Future hazy for dam below Mirror Pond

Newport Avenue Dam, located on the Deschutes River, is under scrutiny as officials consider what should be done about the silt buildup in Mirror Pond.
Newport Avenue Dam, located on the Deschutes River, is under scrutiny as officials consider what should be done about the silt buildup in Mirror Pond.

The Newport Avenue Dam could be one significant repair bill away from being shut down for good, according to a spokesman for the utility that operates the dam.

Now 100 years old, the dam brought Central Oregon its first electricity, creating Mirror Pond along the way. The dam’s future has been placed in the spotlight through a Bend Park & Recreation District-led process to determine what should be done about the silt that has been slowly filling Mirror Pond since it was last dredged in 1984.

PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said the dam can be compared to an older car a family might keep around as backup transportation.

“It is the second car — as long as you’re not rebuilding the engine, it’s worth your while to keep driving, but when the mechanic gives you a $3,000 bill for your car, it’s time to reconsider,” he said. “That’s how we view the situation right now.”

Gravely said he couldn’t say how much money PacifiCorp would be willing to put in to keeping the dam running if repairs became necessary.

For now, he said the company is following the local discussion of options for Mirror Pond while trying not to exert undue influence on the process.

“In general, I would say that right now it remains economical to operate for customers,” Gravley said. “But, it is 100 years old, and we’re continuing to make sure it’s safe and all of that. … It would be hard to see any kind of major capital investment being made that would allow it to continue being economical.”

Electricity output

With a generation capacity of 1.1 megawatts, the Newport Avenue Dam is the smallest of the six hydroelectric power plants operated by PacifiCorp, providing just more than one-tenth of 1 percent of the total power potential of the company’s hydro system.

Because hydroelectric plants do not typically generate power all day, every day, capacity figures overstate their actual production. Power output is measured in megawatt hours (MWh), a calculation of the actual electricity generated reached by multiplying the capacity with the number of hours the turbines are turning. With consistent water supplies, a 1.1 MW facility like the Newport Avenue Dam running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year would produce 9,636 MWh of electricity.

Generation figures shared by the company indicate the Newport Avenue Dam produced 3,344 MWh in 2012 and 2,115 MWh in 2011, down from the long-term historical average of 4,106 MWh. Using the U.S. Department of Energy standard that places the average household’s annual electricity consumption at 11,280 kilowatts, the dam’s total output supplied power for 296 homes last year, and 188 the year before.

According to the Oregon Public Utility Commission, the average PacifiCorp residential customer pays 10.8 cents per kilowatt hour. At that rate, the Newport Avenue Dam would have generated an income of $228,420 for PacifiCorp in 2012, not counting any costs associated with transmission, administration or maintenance.

Steve Johnson, the manager of the Central Oregon Irrigation District, said those kinds of dollar figures suggest it wouldn’t take much for PacifiCorp to give up on the Newport Avenue Dam as a power source.

The irrigation district operates two hydroelectric generators of its own, one on a canal intake near Mt. Bachelor Village and one on its canal between Bend and Redmond that together generate roughly 10 times the power of the Newport Avenue Dam.

“It’s only real value now is, it creates Mirror Pond,” Johnson said. “I think PacifiCorp is just gonna follow along with what the community does, but if the community wants that dam removed, the community is gonna pay for it. PacifiCorp ain’t gonna pay for that.”

Possible changes

If PacifiCorp were to give up on generating power at the Newport Avenue Dam, it’s likely the dam would have to come down as well. The state permit under which the dam is operated gives PacifiCorp the right to impound the river for power generation — and, interestingly, debris removal and ice production — but not recreational purposes like creating a pond.

Jim Figurski, a consultant working with the park district to draw up plans for how to address the silt issue at Mirror Pond, said the Oregon Water Resources Department has assured him it wouldn’t rush dam removal were PacifiCorp to give up on power generation, but could be forced to act if a private citizen or group were to raise the issue.

Mary Grainey from the Oregon Water Resources Department’s hydroelectric division said PacifiCorp would have the option of selling or transferring its water rights — again, only for hydroelectric generation, debris removal or ice production — or the rights would revert back to the state.

Grainey said PacifiCorp would have up to five years to transfer its water rights to another user or the state. Alternatively, the company or another party that received the water rights through a transfer could appeal to the Water Resources Commission to create a recreational or aesthetic water right, Grainey said, adding such rights are typically only granted for smaller waterways on private property.

Figurski said he doesn’t think a push to create a recreational water right is likely to succeed.

“I think the recreational components in most places were secondary to flood control, irrigation, power generation,” Figurski said. “To create a new water right, you would be starting from scratch and would be subject to all the new regulations.”

If hydroelectric generation were to come to an end and the dam were somehow allowed to remain in place with a new water right, it’s likely state regulators would require the dam’s owner to address fish passage. Johnson estimated screens to keep fish from being sucked through the dam and a fish ladder for upstream travel could run $1 million to $2 million at the Newport Avenue Dam.

Were PacifiCorp to continue generating power but wish to make significant modifications to the dam, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could require it be re-licensed — PacifiCorp was allowed to opt out of FERC licensing in 1996 — triggering the need to install fish passage and meet other modern regulatory requirements.

Gravely said that although he can’t be certain what would happen were FERC to require the dam be re-licensed, the costs associated with a pending license renewal have led to the removal of many older dams across the Northwest. Still, he said it’s hard to guess when PacifiCorp might decide operating the dam is more trouble than its worth.

“It’s 100 years old. We believe it’s much closer to the end of its viability than the beginning,” he said.

‘There will be a reaction’

Figurski said he can understand why PacifiCorp is trying to avoid dominating the discussion over Mirror Pond, even if what becomes of the dam could alter Mirror Pond as much or more than any of the dredging or channel-building now under consideration.

“I think they’re being pretty conservative,” he said. “Because they could obviously be driving this process, and say ‘We’re going to take the dam out; you guys do whatever.’”

On April 30, members of the Mirror Pond Management Board will see preliminary illustrations of various options for addressing the silt buildup in the pond. Figurski said the board will see a no-dam scenario, a scenario that preserves the traditional look of Mirror Pond, and a number of middle options that ideally could be implemented with or without the Newport Avenue Dam.

Figurski said one of the clearest messages he took from a questionnaire on Mirror Pond earlier this year was the public’s desire to find an approach that will enhance the area upstream of the dam, regardless of how long the dam remains — and ideally, won’t be completely undone if the dam is removed.

“I don’t think the idea is you wouldn’t have to do anything if the dam comes out, but how do you not lose everything you’ve done,” he said. “If and when the dam goes away, there will be a reaction. Let’s minimize what we have to do at that point.”

Related article: Future clouded for Mirror Pond dam

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Dam Near Done

The Newport Avenue dam is at the end of its life cycle. Everyone knows it—even PacifiCorp, the utility company that owns the 102-year-old dam, which creates the pond at Drake Park near downtown Bend.

What many don’t know, however, is that the dam cannot remain if it ceases to function as a hydroelectric facility. Those are the rules: According to water-right certificate No. 29581, Pacific Power & Light Co. (now PacifiCorp, which owns Pacific Power) has the right only to use the water for power generation and ice and debris removal. There’s no built-in right for storing water.

So, the idea that PacifiCorp can simply retire the crumbling dam from service as a power-generating tool, but leave the structure in place to retain a pond, is a thought that should no longer be considered.

“By no means could it stay there just to keep Mirror Pond,” said Deschutes Basin Watermaster Jeremy Giffin, who also put to rest talk of transferring those water rights for recreational purposes. All of the water rights on the Upper Deschutes River, said Giffin, have already been allocated.

PacifiCorp officials hope, however, the case isn’t as cut and dried as it seems. Company spokesman Bob Gravely said, although, “it’s not really an issue we’ve looked at closely,” he’s optimistic a solution could be found that would allow the dam to remain in place.

But the water-right news puts PacifiCorp in a tight spot. Company representatives have admitted that, from a hydroelectric standpoint, the dam provides negligible electricity. According to company stats, the dam only generates enough power for 300 to 400 homes. Angela Price, PafiCorp rep and Mirror Pond Steering Committee member, recently called the structure “a small asset.”

Moreover, altering the Newport Avenue dam is also an unlikely course. Adding fish ladders and other such necessary updates or repairs would be expensive and would trigger action from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC licensing would be a costly route that could take years to navigate—an unappealing scenario for PacifiCorp.

Jim Figurski, the project manager who’s been hired by the city and Bend Park & Recreation District to find a fix for a pond that is clogging with silt, has already thought about all this.

“My understanding is that the water right is solely associated with the generation of power,” said Figurski, echoing Watermaster Jeremy Giffin’s words. Figurski added that, while he can’t speak for the city, he thought a handoff or sale of the dam from PacifiCorp to the city highly unlikely.

To account for this, Figurski, who also sits on the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, the decision-making body overseeing the project, said at least three of the four possible solutions being drafted by his consultant team will include a Deschutes River with no dam in place at Newport Avenue. Figurski expects to have four designs, ones created by Portland’s Greenworks, a landscape architecture and environmental design firm, ready for public viewing and input by early June.

Fellow Steering Committee member Ryan Houston, Upper Deschutes Water Council executive director, is enthusiastic about Figurski’s approach but wants to make one thing clear: “Whether you want a pond or not is irrelevant—that dam is old,” Houston said. “The writing is on the wall.”

Going forward, Houston said he hopes the community can understand that the issues swirling about the silt-filled pond aren’t either/or.

“It’s either going to benefit recreationalists or homeowners; water quality versus not—when I hear someone playing these things off of each other as if they’re-black and-white solutions, I say ‘no,’ ” Houston said. “They’re false choices.”

Some would like to see the pond stay, no matter the cost, as they see it as an iconic Bend fixture. Other residents, who value the river’s health, would rather see the Deschutes return to a more natural state. River enthusiasts hope the solution allows for more recreating on the river. Others still ask that the area around Drake Park remain aesthetically pleasing.

The solution, Houston said, should be clever enough so that it pleases environmentalists, neighbors and recreationalists alike.

Figurski agrees, and said he’s trying to help his design team think outside of the box.

“The potential to retain pond-like characteristics,” Figurski said, is there, even without a dam.

But, at this point, one eventuality is clear—the dam’s days are numbered. SW

Source: The Source Weekly ©2013

Remove the dam and let the river run

Remove the Deschutes River dam.

Dredge Mirror Pond.

Geez! People of Bend, look at the bigger picture for a change. Dams are now unpopular and yet, here in Bend, we have the old-fashioned people, living in the past.

When we remove the dam in Bend, we will make the cover of Time magazine, be written about in The New York Times and on and on. People will flock to Bend to see a river run through it instead of what we have now. The small limited picture is to leave things alone. Well, the bigger picture is to remove dams, for a flow of river water and all of the amenities that come with that. The Bend Park & Recreation District could redo Drake Park and use some of that money from the bond issue. Yes, remodel the old-fashioned Drake Park, what a novel idea. And to Millie Nolan’s letter from March 17, I say, “A river runs, it just runs.”

One doesn’t dredge a river, one watches it flow. We are Bend recreationists, so the brochures say. So let’s be “outdoorsy” and remove an old dam — for free-flowing water, traveling downstream from up in the Cascades.

Tom Filcich
Bend

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond options in the works

Members of the Mirror Pond Management Board got a preview Wednesday of the next phase in the effort to find a solution for the silt accumulating in Mirror Pond.

Wednesday’s meeting came on the heels of a questionnaire examining what local residents believe to be important in terms of Mirror Pond’s future.

Nearly 1,900 people answered the questionnaire.

It did not ask participants what they would like done to address siltation, but the survey exposed a split between those who would like to see the pond remain a pond and those who would prefer a free-flowing river by removing the Newport Avenue dam.

Jim Figurski, a consultant hired through the Bend Park & Recreation District to oversee the project, told management board members the process of preparing four designs depicting what Mirror Pond could look like in the future is under way.

Board members should expect a first look at the four alternatives in mid-May, Figurski said, with the public weighing in on the possibilities — including projected short-term and long-term costs — by mid-June.

Demonstrating a prototype of the online questionnaire he expects to use during the next round of community input, Figurski pulled up an image of present-day Mirror Pond on a screen. He said the questionnaire program he intends to use will allow respondents to highlight those elements they like or dislike in illustrations that will be created to represent the four alternatives, allowing them to “vote” up or down on things like a sandy beach, a pier or aquatic vegetation.

Figurski said he thinks it’s likely those who participate in the process this summer will find things they like about several of the alternatives.

“I’m optimistic. I think people will be pleasantly surprised by what we’re able to achieve with each of the alternatives,” he said.

Board member Ryan Houston said he was concerned the four alternatives — currently labeled as “do nothing,” “habitat focus,” “river focus” and “recreation focus” — would present questionnaire participants with false choices. The park district has done a good job of developing riverfront properties that provide a benefit to river health and recreational users, he said, and the district’s record should be considered as the alternatives are being created.

Spencer Dahl, board member and chairman of the Old Bend Neighborhood Association, asked fellow board member Angela Price of Pacific Power if it would be possible to open the sluice gates of the Newport Avenue dam so locals could see how the river might respond if the dam were removed. Board member Peter Werner asked Price if the utility would agree to remove the dam if a community consensus for doing so emerged, and if so, how long it would take.

Price said she was unable to answer either question.

City Councilor and board member Victor Chudowsky encouraged Figurski and others working to develop the four alternatives to remember that any changes to Mirror Pond would likely affect the river upstream, possibly as far as the Colorado Avenue dam.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Opinions expressed on future of pond

Results are in for a Mirror Pond questionnaire

Bend residents appear to be split down the middle on whether Mirror Pond should remain a pond or be transformed into a free-flowing river, according to the results of a questionnaire released Friday.

Nearly 1,900 people completed the online questionnaire created by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, a group assembled by the Bend City Council in 2009 to determine what, if anything, should be done to address silt that has been accumulating in the pond since it was last dredged in 1984.

Project manager Jim Figurski stressed that the results are not scientific. Statistically valid surveys use random sampling to discern the opinions of the larger community; while the questionnaire participants opted into the process by visiting the mirrorpondbend .com website and electing to complete the 18-item questionnaire.

Survey participants were disproportionately from the northwest quadrant of the city — 46 percent — and primarily long-time residents of Bend. Just 18 percent of participants reported having lived in Bend five years or less, while 27 percent have lived here 10-20 years and 36 percent for 20 years or longer.

“We’re not extrapolating this to all of Bend. These are the values of those who participated in the questionnaire,” he said.

The questionnaire was developed to determine what residents value about Mirror Pond and how they use it — as opposed to what ought to be done in the future. Where participants could weigh in on the pond versus river question, a sharp split emerged.

At public meetings and in comments submitted by questionnaire participants, a significant number of people have called for removing the Newport Avenue Dam that created Mirror Pond more than 100 years ago. By most estimates, the dam generates electricity for fewer than 500 homes, and Pacific Power representatives have said the company is not necessarily committed to leaving the dam in place long-term.

Asked if Mirror Pond should look like it did before the dam was built, 51 percent of questionnaire participants placed themselves in the strongly agree or agree column, while 49 percent opted for strongly disagree or disagree.

In another segment of the questionnaire, participants were asked to rank four photographs of different sections of the Deschutes River in order of preference — most attractive, attractive, somewhat attractive and least attractive.

An image of rapids that appears to be upstream of Bend — Figurski said he’s not sure of the location — ranked highest, with 40 percent rating it most attractive and 33 percent attractive. A present-day image of Mirror Pond resembling the Mirror Pond Pale Ale label came in second, with 37 percent choosing most attractive and 18 percent attractive.

Rapids near Sawyer Park ranked third, with 15 percent most attractive and 35 percent attractive, while a shot of the area upstream from the Colorado Dam was last, with 9 percent giving it most attractive marks and 14 percent opting for attractive.

The questionnaire also found broad agreement on a handful of matters.

Just 28 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the idea that “the water in Mirror Pond is very clean,” while 91 percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed with the idea “water quality in Mirror Pond should be improved.”

Present-day Mirror Pond is regarded as “beautiful to look at” by 86 percent of respondents, while 83 percent agreed or strongly agreed it is a good place to watch birds, ducks, geese, otters and other wildlife.

Addressed more specifically, ducks and geese did poorly in the eyes of questionnaire participants. Just 1 percent of respondents ranked geese and ducks in the pond and the park as the feature they value the most, while 39 percent put geese and ducks as the feature they value least.

Figurski said consultants working with the steering committee are planning on creating four alternative visions of the area in the future. He expects they will be ready to share illustrations as well as cost estimates with the public by late April.

Each of the alternative visions will be designed to be functional whether or not the dam remains in place, Figurski said, and will be presented to the public in two parts to reflect dammed and un-dammed scenarios.

Figurski said the group responsible for drafting the alternatives will be “walking a tightrope” due to the divide between the maintain-the-pond and let-the-river flow factions. But he expects it will create designs that appeal to members of both groups.

“Because people haven’t seen the alternatives yet, people think its an all-or-nothing thing,” he said. “It’s not, it doesn’t have to be.”

Mirror Pond questionnaire

The Mirror Pond Steering Committee’s questionnaire, posted online, invited Bend residents to answer 18 general questions about Mirror Pond. It is not scientific; it is the results from 1,817 people who chose to visit the website and answer the questions. Here are some of the responses.

Who responded 
• Many of the respondents (36 percent) have lived in Bend for more than 20 years.
• Almost half (46 percent) live on the city’s northwest side.

About the pond 
• Almost half (44 percent) visit the pond at least once a month.
• More than half (59 percent) think the pond symbolizes the quality of life in Bend.
• Walking is the most popular activity at the pond (87 percent).
• Few (28 percent) think the water is clean.
• There’s an almost even split on whether having geese and ducks at the park is “good” (47 percent yes, 53 percent no). But more people (39 percent) identified the geese as the least valued aspect of the pond over anything else.

The pond’s future 
• Few (10 percent) want to see more boating or fishing opportunities.
• About half (51 percent) think the pond should look as it did before the dam was built.
• More (53 percent) want all of the silt removed, changing the shape of the river channel and pond. Fewer (42 percent) want the silt removed, repeated as needed to keep the pond as it is now.
• Few want nothing done (12 percent).

The full results can be found at mirrorpondbend.com.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Poll shows support for dam removal

Those living closest to Mirror Pond overwhelmingly support removing the Newport Avenue Dam and allowing the Deschutes River to return to its natural state, according to an online survey by the Old Bend Neighborhood Association.

Residents of Old Bend — the area South of Franklin Avenue, south and east of the Deschutes River, north of Arizona Avenue and west of the Bend Parkway — preferred dam removal over maintaining the pond by a margin of 2 to 1, according to neighborhood association board member Spencer Dahl.

Those living in the River West neighborhood west of Mirror Pond were nearly as supportive of dam removal, Dahl said, while survey respondents from other Bend neighborhoods or outside of Bend were split roughly 50-50.

Dahl said although the survey of 300 self-selecting respondents is not scientific, he suspects it’s largely reflective of sentiment in his neighborhood.

“Our neighborhood has a lot of old hippies and river rats and stuff, so it’s not your typical Bend, but it is the neighborhood that’s going to be most affected by it,” he said.

The dam just north of Newport Avenue, more than 100 years old, provides power for fewer than 500 homes.

Pacific Power, the utility that operates the dam, has indicated it may be unwilling to continue operating the dam should increasing maintenance costs render it financially infeasible.

Those who responded to the neighborhood association survey described themselves as frequent visitors to Mirror Pond and the adjacent parks, with 7 percent claiming to visit daily and 35 percent at least once a week.

Respondents spend a lot of time in the water as well: 43 percent said they float the river, 31 percent reported boating and 14 percent said they’ve gone stand-up paddleboarding on Mirror Pond.

However, there are divisions among the larger paddling community. Survey respondents who kayak were much more likely to support dam removal, a move that would allow the river to flow faster, Dahl said, while stand-up paddleboarders were inclined to prefer calmer waters as seen on present-day Mirror Pond.

Dahl also represents his neighborhood on the 19-member Mirror Pond Management Board, a group assembled by the Bend City Council in 2009. The group advises the smaller Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which was created in 2010 to develop a long-term strategy to address silt accumulation in the pond. Dahl said he regards the survey as a way of supplying him with better information about his neighbors’ preferences when dealing with the steering committee.

The steering committee expects to release the results of its own online questionnaire on Thursday, according to Jim Figurski, a project manager hired by the Bend Park & Recreation District to work with the steering committee.

Figurski said Tuesday he hadn’t reviewed the findings of the Old Town Neighborhood Association survey. He said he’s interested in learning more about the audience reached by the survey, but not surprised to learn of the strong support for a dam-free river.

“Nothing about the project currently surprises me,” Figurski said. “There’s always something new coming out or something interesting happening, it doesn’t surprise me a lot.”

The steering committee’s questionnaire closed Monday night, and primarily addressed recreational preferences and the “values” — such as clean water, wildlife habitat and scenic views — that local residents associate with Mirror Pond.

Figurski said 1,858 people completed the questionnaire, which, like the survey conducted by the neighborhood association, was self-selecting and should not be regarded as statistically valid.

Beginning next month, Figurski and the steering committee will develop four alternative plans to address the siltation issue. The two “bookends,” as Figurski has called them, will likely include one proposal for dam removal and one for dredging that would maintain the pond in a state similar to what’s seen today. The questionnaire will help inform the two middle ground alternatives, Figurski said, which could both lean toward either the dredging or dam removal option, depending on what the public had to say.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

The Somewhat Surprising Results from the Unofficial Mirror Pond Survey

Further proof that the tide may well be turning:
Screen_shot_2013-02-25_at_12.37.20_PM.png
Mirrorpond.Info

That long, split-pea green bar on top represents the 62.26% of respondents who think“The dam should be removed and the river returned to its natural channel.”About 300 participated in the the unofficial survey, issued by the Old Bend Neighborhood Association via the website mirrorpond.info.

The last two questions of the eight-question survey were also surprising/pleasing to see:

Q7 If the dam is removed, what would you like to see happen to the land no longer submerged under Mirror Pond?

12.31% — It remain in the hands of its current owners. (McKay family?, etc.)
15.77% — It becomes the property of the adjacent land owners, maintaining their river frontage.
71.92% — It becomes public property and remains in public use.

Q8 Which would you prefer?

44.32% — Mirror Pond to retain its current charm and iconic stature.
55.68% — Boat or float the Deschutes River from above the Bill Healy Bridge to below the First Street Rapids.

The unofficial survey was drafted in response to the official 19-question survey issued by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee earlier this year. While a number of the Old Bend and River West Neighborhood residents who live near or along the Deschutes River participated in the survey, the majority of respondents—nearly 54%—live outside the two neighborhoods above. You can find complete results here.

The official survey proved unpopular with scores of Bend residents, many of whom have voiced their concerns during various public meetings over the past couple of months. Polling closed today for the official survey and results should be available on Thursday, Feb. 28.

Source: The Source Weekly

Mirror Pond Survey Results

survey-results-2-24-2013_5

Q1 Where do you live?

14.92% – Old Bend Neighborhood
17.63% – River West Neighborhood
53.90% – Other Bend Neighborhood
13.56% – I don’t live in Bend

Q2 Did you vote in the general election in November?

Yes – 88.14%
No – 11.86%

Q3 Please tell us which option below best describes how often you visit Mirror Pond or one of the adjacent park:

Never – 1.42%
A few times a year – 20.21%
About once a month – 20.92%
2 or 3 times a month – 22.70%
About once a week – 16.31%
2 or 3 times a week – 11.35%
Daily – 7.09%

Q4 Please tell us how you interact with Mirror Pond:

Floating – 42.86%
Boating – 30.83%
Stand Up Paddle – 14.29%
Swimming – 6.39%
Fishing – 5.64%
Nature watching – 68.80%
Scenic background for park activities – 81.20%

Q5 What do you think should happen with Mirror Pond?

62.26% – The dam should be removed and the river returned to its natural channel.
35.47% – The dam should be retained and a solution found for the sedimentation problem.
2.26% – The dam should be retained and the pond should be allowed to turn into a wetland.

Q6 If the dam is retained, which of these would you like to see?

50.19% – The pond dredged and its shape kept the same as it is now
26.24% – Change the shape of the river channel and pond, creating rapids.
14.45% – Let the pond fill in and turn to wetlands.
47.53% – Add fish passage and fish screens to the dam.
38.40% – Add people passage or river play area to dam.

Q7 If the dam is removed, what would you like to see happen to the land no longer submerged under Mirror Pond?

12.31% – It remain in the hands of its current owners. (McKay family?, etc.)
15.77% – It becomes the property of the adjacent land owners, maintaining their river frontage.
71.92% – It becomes public property and remains in public use.

Q8 Which would you prefer?

44.32% – Mirror Pond to retain its current charm and iconic stature.
55.68% – Boat or float the Deschutes River from above the Bill Healy Bridge to below the First Street Rapids.

Hydrologists discuss Mirror Pond

Hydrology experts assembled by the City Club of Central Oregon said Thursday there’s no urgency to develop a plan to address silt buildup in Mirror Pond, and suggested an approach somewhere between attempting to maintain the historic pond and removing the Newport Avenue Dam could win broad community support.

Hundreds filled a lecture hall at St. Charles Bend on Thursday to learn more about silt accumulation in the downtown Bend pond, formed by the construction of the dam 100 years ago and last dredged in 1984. In the years since then, the pond has become shallower, the result of silt washing into the Deschutes River upstream and settling on the bottom in the slow-moving waters of Mirror Pond.

Hydrologist Joe Eilers — who was joined by hydrologist Gabe Williams and Upper Deschutes Watershed Council Director Ryan Houston on the City Club panel — told the audience Thursday that dredging to preserve Mirror Pond as a pond is at best a short-term fix.

By deepening the channel, dredging causes the water to move even more slowly, Eilers said, allowing more silt to fall out of suspension rather than be carried further downstream. A pond like Mirror Pond will re-silt fastest in the first few seasons after dredging, he said, reaching 80 percent of its maximum silt-holding capacity within 10 years, and 90 percent within 20 years.

“If you’re going to go the full dredging route, you might as well buy a dredge, because you’ll be back there in the not-too-distant future,” Eilers said.

As of today, Mirror Pond probably has about 90 percent of the silt it can take, Eilers said, but it’s hard to know when it might reach 100 percent.

Icing during the winter has so far discouraged plants from taking root where they might turn shallows to dry land, he said, adding that even if the pond reaches its maximum silt-carrying capacity, the water should continue to flow.

Club member Jim Lussier, the former president and CEO of St. Charles Health System, asked the panelists what the long-term costs of doing nothing might be.

While Eilers focused on the cost of maintenance that is presumed to be needed on the aging PacifiCorp dam, Houston said the cost of inaction may be more abstract. Those who enjoy the views across the pond, its waterfowl, or paddling along the slow-moving waters could lose those amenities if Mirror Pond is left alone, he said.

“It’s not just the capital expenditures, it’s what do people care about,” Houston said.

Specifics of the future of the dam were left unaddressed Thursday. Although not on Thursday’s panel, Angela Price of PacifiCorp was in attendance. Price declined to elaborate on how long Pacifi- Corp intends to continue operating the dam, or what might happen if her company concludes the cost of upkeep outweighs its power-generating potential.

Taking out the dam completely would have a significant impact beyond the area commonly thought of as Mirror Pond, Houston said. Removing the dam would drop water levels directly behind the dam by 8 to 10 feet, he said, and the river would find a new channel through the main body of the pond. The effect could be noticeable as far upstream as McKay Park, where Houston said water levels could drop by a foot.

In response to an audience question, Houston said many of the consulting engineers working on possible solutions for Mirror Pond are also working on the Bend Park & Recreation District’s plans to develop a safe passage through the Colorado Avenue Dam spillway, and are confident they can find a way to make both projects work together.

The dam’s removal would be the best option for fish, Eilers said, lowering water temperatures and boosting the level of available dissolved oxygen by allowing the river to move faster. He said a faster-moving river through Drake Park would also be likely to drive off the geese that have multiplied in the area over the years.

Eilers suggested a fourth option — which he dubbed “designer dredging” — might be the easiest course of action. Such an approach could involve dredging out a defined channel while building up and “armoring” some areas where silt deposition is most pronounced. Other portions of the pond could be restored as above-water-level parkland, he said, such as the shallows in the wide bow just behind the Drake Park stage.

Mike Hollern, CEO of Brooks Resources and a pond-side resident, latched on to Eilers’ description of “designer dredging.” Hollern said his personal preference would be for the future pond to retain many of its present characteristics, but acknowledged that those who live closest to the water benefit most, and should contribute to a local improvement district to help pay for any work on the pond.

Hollern suggested a retaining wall backfilled with silt dredged from the pond could be used to expand Harmon Park on the west side of the river.

Houston said such a compromise could hit a “sweet spot” that could at least partially satisfy those who desire views, wildlife habitat and access to the water for recreation. Dry land for expanded parks could persuade the park district to buy in, Houston said, while developed wetlands that could help clean up the wastewater dumped into the pond by city storm drains could attract funding from the city or grants from clean water groups.

Gary Fish, founder of Deschutes Brewery, joked that the brewery would have to scrap “about 25 million pieces of printed material” depicting the pond that serves as the namesake of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, but echoed Houston’s comments about finding a middle ground between dam removal and repeated dredging.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to get everything they want, but they should get a lot of what they want,” Fish said.

Thursday’s forum was independent of an effort under way by the Mirror Pond Management Board, a group formed by the Bend City Council in 2009. The management board has an online questionnaire where local residents can share what they value about Mirror Pond and the Deschutes River at www.mirrorpondbend.com through Feb. 25. In March and April, the board will be using the public input it’s gathered to develop potential plans of action, including illustrations and cost estimates.

Past estimates have placed the cost of a 1984-style dredging at between $2 and $5 million.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Oregon Field Guide: The White Salmon River Runs Free

What happens when a dam disappears and a river returns? Watch this special edition of Oregon Field Guide about the historic removal of Condit Dam.

 

1859[1]In 2012, the 100 foot-tall Condit Dam was removed from the White Salmon River in southeast Washington, making it the largest dam in the world ever removed. The goal was simple: Restore habitat for threatened salmon. This first-ever project tested the ingenuity of those tasked with the massive project. But it may also represent a turning point. In a region built on hydropower, is removing dams for threatened salmon the new norm?


Producer & Director of Photography – Andy Maser
Editor – Nick Fisher
Associate Producer – Hayden Peters
Additional Video – Michael Bendixen, Hayden Peters, Nick Fisher, Todd Sonflieth, Brian Lippy, Andy Johnson-Laird & Sylvain Chancel
Stock Material – Steve Stampfli, Zach Zoller, Ralph Bowman, Ryan Scott, Kevin Felts, Sam Drevo, Oregon Historical Society, Daniel Dancer, PacifiCorp,
Special Thanks – Jaco Klinkenberg, Wet Planet Whitewater, Heather Herbeck, Sam Drevo, Todd Olson of PacifiCorp, Tom Gaunt of PacifiCorp, Rod Engle of USFWS, Larry Moran of JR Merit, Tony Washines of Yakima Nation, Ed Jahn, American Rivers, American Whitewater

Appeared in episode: The White Salmon River Runs Free: Breaching the Condit Dam

For more information:

Andy Maser Films

White Salmon Timelapse Project