for the community. In addition to its aesthetic qualities, the Pond supports recreational use by canoeists, kayakers and casual fishermen. Immediately downstream from the project along the river lies the offices for the Bend Metropolitan Park and Recreation District and Pacific and Pioneer Parks. The stretch of river below the project is used by both fishermen and boaters.

3. Pursuant to 18 C.F.R. § 384.212 these intervenors respectfully request that the Commission prepare a draft environmental impact statement which includes at least those areas of investigation identified in the attached Proposed Scope of Work for the Bend Hydro Electric Project EIS. This request is based on the following grounds, which these intervenors believe raise substantial questions concerning significant degradation of human environmental factors:

3.1 The threshold requirement for protection of the public is identification of the exact environmental consequences that will be produced by this project. These environmental consequences can be much better identified and evaluated with an EIS, than without one.

3.2 The public safety and environmental issues which are set out below in this document demonstrate the need for preparation of an EIS. The nature and extent of the public safety and environmental considerations involved in these issues will be better identified and evaluated by the preparation of an EIS. This will in turn allow the Commission to fully exercise its planning and decision making responsibilities under the Federal Power Act.

3.3 In addition to the public safety and environmental considerations set out below which directly affect the City of Bend, Deschutes county and the Bend Metropolitan Park and Recreation District, other environmental issues have been raised by other intervening parties (i.e., American Rivers, Oregon Rivers Council, Oregon Trout, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, u.s. Department of the Interior and others). The environmental issues raised by these other intervenors furnish additional support for requiring an EIS. These intervenors support those comments, except as they might be interpreted to call for removal of the dam.

3.4 These intervenors have previously raised the public safety and environmental issues set out below with the applicant PacifiCorp, both directly with applicant, and in this proceeding. Applicant has not responded to these issues in any meaningful way that would resolve the issues raised by these intervenors. This fact suggests very strongly that applicant either does not kno~ether there are adequate responses, or that adequate responses may not exist. This in turn provides a compelling reason for an environmental impact statement.

4. Irrespective of whether an EIS is prepared, this project raises many public safety and environmental issues which, under the Federal Power Act (as amended by the Electric Consumers Protection Act of 1986), the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act, and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, must be considered and provision made to mitigate adverse consequences produced by the project.

The Commission is required under section 10(a) of the Federal Power Act to assess project impacts in the context of a comprehensive plan for the entire basin. LaFlamme v. 842 F. 2d 1063 (9th Cir. 1988). Under the 1986 amendment to the FPA, state comprehensive plans are required to be given consideration by the commission. These intervenors assert that the status of the project as an existing project may not be used to lessen the burden on the applicant to demonstrate compliance with the Federal Power Act. Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation v. FERC, 746 F 2d 466 (9th Cir. 1984), cert den 471 u.s. 1116, 105 s. ct. 2358, 86 L.Ed. 2d 259 (1985).

The identified public safety and environmental issues are raised whether the project is relicensed as a power generating facility or whether it is relicensed with a nonpower license and remains as a dam across the Deschutes River. These public safety and environmental issues include the following:

4.1 The structural integrity of the dam itself must be thoroughly evaluated as it now exists, and over the term of any relicensing period. This evaluation should include, but not be limited to, certification from a structural engineer verifying the soundness of the dam and any proposed modifications. severe flooding due to ice blockage caused by the dam has occurred in the past, and there are public safety concerns about the possibility of reoccurrence. The effectiveness of the rubber crest control device which is to be installed to alleviate ice damming must be verified. In addition the need to raise or lower water levels in Mirror Pond to deal with other public safety considerations (such as weed control, police searches, and dam maintenance), must be addressed. Provision must also be made for backup measures if the existing control devices fail.

4.2 Siltation is a major problem in Mirror Pond. This impacts the public safety, aesthetic, and recreational attributes of Mirror Pond. Considerable public funds have been spent in the past to dredge Mirror Pond. The siltation buildup is caused by the dam and the siltation will have to be removed on a regular basis.

These problems are aggravated by public presence in the pond during low water (i.e., children and pets have become exposed to the silt, and at least one child became stuck waist deep in the silt and had to be rescued by public authorities). There is a real possibility that hazardous materials, washed into Mirror Pond with storm water runoff, will combine with the siltation to produce a disastrous hazardous waste situation in the pond itself. Measures that must be taken by the applicant to deal with this issue are collection of data on the rate of siltation, chemical sampling of materials contained in the silt, development of ways and means to remove and dispose of the silt, and evaluation of the impact of the siltation on fisheries, upland habitat, adjoining residences, recreation, hydrology, and water quality. There must be a timetable for the removal of siltation, and a requirement that applicant pay the cost of remedying siltation problems caused by the project.

4.3 The public safety aspect of maintenance of the dam must be taken into account whether the project is relicensed as a power generating facility or not. Whether the project is not relicensed for power generation or not, provision must be made for relocation of the existing substation, and the property at the project should be in public ownership and developed for public recreational use. This would include maintaining the historic integrity of the powerhouse, and its possible designation as an historic site/structure. Provision must be made for access to the “island” downstream from the dam. The deteriorating condition of rock retaining walls along Mirror Pond, and the deferred maintenance required for the footbridge at Mirror Pond are matters of urgent public concern. Engineering surveys and cost estimates for remedial action must be obtained.

4.4 The City of Bend’s land use laws and regulations require that a conditional use permit be obtained for any modifications to the project. These land use laws and regulations are expressly for the protection of the public safety and welfare. The city of Bend’s zoning ordinance contains numerous requirements for granting a conditional use permit, and provides that the permit may be conditioned upon performance of various terms and conditions. One requirement is for a detailed plan for a water conservation and stream enhancement program to be funded by a portion of revenues generated by the operation of the proposed facility. see Bend Code Section 10.10.25(20) (d) (5). In addition to City zoning ordinance requirements, the City’s, County’s and Bend Metropolitan Park and Recreation District’s comprehensive plans and river studies all have some application to this site, and set out planning considerations that must be taken into account. The City of Bend is also in the process of adopting a river design review ordinance that will affect modifications to the project.

4.5 The Bend Development Board is the City of Bend’s Urban Renewal Agency, and the focal point of its Urban Renewal Plan is riverfront enhancement. This requires relocation of the existing power substation electrical apparatus because of its negative aesthetics, interference with recreational opportunities and obstruction of open space. Other objectives of the BDB are development of park improvements in the area, and provision for public access along the river. The BDB, as well as these intervenors are very much aware of the huge importance of Mirror Pond to the economic and social fabric of the Bend community. Tourism is a major economic activity, and the attractiveness of Mirror Pond is a major contributor to that activity. The Bend Chamber of Commerce has just completed a Tourism Impact study which shows that the visitor industry brings $328 million to the Central Oregon economy from 3,431,525 visitors a year.

4.6 Public recreation is an important environmental issue. The completion of the Deschutes River trail through downtown Bend is an important objective. Public access along the east bank of the river through applicant’s property.at and next to the project to connect Drake Park to Pioneer Park is an essential part of this objective. The trail easement should be a minimum of 40 feet wide along an approximate 800 foot stretch through applicant’s property. Other features of the trail include pedestrian passage under the Newport Bridge (which is just upstream from the dam), and acquisition of a trail easement from other private properties which are within the project reach. In addition to the trail, public recreational opportunities should include boat use, portages, landings and the like. Public canoe/kayak use requires minimum verifiable stream flows of 500 cfs in the bypass reach (this is one of only two areas with flowing river water in the city). These intervenors believe it is incumbent on the applicant to provide the recreational amenities described above. Provision for recreational opportunities is specifically contemplated by 16 u.s.c. § 803(a)(1), and 16 u.s.c. S 797(e).

4.7 Fisheries and wildlife are important aspects of the environmental issues raised by this project. These intervenors incorporate by reference the comments, Recommendations and Terms and conditions of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) dated February 4, 1993, concerning this project on file with the Commission. Minimum verifiable stream flows of not less than 300 cfs in the bypass reach must be provided. Adequate provision for fish passage up and down stream must be provided, whether the project is relicensed as a power generation facility, or if it continues as a dam only. Spawning habitat enhancement, upland and riparian habitat protection, duck and goose population control, and rodent control are other features of the project that must be taken into account. The fishery issues are of particular importance to these intervenors, given that the u.s. Forest Service, Deschutes County, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and local irrigation districts are cooperatively engaged in implementing a fisheries mitigation and enhancement program, funded in part by revenues from the COID project previously licensed by the commission. Improvement of fish passage and spawning opportunities along the mainstream Upper Deschutes, including the project reach, is an objective of these efforts. (See enclosed copy of Deschutes River Mitigation and Enhancement Program Plan, May 1991, by this reference incorporated herein.)

4.8 Funding to finance the cost of mitigating the project’s public safety and environmental consequences should be partially provided from the project’s revenues. The funding mechanism required by the commission for the Central Oregon Irrigation District’s co-generation project- FERC No. 3571) several miles upstream from this project can serve as a model. A portion of the project’s revenues should be placed in a fund, and the fund should be dedicated to assisting the financing of measures and acquisitions needed to meet the public safety and environmental issues raised by the project.
Because the project’s revenues are limited, applicant should be required to fund its responsibilities outlined here from other sources. The Deschutes River Trust is a fund that is being established by private groups interested in the river, and any such trust could he used for this purpose.

5. The undersigned local government entities also request that the commission conduct a field hearing in Bend so that the importance of these public safety and environmental issues concerning this project can be confirmed by public testimony, and an on-site evaluation of the project.

6. Because the commission has not completed the environmental review required by NEPA prior to calling for comments, these intervenors assert that the commission must provide an additional comment period, with notice, for additional comments, recommendations and prescriptions after making public the results of its environmental review.

DATED this 3rd day of February, 1993.

Respectfully submitted,
CITY OF BEND
By: Terry Blackwell, Mayor

DESCHUTES COUNTY, OREGON
By: Tom Throop, Chairman, Board of County Commissioners

BEND METROPOLITAN PARK & RECREATION DISTRICT
By: Ernie Drapela, General Manager

Full Document: city-county-parks-comments (PDF)

Bend Metro Park and Recreation District Request For Additional Studies

bpmrd-letterhead

March 11, 1992

Ms. Lois Cashell, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
825 North Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20425

Subject: REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL STUDIES
Bend Hydroelectric Project, FERC N. 2643

Dear Ms. Cashell:

We are filling this letter with respect to the PacificCorp application for relicensing of the Bend Hydro Electric Project, FERC Project #2643, in response to the FERC notice of deadline for submitting additional study requests. We have reviewed the application and found it to be deficient in several areas:

  1. The remarkable values and special importance of Mirror Pond on the Deschutes River to the community of Bend require that a full Environmental Impact Statement, (EIS) accompany the relicensing process. A simple Environmental Assessment (EA) is not adequate to address the potential for impact to this most prominent riverfront site in our urban center.
  2. The application fails to adequately explore the “retirement option” endorsed by a council of public agencies in the Bend area and the National Park Service. The council favors decommissioning the power plant while leaving the dam in place. This option is given only cursory examination in the application, while the extreme action of removing the dam is proposed as a viable alternative.
  3. Adopted community plans and goals as apply to land use, recreational access and aesthetics in the project area have been disregarded. Additional riverfront parks, trail easements, boating access, historical preservation, wetland and fishery enhancement are all elements of those plans that have been given less than satisfactory attention in the application.
  4. The application fails to adequately address fish passage issues raised by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  5. The license application does not identify the input provided by our park district during the early phases of consultation. In particular, we take issue with statements in Exhibit E, Sec. 6.2.3.1, Stage I Consultation and Sec. 6.2.3.2, Stage II Consultation that “No response was received from the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District.” In fact, park district staff were directly involved with the application process from the onset, attending numerous meetings with Pacific Power representatives and facilitating their on-sight visits. We have on file, both written correspondence and notes of numerous conversations with representatives of Pacific Power, as evidence of our participation in both stages of consultation. We also met regularly with a council of public agencies, including the City of Bend, Deschutes County, the Bend Development Board, the Deschutes Basin Resource Committee, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife during the consultation period and helped to formulate the community response to Pacific Power’s proposal.

Sincerely,

Ernie Drapela
General Manager

cc: Tom Throop, Deschutes County Commissioner
Dave Leslie, Deschutes County Planning
Jim Bussard, Deschutes River Basin Resource Committee

Document: bmprd-ferc-letter

Future clouded for Mirror Pond dam

Historic powerhouse on Deschutes River in Bend may be shut down after 81 years of use
Historic powerhouse on Deschutes River in Bend may be shut down after 81 years of use

The dam and powerhouse that formed Bend’s Mirror Pond and sent the first electricity surging through the community 81 years ago now faces an uncertain future.

PacifiCorp, owner of the historic facility that sits on the east bank of the Deschutes River near downtown Bend, is seeking a renewal of its federal license for the project.

But some local government officials are urging PacifiCorp to permanently shut down the powerhouse, which provides only a tiny fraction of the electricity used in Central Oregon.

Others see the relicensing application as an opportunity to address for the first time environmental problems—such as heavy sediment buildup in Mirror Pond—that is partially caused by the power plant.

Meanwhile, PacifiCorp even has suggested the possibility of removing the powerhouse and the dam—a move, which is unlikely, that would have a dramatic effect on the appearance of downtown Bend.

It will be months before a final decision is made. But these issues will be discussed Wednesday when PacifiCorp officials come to Bend for an all-day meeting with city, county, park district and other government representatives.

City and county officials plan to press PacifiCorp to make major improvements to the dam, and ask the company to commit to sharing the future costs of removing silt that backs up into Mirror Pond. In 1984, the community spent several hundred thousand dollars to dredge the pond; already, the work is needed again.

Too, those agencies want the utility to reduce the size of its substation, take steps to protect fish from the power turbines and provide public access through the site for a continuation of the Deschutes River Trail.

“We see this as a great opportunity,” said Deschutes County Commissioner Tom Throop. “This power project has had far-reaching effects on Bend, and we’ve never been in a position before to influence its operation.”

The Bend Metro Park and Recreation District, meanwhile, has joined the National Park Service in requesting that PacifiCorp retire the powerhouse. The Park Service is required by law to review federal dam relicensing applications.

Ernio Drapela, park district director, said he favors shutting down the powerhouse but preserving the historic brick building and the dam.

Shutting down the powerhouse, which illuminated a total of 375 light bulbs when the turbines began spinning in 1910, would have little effect on Bend today.

The powerhouse now produces less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the electricity deliverer by Pacific Power to customers in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties.

Source: The Bulletin ©1991

Mirror Pond Rehabilitation Meeting 1-15-1981

Subject: Mirror Pond Rehabilitation
Date: Jan. 15, 1981
Location: Clark & Joyce, Inc.

Participants: Harold Baughman – PP & L
Ted Fies – Fish and Wildlife
Tom Gellner – City Engineer
John Hassick – City Planner
Vince Genna – Bend Park & Rec. Dist.
Richard Dornhelm – Winzler & Kelly
Maury Clark – Clark & Joyce, Inc.
John Joyce – Clark & Joyce, Inc.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the initial steps of the study for the Mirror Pond Rehabilitation proj­ect, which is being performed by Winzler & Kelly/ Clark & Joyce, Inc. It also provided an opportunity for the rep­ resented agencies/firms to give information to the engineers regarding concerns and restrictions that have to be addressed in the study.

John Joyce recommended that a citizens advisory committee be formed to provide additional local input into the study. The committee should not include technical representatives of agencies/firms, because they will be routinely included in the review process. Vince Genna suggested the Park District Board appoint 2 members and the City of Bend appoint 3 members. The committee size was agreed to, and Tom Gellner and Vince Genna will ask the City and Park District to appoint these members.

John Hassick suggested the need to coordinate with the irrigation districts because of the concern they may have on water flows and turbidity. The irrigation districts have about one domestic run a month during the winter. The run may last a few days, and turbidity would be a con­cern if the pond water level had been lower just prior to the run. Harold Baughman stated that during the irrigation season the water level can’t be lowered sigficantly, because the river flow is greater than the dam by-pass capacity. If an adequate diversion at the dam is achieved PP&L will consider lowering the water level for a definite time.

The sediment samples previously analyzed don’t show the location of the samples. Tom Gellner will check to determine if the locations were recorded.

Vince Genna advised that the Batell Institute has conducted a study on types of plants in the Deschutes River.

This study should be available from the Forest Service. According to Ted Fies, most of the plants are the same as those in reservoirs. John Joyce will check with Central Oregon Community College to determine if they have analyzed plant life in Mirror Pond. If COCC provides future analysis and services on this project, the cost may be included in the local share for the project.

Vince Genna has photographs taken from the air that show the sediment buildup in parts of Mirror Pond. These photos. are available for the engineer’s use and review.

The siltation process is going to continue because of the severe bank erosion upstream, according to Ted Fies. The high volume and changing levels of the river, caused by irrigation flows, result in severe bank erosion. There have been studies performed on this problem, and they are available at the Forest Service office. Tod pointed out that turbidity will be of greatest concern from October through March, because of down stream spawning. Mirror Pond is not considered significant as a spawning area, rather it is a rearing area. There will probably be some advantages as a fish habitat if the capacity of the pond is increased by removal of some of the sediment.

Adding islands with trees may present additional problems, because of the view restrictions. The Park District won’t encourage  use of Mirror Pond for “in-water recreation.” Boating and canoeing will be encouraged when the water depth is increased. There should be a boat ramp provided for those activities. Harold Baughman recommended the ramp be located at a point whore the river is least apt to freeze, because there has been a need to rescue people from the thin ice on occasion.

Tho ice problem at Tumalo Bridge area was discussed. Ice forms .on tho bottom of the river (anchor ice), builds up and then breaks loose. This phenomenon has resulted in an ice jam at the bridge. Harold stated that they will open the by-pass gate at the dam to increase the velocity at the bridge, if they are aware of the problem soon enough. It is anticipated that the higher velocity will reduce the possibility of an ice jam. This problem should be considered if there are proposed changes to Mirror Pond as a result of the rehabilitation.

The City of Bend wip provide tho following data and information:

  1. Two copies of Mirror Pond X-Sections.
  2. Location of samples and basis for analysis.
  3. Data relative to types of plants, if available.
  4. Names of Citizens Advisory Committee.
  5. Copy of Storm drain maps.

Notes of Meeting by: John Joyce

 

Rock Facing Built At Pageant Park

Taking advantage of low water in the Deschutes, result of draining of the Mirror pond, a city crew today was engaged in the preliminary improvement of Pageant park, facing the Deschutes from the west side of the river adjacent to Drake park footbridge approach. A rock wall has been constructed at the river edge, and low places in the new park were being filled. Willows on the river edge have been cut down.

Home owners whose lawns front on the Mirror pond from the west side are also taking advantage of the low water to repair and clean water fronts.

From city officers today came the complaint that some children are damaging the Drake park waterfront rock facing, by removing rocks. Some of these rocks are apparently being carried to the footbridge, to be dropped Into the river. Others are being pushed into tho mud.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1941