More study won’t cure Mirror Pond

Choose the one feature that most anyone who has heard of Bend will remember, and it’s Mirror Pond, created in 1910 when a dam was built at its northern end to provide power for the city of Bend. It is arguably the city’s most photographed feature, a staple on postcards and, flanked by public parks as it is, as much a town square gathering place as there is in this community.

But Mirror Pond has problems. Thanks in part to Deschutes River fluctuations, in part to the removal of log decks to the south and other problems, the pond has silted up dramatically in recent years. It last was dredged in 1984, and it’s clear that unless the city does something to correct the situation in the near future, what is now a pond will become a mudflat with a river running down its middle.

Bend city councilors know all that, and have, in fact, made it clear they don’t want that to happen. They understand the pond’s importance; they’re having more trouble coming to grips with what to do to correct its problems.

That may be understandable. While the earlier dredging cost less than $500,000, a similar process would be dramatically more expensive today, and the city simply doesn’t have the money. It had hoped for about half a million dollars in federal funds this year, but it hasn’t received it. The $200,000 it has set aside would cover a mere fraction of a bill that almost surely will top $1 million.

Now, councilors are waffling about what to do next, so much so that they’re talking about partnering with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council to — you guessed it — study the situation yet again, come up with options and go forth from there. That almost surely would push any solution back by at least a year, perhaps longer.

In reality, there’s no need to study anything. Councilors have said what they want to do with the pond: They want, or wanted, to restore it to what it was after dredging in 1984. That’s the best plan — anything that changes its looks changes the very heart of Bend in most people’s minds. Rather than dithering, studying and fussing for another year or more, councilors should concentrate on the real issue at hand: Finding the money to fix the pond as soon as possible, nothing more.

Source: The Bulletin ©2007

Future of Mirror Pond considered

In the next five to 10 years, Mirror Pond could begin to resemble a marsh instead of the Bend icon featured on the label of a local microbrew.

At the Tuesday work session, the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District Board listened to a presentation by Bend Councilor Jim Clinton about the issue of sediment building up in the river as it winds through downtown Bend.

“We want to make sure whatever we do is useful in the future so they don’t have to do this dredging over and over,” Clinton said.

The district board agreed to schedule a joint meeting with the City Council to discuss the issue further.

The park and recreation district owns roughly 57 percent of the shoreline between Galveston Avenue and Newport Avenue, in the form of Drake, Harmon, Pageant and Brooks parks. Private property owners hold the rest.

Yet it’s not completely clear who, if anyone, “owns” the riverbed in the Mirror Pond area, according to Bruce Ronning, director of planning and development for the park district.

Clinton said the growing sediment problem could have economic implications for all of downtown Bend, eliminating a major attraction and public amenity.

Mirror Pond was dredged in 1984 to remove sediment, at a cost of roughly $312,000, Clinton said during his presentation. At that time, the federal government paid for nearly half, funneling $150,000 toward the project.

The city ponied up $62,500 and the park and recreation district kicked in $50,000.

More recently, in May 2006, the city formed an advisory committee to revisit the issue of sediment in Mirror Pond. The committee included members with backgrounds in water management, environmental science and engineering. Ronning sat on the committee to represent the park and recreation district’s perspective.

The committee recommended some combination of partially dredging the pond and restoration, which may involve minor efforts to return the river to a more natural state.

Sedimentation has occurred largely because a dam near Newport Avenue has slowed the river so that the current is not sufficient to sweep away sediment. District staff said it seems unlikely that the dam would be removed.

It is also unclear where the money for a project to reduce sediment would come from, since federal help seems unlikely, but Clinton said the council plans to move forward by gathering public input on the committee’s report.

Park and recreation district board members said they supported the city’s efforts to preserve Mirror Pond.

Board members discussed the idea of “sediment traps” upstream that would reduce the amount of silt flowing into Mirror Pond that might possibly be integrated into recreational water features for river users.

Board member Bob Woodward also mentioned that a few years ago, engineers opened the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in Arizona to allow stronger currents to flush away the sediment collecting above the dam and rebuild beaches and sandbars that had originally existed below the dam.

Source: The Bulletin ©2007

Mirror Pond Technical Committee Summary Report

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

On May 10, 2006 the City of Bend hosted the first of five meetings of the Mirror Pond Technical Committee (Committee), chaired by City Councilor Jim Clinton. A list of the Committee members is included in Attachment A. The purpose of the Committee is to develop a better understanding of the options available to address sedimentation in Mirror Pond, and to provide policymakers advice based on sound science. The Committee sought to develop a technical framework within which the community and its decisionmakers could create preferred solutions.

The City Council provided a directive to the Committee at the joint June 7, 2006 meeting: “Do not do away with Mirror Pond.” The Council also indicated that it would like to have the Committee investigate the factors that contribute to the sedimentation, and examine possible methods of improving stream health. The Pacific Power (PPL) dam, located just downstream of the Newport Bridge, creates Mirror Pond. This directive assumes that the dam would be maintained. The purpose of this report is to summarize the considerations and recommendations of the Committee and to describe the Committee’s understanding related to the causes of sedimentation and Mirror Pond management. In addition, this report summarizes potential regulatory requirements.

Committee members concluded that it was beyond the purview of this Committee to address solutions to upstream sediment generation in detail, because other groups in the basin—such as those involved in the recent Water Summit sponsored by the Deschutes River Conservancy—are already working on such missions. The purpose of our Committee was to discuss the underlying causes of sedimentation and provide advice on potential management options that
should be explored further. Also, the Committee did not address project funding.

UNDERLYING CAUSES OF SEDIMENTATION—COMMITTEE FINDINGS

The Committee came to consensus on the following points regarding the Council’s request to confirm the underlying causes of the sedimentation within Mirror Pond.

  • Committee members agreed that understanding both regional and site-specific river hydrology was important in formulating good decisions for Mirror Pond.
    • Regional Hydrology. In its natural state prior to the creation and operation of manmade dams, the Upper Deschutes River was characterized by incredibly stable flow due to its connections to the groundwater system of the Upper Deschutes River basin. These groundwater flows provide more than three-quarters of the total stream flow for the entire Deschutes river basin (Gannett, et. al., 2000). As a result, large variations in peak flows were historically absent from the Upper Deschutes for three reasons: (a) the immensity, both vertically and laterally, of the groundwater system; (b) the high recharge rates and thus high groundwater discharge rates as a result of the excellent permeability of rocks near the surface; and (c) the great storage capacity of the system to absorb peaks in recharge rates (Ibid, 2000).
    • Site-Specific Hydrology. Sound management of Mirror Pond cannot be accomplished without some knowledge of the hydrology of the Deschutes River through this reach. The river bottom through Mirror Pond is not smooth and rounded; the terrain varies because of the effects of the dam and varying currents within the river and the natural meander of the river as it enters and continues throughout Mirror Pond. In general, physical structures within a river—such as vegetation, sediment bars, pools (slow moving, deeper areas of streams, which are often used by fish for shelter and rest), riffles (shallow zones with fast flowing water), the channel, and meanders—all perform functions in the river. These functions include water and sediment transport, storage and transport of floodwaters, as well as the development of wildlife habitat and plant communities (Riley, 1998).
  • Mirror Pond is filling with sediment for two main reasons—the upstream production of excessive sediment and its deposition in Mirror Pond.
    • Production. Whereas the natural action of water in rivers tends to produce some sediment, several analyses have postulated that the operation and management of the Federal Deschutes Project, and the historical use of high-speed powerboats upstream have contributed to increased sediment production (USBR, 2003; UDWC, August 2003; Garvin, et.al, 1977; Winzler & Kelly, et al., 1981; UDWC April 2003; Dempsey, 2006). No-wake speed limits on powerboats have since been enacted upstream, although there are questions about their effectiveness in reducing bank erosion. With regards to the Federal Deschutes Project, releases from Wickiup Reservoir vary from a managed peak of 1,700 cfs during the irrigation season to 30 cfs in the fall and winter (UDWC, September 2004, quoting the Oregon Water Resources Department). This managed flow regime differs dramatically from natural conditions, and causes excessive erosion of the river banks downstream of Wickiup Reservoir Winter freeze/thaw periods loosen the exposed soil causing sloughing of the saturated soil zone into the river as irrigation deliveries ramp up (USBR, 2003). Water is released at a higher-than-natural rate throughout the spring and summer to provide water for irrigation. With higher peak flows, and limited ramping periods in the spring and summer, the net effect is that rising and falling water levels cause increased rates of erosion. There is some speculation that activities in the Little Deschutes tributary may also be contributing to sediment production.
    • Deposition. The PPL dam located just north of the Newport Avenue bridge provides for a wider reach of river within Mirror Pond, thus promoting sediment deposition. The localized “problem” that we see in Mirror Pond is simply a river adjusting to a large obstruction (the PPL dam) with the resulting changes in channel dimension, pattern and profile. Because the dam has affected the profile of the river bottom, the way the river moves water and sediment has changed. As the water slows behind the dam and sediment drops out. Sediment continues to build up, and finally produces exposed sediment bars as we now see in a shallower Mirror Pond.
    • Other Influences. Within the City, increased runoff of stormwater containing cinders from winter street maintenance and soil from construction sites, yards and impervious surfaces may add to the river’s sediment load. Changes to the river in the Old Mill District may influence the amount of sedimentation in Mirror Pond. When this upstream section of river was being used as a logging pond, sediment was removed by frequent dredging. The Brooks-Scanlon mill produced lumber until 1994 when it was closed by Crown Pacific Ltd., who purchased the timber company in the late 1980s. (Winzler & Kelly, 1981; Dempsey, 2006; Binus, 2005).

Although specific sedimentation data are not available, the Committee speculated that Mirror Pond would not lose its current character for at least another 5 to 10 years. After the previous dredging, sedimentation occurred at a high rate and by now is occurring at a low rate. Generally, sedimentation rate in an obstructed river is not constant: the overall rate decreases toward zero with time until equilibrium is reached.

POND MANAGEMENT

The Committee defined Mirror Pond as the stretch of the Deschutes River bordered by the Galveston Bridge to the South, and the Newport Bridge to the North. For impact analysis of alternatives, Committee members recommended that the area examined for potential impacts should be extended both upstream and downstream.

Goals and Objectives

Based on Council direction, the Committee proposed the following primary goal for addressing sedimentation in Mirror Pond:

Implement a project that removes sediment and retains the Pond while making the Pond more sustainable and healthful than at present to the extent
practicable.

The Committee suggested that components of the preferred project should recognize and/or address the following issues or objectives:

  • Long-term maintenance of Mirror Pond.
  • The banks along Mirror Pond.
  • Water quality.
  • Stormwater impacts.
  • Weeds/invasive species.
  • Fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Valued view corridors.
  • Old concrete pilings and rebar “junk.”
  • The islands in the southern part of Mirror Pond.
  • Recreational opportunities.
  • Safety hazards to the Public.

Of note, successfully addressing the above issues would help to meet several of the community vision elements for a quality environment, as described in the Bend 2030 Community Vision Statement (June 2006).[1]

Alternatives Examined

The Committee examined the seven alternatives that had been created as part of previous efforts and brainstormed four additional partial options or potential components with respect to whether they met the above goals. Attachment B provides a description of the alternatives that the Committee reviewed, indicating which ones best meet the goals, and the rationale behind recommendations whether or not to pursue the alternative or component.

Components of a Preferred Alternative. Committee members thought that several alternatives exist that could meet both the Council’s direction of not doing away with Mirror Pond and the other goals and objectives listed above. The Committee proposes consideration of combined alternatives with various components that would allow maintaining the look of Mirror Pond in important view corridors, while helping to treat stormwater, restore wetlands, and use river flows to encourage sediment to continue downstream. By doing so, the Committee concluded that operation and maintenance costs could be minimized, habitat and water quality health could be improved, and highly valued view corridors, such as from Mirror Pond plaza, could be maintained. Passive recreational opportunities would be improved by increasing wildlife numbers and variety of species in the area. Providing a mix of components could also make for a smoother regulatory process and access to potential funding to support habitat improvements.

There are many options for a final plan within these recommendations. For example, varying the alternatives could involve channels designed to move sediment; the banks of the river could be returned to a more natural appearance and function where appropriate. Attachment C provides a list of sample performance criteria that could be used in evaluating various proposed project designs.

Technical Recommendations

The Committee made the following considerations and suggestions regarding managing Mirror Pond.

  • Understanding the hydrology of Mirror Pond is crucial in determining a good project. Hydrology must come first. Committee members thought that sediment sampling and river modeling studies would prove useful in determining the details of the best alternative from a technical perspective.
  • A well thought-out project would provide multiple benefits and would increase the sustainability of the local solution. A sensible project and process set up to help protect resources would make the regulatory approval process much easier to navigate. Regulatory parameters must be part and parcel of the project to maximize public benefits. Cost savings could be realized as well.
  • Possible solutions to the sedimentation problem could include altering the hydrology of the river within the Pond to increase the transport of sediment through the Pond. This could allow the river there to approach an equilibrium point that would result in a reduced sediment deposition rate and therefore potentially less maintenance needed over time.
  • There may be better places to remove sediment than at Mirror Pond, whose surrounding lands have been built out. Using canals during sediment removal operations was discussed.
  • Mirror Pond would not exist without the PPL dam. However, the aging dam is needs refurbishment and Pacific Power is not inclined to put a lot of resources into upgrade (Raeburn, August 2006). The new parent company of Pacific Power, Mid-American Energy Holding Company, is currently assessing the viability of the dam and is scheduled to make a determination by the end of 2006 (Raeburn, October 2006). Pacific Power has indicated that they will talk with City leaders prior to making any significant changes. The City will need to consider the fate of the dam as they consider the future of Mirror Pond.

Process Recommendations

The Committee also provided suggestions on a process for moving the project forward.

  • The Committee recommends that the City issue a request for proposals (RFP) for a consultant team that would:
    1. Conduct a public process that would obtain the public’s views and preferences for Mirror Pond within the technical framework outlined in this report.
    2. Conduct modeling and sediment studies to quantify sediment transport and deposition (e.g., sources of sediments, makeup, depth, etc.); and to provide information on the specific hydraulics of the Deschutes River through Mirror Pond.
    3. Combine those ideas into a technically feasible project that would incorporate the recommended components and objectives, as indicated above, to meet the goal of removing sediment and retaining the Pond so as to make the Pond more sustainable and healthful than at present, to the extent practicable.
    4. Determine the most practical place to remove sediment over the long term. (e.g., in Mirror Pond, using the Pond as a sediment trap; downstream possibly in the irrigation canals where sediment could be removed during the winter once they dry out; or upstream in a settling basin.)
    5. Develop methods to remove sediment as well as places to dispose of the material.
    6. Develop cost estimates.
  • For addressing the causes of the increased rates of sediment production, the Committee suggests that the City continue to work with Deschutes River Conservancy and its partners to address watershed-level problems resulting from the operation and maintenance of the Federal Deschutes Project.

Upon request by the Council, Committee members are willing to review and comment on the technical merits of consultant team proposals, and/or projects proposed by the selected consultant team.

REGULATORY OVERVIEW

Table 1 summarizes anticipated regulatory requirements for sediment-removal work within Mirror Pond. For a full description, see the separate Technical Memorandum entitled “Regulatory Requirements for Maintaining Mirror Pond.” Additionally, local requirements typical for a capital improvement project would also need to be met. A review of County Assessor’s records depicts property lines to the high water mark along the Deschutes River in the vicinity of Mirror Pond (Deschutes County, 2006).

Acronyms and Abbreviations:
ACOE: United States Army Corps of Engineers
DEQ: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
DSL: Oregon Division of State Lands
EA: Environmental Assessment
EIS: Environmental Impact Statement
NEPA: National Environmental Policy Act
NOAA Fisheries: National Oceanic and Aeronautic Agencies National Marine Fisheries Service
ODFW: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Service
USEPA: United States Environmental Protection Agency
USFWS: United States Department of Fish and Wildlife Service

  1. See in particular, Our Vision for A Quality Environment, numbers 3, 4, 7, 8, 14; Our Vision for a Strong Community, number 14.

Full Document: MP-tech-committee-summary-report

Bend seeks help to fix Mirror Pond

As it did more than two decades ago, the city of Bend has taken the lead in deciding what should be done about the sediment buildup in the city’s iconic Mirror Pond.

But some at the city also believe the responsibility for the long-term solution should be one that is shared by the pond’s property owners and other state and local agencies.

The first and last time the city dredged Mirror Pond was 1984. The cost to do so was $302,000, much of which came from federal grants. At the time, the project engineer predicted that unless changes were made to the management of upstream flow, Mirror Pond would have to be dredged in another 20 years.

In the latest round of discussion on what to do with Mirror Pond, the city has issued a report on the increasing silt buildup in the pond, applied for federal money to help with a long-term solution and formed a committee of water experts to give advice on what the city should do next.

The committee of water experts has said that dredging to some degree must occur on Mirror Pond if it is to remain as it is, but they also suggest a variety of long-term solutions to the problem.

Even so, the city is not under any legal responsibility for Mirror Pond – in fact it owns just slivers of land along its banks. The largest landowner by far is the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District, which manages almost 18 acres of park land around the pond. The rest of the land belongs mainly to a few dozen homeowners.

Under state law, the Oregon Department of State Lands has jurisdiction on rivers that are considered navigable. For those that are not, such as the Deschutes River, the property owners along the banks of the river own the submerged land to the center of the river channel.

City Councilor Jim Clinton, who leads the committee that has been charged to come up with recommendations, said the city is right in taking the lead in coming up with a solution for Mirror Pond, which is part of the city’s logo.

“The Deschutes River and Mirror Pond are the jewel and crown that is Bend, Oregon. Therefore, the city feels responsible for keeping it the best it can be,” Clinton said.

However, compared to 22 years ago when the city last dredged Mirror Pond, a fix will most likely be three to four times more expensive and come with many more federal and state regulations, Clinton said. It’s a “different world,” he said.

Partnerships

In a report that will likely be released to Bend city councilors next month, the committee of water experts concluded that for Mirror Pond to remain the wide-open pool it is today, some dredging must occur. But once the sediment is removed, the city should take steps to ensure it won’t have to dredge so much in the future.

Today, water levels are so shallow during the year that sandbars have emerged with trees and shrubs, plants poke through the water and in some places, geese can stand in the center of the river.

Mirror Pond is not a natural feature. Part of the Deschutes River that spans from the Tumalo Avenue Bridge to the Newport Avenue Bridge, Mirror Pond was formed in 1910 when a power company installed a hydroelectric dam on the Deschutes River just north of Newport bridge.

Sedimentation was not an issue until the mid-1970s, when the lumber mills upstream stopped using the river to float logs. Because the pond is unnaturally wide, the river slows down and deposits the sediment it has picked up along the way.

To help decide what Mirror Pond should look like in the future and who will help maintain it, Mayor Bill Friedman believes that a committee should be formed in addition to the group of technical experts who have been meeting.

“Partnerships seem important,” Friedman said.

The group should include state and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the property owners along the banks, the owners of the two dams near Mirror Pond and irrigation districts, he said.

“To me the worst thing that could happen is to have community interests doing different things on the river at the same time,” Friedman said.

Of the property owners along Mirror Pond, the Bend park and recreation district would be the most impacted by any changes to the pond.

The park district manages five different parcels that border Mirror Pond: Drake Park, Mirror Pond Park, Harmon Park, Pageant Park and land next to the Newport bridge. The district also maintains boat launches on the pond, which is a favorite Bend spot for flat water kayaking and canoeing.

The park district has owned most of that park land near the pond since the district was formed in 1974, said Bruce Ronning, the district’s director of planning and development.

As the city did in the last round of dredging, Ronning said he believed Mirror Pond is an issue the city should be heading.

“I think the city should be the lead on it. It is a citywide issue, not just a property owners-issue along Mirror Pond,” he said.

Ronning, who was one of the members on the city’s committee of water experts, said during those meetings he made suggestions on how the sediment should be managed at Mirror Pond.

However, the park board of directors have not made any decisions on what it would like Mirror Pond to look like in the future and has not discussed the issue formally, Ronning said.

Long-term solutions

Some of the long-term solutions mentioned in the technical committee’s report to prevent sediment from growing in Mirror Pond would affect park land. For instance, one of the suggestions is to replace concrete walls surrounding the pond with more natural vegetation, which would prevent erosion.

Another idea is to relocate some of the silt dredge from the bottom of Mirror Pond to the shore line of park land, which would make the parks a little larger.

“We certainly want to be consulted and involved in any discussions that might directly impact the park,” Ronning said. “Beyond that, I don’t know what our role might be.”

Friedman said the two boards should meet to discuss Mirror Pond.

The park district might not be the only property owner along Mirror Pond that are seen as partners in the long-term fix. Clinton said that one of the ideas is forming a local improvement district, where the majority of property owners in a designated area agree to tax themselves to collect money for improvements.

Mike Hollern, who has lived along Mirror Pond for more than 30 years and is the CEO for Bend-based development company Brooks Resources Corp., said he was among those who has suggested the idea of a local improvement district, a cost that would be shared based on how much linear footage the properties have along the pond.

“The (properties) arguably benefit from having an attractive river in front of it,” Hollern said. “So it is fair.”

Through a local improvement district, adjacent property owners could help fund restoration projects that occur along their banks, Clinton said. Some property owners have already done projects on their land that decrease the amount of sediment deposited into Mirror Pond.

Hollern said he is glad the city is making Mirror Pond a “high priority” and “moving in a direction that will likely lead to action.”

Part of the discussion of who is responsible for Mirror Pond is linked to who should pay to fix it.

“Ideally, we would get some kind of grant from outside. We don’t essentially have any money to use for the project,” Clinton said.

It is the city’s responsibility, Clinton said, to design projects that can attract grant dollars.

This spring, the city submitted a federal appropriations request to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office for $2 million for “short-term minimal dredging project that would prevent wetlands from emerging.” The city did not receive that earmark, but Public Works Director Ken Fuller said they will try again.

Clinton said fixes to Mirror Pond will likely run in the millions of dollars.

Ronning said the park district hasn’t been asked to contribute monetarily to the long-term solutions at Mirror Pond.

Friedman said the mix of who pays will likely depend on what solutions the community wants. One option, he said, could be to do nothing, which would be fairly cheap.

Source: The Bulletin ©2006

Mirror Pond’s sediment buildup may be dredged

Looking north at Mirror Pond, with Newport Avenue Bridge at upper left, mud flats are visible. A committee has said that Mirror Pond, which stretches from the Galveston Avenue Bridge to the Newport bridge, would likely need to be dredged to remove sediment buildup, but that the city of Bend should seek public input and explore all options. Photo: Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

If Bend residents want Mirror Pond to remain the wide-open pool that has become an icon of the city, some dredging would likely be needed, a committee of technical water experts concluded.

But once the sediment is removed, the city should take steps to ensure it won’t have to dredge as much in the future, committee members said.

“That was a big issue. We don’t want to be dredging this thing and then dredge it again and again and again. We want a proactive solution that will last a century or two,” said Brad Kerr, a member of the committee who also designs fishing habitats.

Before any of the dredging begins, the committee suggests the city hire consultants to further study the problems facing Mirror Pond and ask the community what it would like to see happen to one of Bend’s gems located near downtown.

In the last seven months, a group of hydrologists, biologists, water managers and other experts in the water field have been meeting to discuss Mirror Pond, which is increasingly filling up with silt. The committee members came from public agencies, nonprofit organizations and private consulting businesses.

During the five meetings, the group created a report, which is still in draft form and could be released to councilors sometime this month.

Early in the discussions, the group determined that sediment buildup at Mirror Pond had not reached a crisis point, so there was plenty of time to put a plan in place for dredging.

While there are some emerging bare spots, Wendy Edde, a water resource specialist for the city, said the group didn’t see broad, major mudflats developing for the next five to 10 years.

“Not having to do something immediately is a good thing. It will allow us time to prepare, to get the information we need and put in a really good project,” Edde said.

Their conclusion came a few months after city staff had drafted a report that stated if nothing was done, the growing sediment may turn Mirror Pond into wetlands. That would have put Mirror Pond under more stringent federal regulations, making dredging of the pond even more difficult.

The report also noted that without action, the pond would “increasingly present odor and aesthetic problems.”

Today, water levels are so shallow during the year that geese can walk across the pond and plants poke through the surface of the water. Islands with trees and shrubs also have sprouted.

Mirror Pond is not a natural feature. Part of the Deschutes River that spans from the Galveston Avenue Bridge to the Newport Avenue Bridge, Mirror Pond was formed in 1910 when a power company installed a hydroelectric dam on the Deschutes River just north the Newport Bridge.

Sedimentation was not an issue until the mid-1970s, when the lumber mills downstream stopped using the river to float logs. Because the pond is unnaturally wide, the river slows down and deposits the sediment it has picked up along the way.

City Councilor Jim Clinton, who headed the technical committee, said the group agreed that it would be likely that some dredging or sediment removal would happen in the next few years at Mirror Pond, but it didn’t determine if the entire pond should be dredged. It’s also too soon to say how much it could cost.

“Everyone agreed if you wanted to keep it looking like a pond, you are going to have to remove sediment,” Clinton said. “Everyone wanted to do something after the sediment was removed to avoid doing it as frequently as every 20 years.”

The question of how much dredging should be done is tied to what the community would like Mirror Pond to be in the future.

“There is at least a majority on council that do not want to do away with Mirror Pond, but what does that mean?” asked Ryan Houston, a committee member who is also the executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. He noted for some residents, Mirror Pond could mean picturesque still-water views or stagnant water with weeds and a stench. Part of people’s connection to Mirror Pond could be tied to the concrete walkway around Drake Park or the calm water where people can paddle canoes.

“What are we trying to retain and what is up for negotiation? As a committee, we can’t answer that question. There needs to be a good public process to answer that,” Houston said. “If you interview 50 people, you would probably get 50 different answers on what attributes are worth saving.”

The long-term options of what to do to Mirror Pond depend on those answers.

The two extremes would be for the pond to return to its natural course in the river or for the city to keep the pond as it is now and dredge every couple of decades.

A more likely option is for the city to do some continual dredging in smaller sections of the pond, but to put in features that would reduce — or redirect — the amount of sediment that is dropped in the area.

Among the alternatives is to restore parts of the bank of the pond that have hard surfaces, such as the concrete wall that lines Drake Park, with more natural vegetation. Doing so would prevent erosion.

The city also could put in some man-made features underneath the water along the riverbed that would create a narrow channel in the center of the river. The man-made features, which could be a simple as mounds of dirt and rock placements, would act as ridge allowing water to move faster through the channel, carrying the sediment along with it.

“It would still look by and large like it does today,” Kerr said. “It would be deeper and keep moving sediments.”

Another option is for the city to keep Mirror Pond as it is from certain view points, such as maintaining the picture postcard setting from the city’s Riverfront Plaza. The lower part of the river could be returned to its more narrow natural course.

Also, islands that currently exist could be left in place or expanded, which would also narrow the channel and increase the speed of water flowing through the area.

“That would be less expensive to do and just as good for the river,” Kerr said. “But it doesn’t allow or doesn’t lend to more areas of open water.”

Another idea is to use some of the sediment that is dredged up to extend the land off the parks that border Mirror Pond.

What options work best should be what consultants and the public input dictate, committee members recommend.

“The potential is incredible,” Kerr said. “We have a beautiful place now. We could make something that really pops people’s eyes out. You drive to the Metolius to see really beautiful (scenery). If we have a chance to do something like that in the middle of town, I think we should take it.”

Before dredging Mirror Pond, the city of Bend needs permits from federal and state agencies. Clinton said that with the set of approvals required, dredging probably wouldn’t occur until late 2007 at the very earliest.

Source: The Bulletin ©2006

Mirror Pond document released

On Wednesday night, the city of Bend released a document on the growing sedimentation problems at Mirror Pond.

Last week, the city of Bend refused to give the document to The Bulletin. The document, dated April 17, stated that a technical committee of city staff and water experts could determine or recommend studies to determine if a short-term fix is needed to control the growing wetlands and weeds in the pond. The short-term fix could occur before the entire public process is completed to ensure that potential long-term solutions are not precluded, the document reads.

The document states that if wetlands emerge in Mirror Pond, the city could have to pay for wetlands elsewhere if it wanted to dredge the pond. The document continues that the growth of aquatic plants could also be a potential eyesore at Mirror Pond.

The technical committee is expected to meet for the first time in May.

The document released to the media on Wednesday differed somewhat from an early version drafted in December. That version stated that some dredging in Mirror Pond could occur as early as this summer and without any public input.

In the April 17 document, the city states that additional information is needed to determine if wetlands will emerge before the public process is completed.

City Manager Andy Anderson said Wednesday night that he was not sure why the city refused to give the document to the media.

Source: The Bulletin ©2006

Bend council studies dredging Mirror Pond

For more than a year, the Bend City Council and staff have discussed what to do to keep Mirror Pond, the iconic symbol of Bend and heart of Drake Park, from turning into Mirror mudflats.

However, in the past six months those conversations have been occurring out of public view. City of Bend staff have met individually with councilors to discuss the possible dredging of Mirror Pond.

The Public Works Department, with the help of a consultant, developed a document suggesting that if nothing is done, the growing sediment may turn Mirror Pond into wetlands. That could put Mirror Pond under more stringent federal regulations, making the possible dredging of the pond even more difficult.

Though some councilors had conversations about dredging Mirror Pond as early as this summer, Bend Public Works Director Ken Fuller said the city has now decided to wait until recommendation comes back from a group studying the issue. It includes city staff and experts in habitat, hydrology and watersheds. A majority of councilors said they received the document created by staff and the consultant, but when asked, the city refused to release that document to The Bulletin.

Councilor Bruce Abernethy said he was told by city staff that part of Mirror Pond could be dredged this summer. Councilor John Hummel said he knew that Mirror Pond was approaching a crisis point very quickly and the City Council would have to take action soon on it.

“My understanding was all the council members had been prepped by the city manager and staff about the variety of options (for Mirror Pond),” Abernethy said.

Councilor Chris Telfer said she has yet to individually meet with the city staff to discuss Mirror Pond’s sediment issues. Telfer said it points to the problem of having the council break up into committees and give direction on important issues without the consensus of the whole council.

“There are a number of issues the whole council needs to be listening to,” Telfer said.

The December 2005 document, which circulated among city staff and councilors and has since been updated, suggested that some dredging might have to occur before the council developed a long-term solution, which could take a year or more.

The 25-page document stated that within a year or two, islands of built-up sediment could be officially classified as wetlands. Under federal law, the city of Bend could run the risk of having to mitigate the wetlands it removed during dredging.

“Without action the Pond will increasingly present odor and aesthetic problems, and the City would find itself in an adverse position regarding Federal requirements protecting wetlands,” the document states.

Fuller stressed that the December document was in draft form, and it was only intended for internal use and never meant for public view. Since the December version, which was obtained by The Bulletin from a source outside the city, the document has been modified, Fuller said. The latest update was made April 11, but Fuller refused to give The Bulletin an updated version.

“Nothing has been finalized. It is still a working document,” Fuller said.

Since the December document was finished, Fuller said, city staff had concluded that it would be at least a year or two before the emerging islands of sediment would turn into federally classified wetlands. With more time, Fuller said he fully intends to have a task force of community stakeholders, dubbed the technical committee, meet and come back with recommendations for what to do both short and long term.

And, Fuller noted that before Mirror Pond could be dredged, approvals and permits must be obtained from more agencies than just the City Council. He also said the city does not have plans to dredge Mirror Pond this summer.

Still some are questioning the city’s lack of openness throughout the process.

At an afternoon council retreat in November 2004, Ryan Huston, executive director for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, discussed with the city the different alternatives for Mirror Pond. At that time, the council agreed Mirror Pond was an issue the entire community is concerned about.

“The question that I have, what happened to the very logical, thoughtful, rational process we were going through in 2004?” Huston said on Friday.

“In my mind, it doesn’t make sense to make a decision like that without any very transparent process,” he said.

Huston was among the members named to the technical committee, which has yet to meet. Not letting many of Central Oregon’s watershed professionals and organizations weigh in on Mirror Pond before the dredging begins could be a mistake, he said. He also said the decision should wait for technical data and studies.

“Wetlands won’t emerge immediately. We’re not talking about next week or even this summer or even next summer,” Huston said.

Since 1910, Mirror Pond has been an icon of Bend. It is even on the city’s logo. But for the last three decades, growing sedimentation on the river bed has been an increasing problem. At the heart of the issue is a decision: As one of Bend’s jewels, should Mirror Pond remain a pond or should the river be returned to its natural course.

Mirror Pond was formed when a power company owned by A.M. Drake installed a hydroelectric dam on the Deschutes River just past the Newport Bridge.

The city didn’t see a sedimentation problem until the mid-1970s when Brooks Scanlon took out its mill pond on the Deschutes River near Colorado Avenue. Logs had floated in the pond and as part of the mill’s operations, the pond was continually dredged.

When the mill pond went away, the banks of the Deschutes River returned to a more natural course. That section of the river became a narrower channel with water running more rapidly. Sediment that once stopped at the mill pond now continues downstream to be deposited at Mirror Pond.

And the city says the sedimentation is more than just a city problem. Water released from Wickiup Reservoir for irrigation generates more sediment than would occur naturally. The sudden changes in the river’s flow erode the stream banks and wash dirt and debris downstream.

In 1984, the city of Bend agreed to dredge Mirror Pond. It cost $312,000. At the time, the project engineer predicted that unless changes were made to the management of upstream flow, Mirror Pond would have to be dredged in another 20 years.

Councilor Hummel said that Mirror Pond is once again approaching a crisis stage, with sediment so high near the Galveston Avenue Bridge that geese and swans are be able to walk across the pond and boats often bottom out on the river bed.

In the November 2004 meeting, the council looked at alternatives for Mirror Pond that included doing nothing; dredging the pond from bank to bank; just dredging the river’s channel; removing the dam; enhancing the wetlands; and restoring the river to its natural course. The solution could also be a combination of restoring the river and dredging.

Councilor Dave Malkin has been one member who has spoken out publicly about not wanting to see Mirror Pond go.

“I think that letting Mirror Pond be something other than what it has been and what it has been for a very long time is just wrong-headed,” Malkin said. “I think you will find a great number of people in Bend, Oregon, who will share that opinion about Mirror Pond.”

Malkin also said he is willing to wait for scientific information to come back before making a decision. Malkin noted that in a recent meeting with city staff on Mirror Pond, which was the only time he met individually with staff to discuss the issue, he was told the technical committee was going to meet first before the council decided on anything.

Huston said that when the technical committee finally meets, its members should come with an open mind, leaving the city of Bend’s document behind.

“The key is if we are going to have a good solution, we have to start with a clean slate. The technical committee will be ineffective if we are fed preconceived ideas,” Huston said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2006

Bend considers dredging options for Mirror Pond

Bend City Council is again preparing to consider dredging Mirror Pond, along with some long-term options for reducing silt in the popular stretch of the Deschutes River that runs through downtown.

In a city council committee meeting Monday night, three councilors listened to a presentation by city staff and decided to take up the issue during an upcoming meeting with the full council.

The council is expected to consider appointing a task force of stakeholders to work with city staff on examining options for restoring Mirror Pond.

The council may also consider whether to begin holding public hearings on the issue.

Ken Fuller, director of Bend Public Works, said city staff suggest a two-part approach to restoring Mirror Pond.

“We would like to do some dredging or sediment removal, as well as work with the federal government to see if we can change the way they (manage the river) to reduce sediment buildup in the long term,” Fuller said during the committee meeting.

Upstream from Mirror Pond, the flow of the Deschutes River is regulated by Wickiup Dam.

The dam was built by the federal Bureau of Reclamation in the 1940s, as part of the North Unit Irrigation District.

During the winter, only a small amount of water is allowed to pass through the dam, while the rest of the river’s flow is stored in Wickiup Reservoir for the growing season.

Water is released from the reservoir during the summer. Just upstream from Mirror Pond, most of the river’s flow is diverted into irrigation canals that eventually flow into crop fields.

Season after season, these sudden changes in the river’s flow erode the stream banks and wash dirt and debris downstream.

Mirror Pond is becoming increasingly shallow as these sediments collect on the the floor of the pond, Fuller said. Algae and aquatic plants are sprouting up from silt on the pond floor.

If this pattern of erosion continues, Fuller said, parts of Mirror Pond may eventually look more like swampy wetlands than a glassy body of water.

Mirror Pond could become Mirror Mudflat.

Councilor Jim Clinton and Mayor Bill Friedman said that although the city is still reviewing several options, it may be appropriate to hold public meetings on the issue in the near future.

“Maybe the underlying question is, What does the community want Mirror Pond to be? What do we want it to look like?” Clinton said. “We shouldn’t start with the assumption that we want the Mirror Pond that we have now, in perpetuity.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2005

Dealing with mud

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Motorists traveling between Portland and Seattle catch a glimpse of Capitol Lake as they round a steep curve on Interstate 5 here just south of the Washington Capitol campus. On clear days, the lake’s surface sparkles like a jewel hanging from the neck of the domed Capitol, which sits atop a bluff overlooking the lake.

The lake is part of a grand vision for the campus that either dates back to 1911, or to the early 1950s when a dam was built on the Deschutes River, depending who is asked.

Like Mirror Pond in Bend, Capitol Lake is a centerpiece for the community of Olympia. Its shores are circled with running trails and the state has recently completed an ambitious park project on the north end.

But like its sister river in Oregon, the Deschutes here is beginning to rebel.

As with Mirror Pond, Capitol Lake is slowly but steadily filling in with sediment. The state of Washington, which manages Capitol Lake as part of the Capitol campus, estimates that the reservoir has lost nearly 25 percent of its volume to silt and water quality has plummeted endangering fish and humans.

To deal with the problems facing Capitol Lake, state, local and tribal officials decided to develop a management strategy for the water body – similar to what city leaders in Bend have outlined for dealing with the issues facing Mirror Pond.

While the issues and scale of work are different in Olympia and Bend, it’s possible that the process used by Washington officials could serve as a road map of sorts for what happens in Bend.

Bend city councilors are expected to put together a citizen and technical advisory board this year to look at the problems facing Mirror Pond.

The problem of silt in Mirror Pond starts 60 miles south of town at Wickiup Reservoir where water is released at as much as twice the natural flow during summer months to supply farmers in the thirsty High Desert. The water picks up sediment along eroding stream banks and drops it in downtown Bend when it hits a series of dams.

The result is growing small islands of mud, the first sign of developing wetlands, have popped through the surface of Mirror Pond.

In 2002, Capitol Lake managers adopted a 10-year management plan that have helped the community take on water-quality issues and set the stage for long-term decisions about Capitol Lake.

Capitol Lake was deep enough for sail and powerboats in the 1980s. It now has to be measured in inches rather than feet in many places.

The artificially still and shallow waters of Capitol Lake have contributed to a host of water-quality issues. The state of Washington says the lake is not meeting water-quality standards for fish or wildlife. A swimming beach at the north end of the lake was closed several years ago because it was no longer safe to wade into Capitol Lake.

Last year, the state dumped thousands of pounds of pesticide into the lake in an effort to combat an invasion of milfoil, a noxious aquatic weed that can literally choke a lake to death. Managers said the weed thrived in Capitol Lake for the same reason that fish struggle – poor water quality.

In Olympia, stakeholders including representatives of the cities of Olympia and Tumwater, the Squaxin Island Tribe and the state of Washington created a committee in 1997 to study and make recommendations about Capitol Lake.

The committee was started as a way to work through the regulatory issues surrounding a new park on the shores of Capitol Lake.

“This was the opportunity to get everybody at the table and committed to doing something about the issue,” Dickison said. “We had worked with the state for years in a regulatory environment where they would need a permit and we would respond to the permit and then we would get a decision that attached some conditions. But typically, in that environment, you’re trying to stop them from doing something. You’re being reactive not proactive.”

Members of the committee said that the plan has allowed stakeholders with a broad spectrum of ideas about the future of Capitol Lake to work together on short-term and long-term management goals.

For instance, the plan clearly identifies that Capitol Lake will remain a reservoir for the next 10 years, which the state and cities of Tumwater and Olympia support.

But the committee has also started a comprehensive study of the possibility of removing the Capitol Lake dam and restoring the river and estuary – an option favored by the Squaxin Tribe.

Ryan Houston, the executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council in Bend, said the community here can learn from what was accomplished in Olympia.

Houston, whose agency has studied the problems in Mirror Pond and is currently collecting water-quality data on the Deschutes for the city of Bend, has casually followed the process in Washington. He said the emphasis that stakeholders in Olympia put on collaboration is something Bend should pay attention to as it looks at Mirror Pond.

“They invested in a community process. That is what the city of Bend would do well to do,” Houston said.

In some ways, Houston said, an open process is more important than the outcome.

“We can dynamite Mirror Pond; we can paint it blue. Whatever we decide, having a good process with good information at the table is the single lesson we could learn from those folks,” he said.

Locally, officials have identified a range of options for Mirror Pond, from dredging from bank to bank to removing the dam just north of Newport Avenue and restoring the river to its historic channel through downtown Bend.

Every option has drawbacks, either socially, politically, financially, or environmentally. Mirror Pond was last dredged in the early 1980s. But a similar dredging operation today would be difficult to push through the required regulatory hoops, said Houston. It would also be costly. Last fall, Houston estimated the cost at $2 million or more.

But there are also social factors to be weighed.

Preliminary discussions have already elicited strong emotions from residents and elected officials.

At a recent meeting of the city council’s land-use subcommittee, Councilor Dave Malkin said anyone who supports removing the dam and allowing wetlands to develop along the banks of the river would have to be from Mars.

“I believe that Mirror Pond is Bend and Bend is Mirror Pond. And to even contemplate returning that to a river channel with wetlands is completely wrongheaded,” Malkin said in an interview Friday.

There are others, including some on the council, who disagree.

Mayor Bill Friedman has said he would like the city to look at a compromise that would involve some limited wetlands development along with dredging.

That approach would help the city comply with new federal storm-water disposal rules by using the wetlands as a filter around Mirror Pond.

In Olympia, stakeholders had to deal with similar divisiveness about Capitol Lake.

In some cases, agencies within Washington State government couldn’t even agree.

The Department of General Administration, which is responsible for maintaining the Capitol grounds and buildings, has advocated the importance of maintaining Capitol Lake. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has a different view.

Fish and Wildlife Regional Director Sue Patnude has sat on the steering committee for three years. She said poor water quality in the lake has hurt the department’s efforts to bolster salmon runs.

In part because of her lobbying, the group agreed to study the possibility of restoring the estuary.

Since its beginning, the Capitol Lake committee put a greater emphasis on scientific analysis than social or political considerations, members said.

Some committee members feel the public’s voice has been marginalized.

A decision to poison milfoil last year without the approval of the city of Olympia, prompted a strong public outcry about the role of the steering committee.

In the wake of the decision, members decided to hire a consultant to look at the committee and recommend changes. Some members think those changes could lead to greater public involvement.

It’s potentially an important lesson for Bend, where city councilors are just now considering how to balance the roles of scientists and technocrats with the residents.

Bend Public Works Director Ken Fuller said city staff plan to recommend an approach that combines public input with hard science to develop a management strategy for Mirror Pond. The city council will have final say on the process, but Fuller said staff will recommend the formation of a technical advisory committee that includes residents.

“I’m hoping it gets a lot of people involved in the public process. … It will attract some attention and it should. Mirror Pond is an icon, so I think the public needs to be involved,” Fuller said.

Malkin said he is concerned that the committee might be too heavily weighted toward scientific analysis. He wants broad and strong representation from the public at large.

“I think it is absolutely imperative to that process that Bend community members be selected to be part of that advisory committee,” he said. “Yeah, we want technical folks in there, but we need committee members to represent the best interests of the community.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2005

The dams that define Bend

Long before logging trucks existed, horses dragged fresh-cut trees to the train tracks that wound through the woods surrounding Bend. Train cars dumped logs into the Deschutes River, where they floated in the pool behind a dam.

Almost 90 years later, that dam, near what is now the Colorado Avenue bridge, still holds back the Deschutes, but the logs are long gone.

The idea of building that log pond dam took seed as early as 1907, and it was built in 1915.

“The community said that pond could draw mills and make the town boom,” said John Frye, a volunteer for the Deschutes County Historical Society.

They were right.

The mills, which ran 24 hours a day, employed 1,500 people in 1916, when only 5,193 people lived in Bend. They stacked acres of lumber to dry in the area where the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services building is now located.

The log pond dam is just one of four dams on the Deschutes River within the city that significantly shaped the region’s economy and spurred the city’s growth. And it’s the only one that is not still used for its original purpose.

The other dams brought electricity to the city and facilitated irrigation that allowed agriculture to develop on the High Desert.

They are:

-The Pacific Power dam at Newport Avenue, built in 1910 for generating electricity.

-The Tumalo Irrigation District diversion dam at Pioneer Park, built in 1922 to divert water to the Bend feed canal.

-The North Canal dam near Division and Third Street, built in 1912 for irrigation canals that stretched all the way north to Madras.

Newspaper articles testify to the community’s pride when the dam at Newport Avenue was built to generate power.

“The community was really bragging about how great that was,” Frye said.

Electricity changed the nature of the community located in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, the power heated and lighted up homes. Women started using electric irons, Frye said.

The power plant still generates about one megawatt of electricity — enough to power more than 500 homes — and its power is dispersed into the general power grid, some of which feeds Bend.

During the homestead era, circa 1910, farmers were building irrigation ditches in the desert, Frye said. Irrigation diversion dams built on the north end of the city’s stretch of river in 1912 and 1922 allowed agriculture to develop all the way north to Madras.

Now, those irrigation canals have become central to a regional discussion about water use because their diversions dramatically drop the level of the Middle Deschutes River — just downstream, to the north of the diversion dams.

And Pacific Power’s dam at Newport Avenue created one of Bend’s signature water features — Mirror Pond — bordered by Drake Park and a row of high-profile homes.

Because the dam slows the water flow right there, silt has stacked up in the pond, making it shallow and muddy.

“When the river slows down and hits the still water behind the dam, it doesn’t carry the sediment load,” said Roger Prowell, water quality supervisor with Bend’s Public Works Department. “Dams build up silt deposits.”

The silt was once dredged in the mid-1980s. A 16-inch pipeline passed through people’s yards and deposited the dirt in a hole below what is now the Deschutes Brewery’s plant along the river upstream. “That was when machines in the river did’t cause a crisis. Now it’d be hard,” Prowell said. “If you go in a river with a machine, people will argue that you’re killing the fish.”

There are companies that basically dehydrate the silt and remove the dry dirt from the site, which would have less impact on the fish and the neighbors. Prowell guesses that would cost more than a million dollars.

Whether to dredge again is a decision the community will have to make, and water experts say the topic has been discussed. But, it’s not a burning issue, Prowell said.

If the silt is allowed to accumulate, at some point vegetation would eventually start to grow and a riparian zone would be reborn along the edges of the pond.

The river would flow through a narrow channel and the water flow would speed up.

Bend officials have no control over the dams or whether the sediment is removed.

“People perceive the city in control of those dams,” Prowell said. “We don’t have anything to do with it. The river just flows through our community, through the control of other people.”

For example, irrigation districts own and control the irrigation diversion dams, and Pacific Power still runs the power-generation dam.

And Bill Smith, developer of the Old Mill District mixed-use and retail center at the former mill site, owns and controls the former log dam at Colorado Avenue.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) regulates fish habitat, and the Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) oversees water quality, but Smith more or less has control of the floodgates.

“I can pretty much do whatever I want,” he said.

But he does have to provide a water reserve for a fire flow to Willamette Industries. Smith said he keeps the water about 36 feet deep just upstream of the dam.

If he lowered that, letting more water flow through the gates, it would effectively create more developable land in the Old Mill District, potentially raising his lands’ value.

If he wanted to do that, he could build a pipe-to-pond system for a fire protection reservoir in the industrial area — but that would be expensive, he said.

Smith said he plans to keep the water level in the river to maintain wetlands — something the community has come to expect.

For the most part, Smith’s dam doesn’t affect the river’s flow much, said Kyle Gorman, regional manager for the south central region of the Oregon Water Resources Department. He said no formal guidelines govern that section of the river, but his department oversees safety issues there.

Removing the dams would be up to the dam owners, said Steve Marx, fish biologist for ODFW in Bend. He hasn’t heard any talk of it lately, though.

Talk of removing the Mirror Pond dam came up about 10 years ago when the power company was going through relicensing proceedings, Marx said. Only hydro-power dams need licenses.

“It’s a big social issue — how that would change Mirror Pond,” he said. “It would become a river environment instead of a pond environment.”

Whether that’s good or bad depends on whom you talk to, Marx said.

A more natural stream channel would be a positive thing for fish habitat. But people enjoy the aesthetics of the pond, too.

However, removing the dam could wash too much sediment downstream, and that could be bad for the river’s ecology, he said.

Silt would fill the spaces between rocks and within gravel where insects — fish food — live. It would affect spawning and cover for fish.

Right now, the biggest ongoing discussion at ODFW related to the dams is the ability of fish to pass them.

Fish can’t pass the north canal dam or the Pacific Power dam. The Tumalo Irrigation District diversion dam at Pioneer Park and Smith’s dam have fish ladders for the redband and rainbow trout.

Building fish ladders can be expensive and the responsibility falls to the dam owners.

“It’s a long-term goal to restore passage at those dams and restore (fish) populations at those dams,” Marx said. “We have isolated fish populations in each of those … fragmented sections.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2002