Think Outside the Pond

When it comes to the future of the man-made pond backed up behind an old hydroelectric dam in downtown, the Bend City Council stacked the deck by appointing a Mirror Pond Management Board rather than a Deschutes River Reclamation Board to guide us.

The name alone suggests the inherent bias that’s now given us as skewed a survey as we’ve ever seen marched out for legitimate purposes. The survey, which can be found at, is ostensibly designed to gauge public opinion on what to do about the pond, which is now laden with silt.

For instance, the survey asks how strongly you agree with statements like “Mirror Pond is beautiful to look at” and in the meantime minimizes the option many in the community heartily endorse: Restoring the Deschutes to an actual river with healthy stream flows and riparian habitat alongside areas for recreation.

This is unacceptable.

We believe the board will likely use the results of this bogus survey to prop up a save-the-pond movement. To avert this, we recommend you take the survey and rely heavily on the write-in-your-own-answer-here options.

Where it asks what aspects of Bend the pond symbolizes, you might suggest “Our forebears’ obtuse quest to dominate nature.” Where it lists options for dealing with siltation, consider “Removing the dam.” And when it asks how you’d allocate $10 toward an array of actions, you might put it all toward “Let our river flow!”

Let’s emphatically reject the tired notion that Mirror Pond symbolizes Bend the way the Gateway Arch symbolizes St. Louis. A good symbol for 21st-century Bend would be something dynamic and vital, a naturally flowing river with rapids, boulders, plants and wildlife.

You should also weigh in at one of the board’s forums, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, and next Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Bend Park & Recreation District Offices at 799 SW Columbia St. While you’re at the mic, give the board the boot for trying to manipulate and confine public thinking on the issue instead of forthrightly declaring its openness to a fresh approach.

Source: The Source Weekly

Finding a fix for Mirror Pond

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Around 30 Bend residents turned out Wednesday night to weigh in on the future of Mirror Pond at the first of two public meetings hosted by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee.

The committee recently launched an outreach effort to determine what, if anything, should be done about the silt buildup that is slowly transforming the pond into a wetland. Through the end of the month, the committee will be using community meetings and a questionnaire to try to find out what Bend residents value about Mirror Pond. Starting in March, the committee expects to turn toward drawing up potential plans reflecting public preferences.

Jim Figurski, the project manager hired by the steering committee, said there are two “bookends” when thinking about what to do with the pond. One bookend would be a thorough dredging, returning the pond to a state similar to that when Mirror Pond was last dredged in 1984. The other bookend would be removing the Pacific Power dam that created the pond more than 100 years ago, he said, and allowing the river to return to its natural state.

Figurski spent an hour and a half fielding questions Wednesday night, with members of the audience suggesting both “bookend” alternatives and nearly everything in between.

An online questionnaire — available at — has already attracted nearly 1,000 responses, including half a dozen detailed proposals as to what should be done.

Jane Williamson, a resident of Harmon Avenue on the west side of Mirror Pond, recalled the 1984 dredging, accomplished for $300,000, a fraction of the $2 to $5 million estimates being floated today for similar work. It was a simple process, she said, and much of the silt harvested from the river bottom was sold back to local residents as “the best compost we ever had.”

Williamson said the process of deciding what to do has become overly bureaucratic, and she’s concerned those who live farther from Mirror Pond may not be supportive of a costly dredging operation.

“I would just be so sad if it went back to a river,” she said. “It’s a jewel, it’s the crown jewel of Bend.”

What Pacific Power elects to do with its dam could determine whether the pond remains a pond or becomes a section of the Deschutes River.

The dam, built in 1910, only provides electricity for around 400 homes, Figurski said. He said the utility is nearing the point where the revenue from power generation will be outweighed by the cost of upkeep. The utility could decide to dismantle or decommission the dam in the near future.

Multiple local residents took issue with the online survey, claiming it didn’t provide adequate opportunities for them to cast a vote for dam removal and a natural river approach.

Figurski said that while Pacific Power’s cooperation is needed to return the pond to a natural state, it’s still very much an option. If the pond were left alone and the dam were not removed, the small islands near the Galveston Avenue bridge would likely grow, he said, while shallows would grow even shallower and be taken over by grasses, cattails and similar plants.

“Doing nothing is actually doing something, because something will happen. Rivers evolve,” Figurski said.

Bend resident Bob Baer said he views the silt buildup behind the dam as similar to snow in a shopping center’s parking lot — it’s Pacific Power’s problem, and they should pay the bill.

“I don’t see the people of the city of Bend paying one dime to do maintenance for their business,” he said.

Baer said he wants local residents to have an opportunity to vote before any money is spent to address silt buildup.

Figurski said the public will likely have an opportunity to vote when the time comes. The process is at a very early stage, and even if a plan with broad community support emerges by early summer — as is the goal — funding has not been identified.

A second public meeting is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Bend Park & Recreation District offices, 799 S.W. Columbia St.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond Steering Committee plans silt proposal

The Mirror Pond Steering Committee said Tuesday it has begun a program that will result in a preferred course of action to address silt build-up in Bend’s iconic Mirror Pond, with the goal of a recommendation by late spring.

“The process takes into consideration current public values for the pond, past studies, identification of regulatory requirements associated with each action, and rough cost estimates to inform a recommendation for both immediate and long-term responses to the silt build-up,” the committee said.

“Many people have opinions and ideas about what to do or not to do around the build-up of silt in the pond,” said Don Horton, Park and Recreation District executive director.

“What was done years ago now requires additional regulatory steps and expense. Dredging still may be the best solution, but this body of work will allow us to explore several options and arrive at a solution that is both informed and achievable.”

Public input is crucial to this process. The first step in the three-phased project is to identify the key values that Bend citizens associate with the Mirror Pond.

Bend residents are asked to go to to complete a questionnaire on the characteristics of Mirror Pond that matter most to them.

In addition to the questionnaire, the Website provides information on the history of the silt build-up and its impact on the river and community.

For people who would prefer to hear background on the project or ask questions in person, two opportunities have been scheduled: Wednesday, February 6th and Tuesday, February 12th. Both meetings will be held at Bend Park and Recreation District office at 799 SW Columbia. The meeting (presentation) will begin at 6:30.

The second phase of the project will present detailed illustrations representing alternative actions.

Projected range of costs, possible regulatory requirements, and the strengths and weaknesses of each alternative action will be presented to the community for input through the website, public meetings, and public gatherings. It is anticipated that this phase of the project will begin in early April.

In the third and final phase, those actions most closely aligned with community values and interests will be presented to the Mirror Pond Management Board, a seventeen member citizen’s group appointed by the City Council, for consideration.

The Management Board’s recommendation will be presented to the community. It is anticipated that a decision will be made by late spring.

Survey seeks Mirror Pond solution

The way forward for Mirror Pond should be known by June.

On Wednesday, members of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee discussed the launching of a public outreach process intended to determine what — if anything — should be done about the silt buildup that is slowly turning the pond into a mudflat.

In the interest of gathering public input, the committee has created a website including a questionnaire asking residents what they value about Mirror Pond, and has scheduled two public meetings early next month.

Under the schedule laid out by the committee, January and February will be spent using the survey results, meetings and other means to identify community feelings about Mirror Pond. March and April will be spent developing up to four possible courses of action, including cost estimates, that could preserve or enhance those things local residents enjoy about the pond at the heart of Bend. In May and June, a second round of public outreach will be held to develop a preferred plan.

Created with the construction of the Pacific Power and Light dam in 1910, Mirror Pond has been dredged to remove silt buildup once before, in 1984. The dredging cost $312,000, but more recent estimates have projected it would cost $2 million to $5 million to dredge the pond today.

Two factors somewhat out of the control of the committee and local government could stymie any plans that come out of the public outreach process.

The McKay family of Portland claims ownership of most of the land beneath Mirror Pond, property that was left over when Clyde McKay’s early Bend real estate company platted the lots west of the water. And, PacificCorp, successor to Pacific Power and Light, has not committed to operating the aging dam, which makes the pond possible in the first place, into the indefinite future.

Committee member Don Horton, director of the Bend Park & Recreation District, said the McKay family’s claim will need to be sorted out before any actual work can begin. For now, the McKays are insisting they be released from any liability in the event contaminants are found in the silt beneath the pond. Horton said it’s unlikely the silt is contaminated — nothing was found during the 1984 dredging, and there’s been no polluting industry upstream since — but the park district or the city needs to be cautious about assuming ownership or liability for the McKay holdings.

“It’s probably a low risk — but it is a risk,” he said.

Jim Figurski, the Mirror Pond project manager employed by the park district, said uncertainty surrounding the future of the dam will be a challenge for the committee. Whatever approach comes out of the public process — whether complete dredging, partial dredging or no dredging at all — Figurski said removing the dam would so alter the landscape that the public might demand a new approach.

Ryan Houston, executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and a committee member, said a preview of what Mirror Pond will eventually look like if the dam remains and nothing is done can be seen less than a mile upriver.

Upstream from the Colorado Avenue bridge, the stand of cattails and other aquatic plants near the spot where river floaters exit was once a dredged pond, Houston said, used by nearby timber mills to store logs awaiting processing. When the mills closed down and regular dredging ended, silt and vegetation reclaimed the area, he said.

“That’s Mirror Pond 30 years from now under the do-nothing scenario,” he said.

Figurski said that while the online questionnaire and accompanying outreach efforts won’t be a scientific poll of the community, he’s optimistic they’ll help the committee put together an accurate picture of what Bend residents want for one of the city’s most iconic features.

“You can do anything, its a matter of time, energy and money, and what you want to see at the end of that,” he said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Steering Committee Minutes 12-3-2012


Attendance: Bill Smith, Angela Jacobson, Don Horton, Jim Figurski, Mel Oberst, James Williams (the Source), Spencer Dahl (Old Bend Neighborhood)

  • Introductions
  • Update on project management:
    • Mel reported that the City does not perform sediment sampling in Mirror Pond
    • Mel also reported that the City Council would need to grant indemnification to property owners of Mirror Pond
    • Angela is researching what would happen to the dam if Pacific Power stops generation at the hydro facility
  • Jim reported on visioning/scenario selection in community outreach phase:
    • Cost estimates are $75K-95K
    • Jim is preparing scope of services for consultant RFP for community outreach
  • Next meeting will be a focus on the Community Visioning process

Adjourned @ 11:45PM

Document: MPSC-Minutes-2012-12-03

Steering Committee Minutes 11-13-2012


Attendance: Bill Smith, Angela Jacobson, Don Horton, Jim Figurski, Mel Oberst, Matt Shinderman, Joy Cooper, Bob Almquist, Mike Lovely, Spencer Dahl

  • Introductions
  • Discussed Mirror Pond Project Schedule, presented by Jim Figurski
    • Visioning process to look at alternative scenarios
    • Consultant role to develop visual images of Mirror Pond for alternatives
    • Identify permitting issues associated with each alternative
    • Need property owner outreach component under scoping
    • Explore permitting process
    • Initiate permitting process

Adjourned @ 12:00PM

Document: MPSC-Minutes-2012-11-13

Steering Committee Minutes 9-18-2012


Attendance: Bill Smith, Angela Jacobson, Don Horton, Mel Oberst, Matt Shinderman, Joy Cooper (student intern), Hilary B (media)

  • Discussed the possibility of hiring a special project manager to do permitting for Mirror Pond, to be paid by Bend Parks and Rec District
    • Went over the potential scope of work for the manager
  • Continued discussion of the financial commitment by City and Bend Parks and Rec District
    • If a project manager were hired, the other funds previously committed could be expended on professional services
  • The District could assist in the public process to keep cost down
  • Matt has access to a University of Oregon architectural graduate student who could help with the planning process and design work
  • Matt spoke with Bend 2030 Management Board about collaborating with OSU Cascades to run public outreach process, will pursue this topic further
  • Continued the discussion on a special district option

Adjourned @ 1:00PM

Document: MPSC-Minutes-2012-09-18

Steering Committee Minutes 8-6-2012


Attendance: Bill Smith, Angela Jacobson, Bruce Ronning (BPRD), Mel Oberst, Greg Blackmore, Matt Shinderman, Joy Cooper (student intern), Dylan Darling, Bend Bulletin

Discussion of $200,000 Commitment by City and Bend Parks and Rec District

  • Talked about using funds for alternative analysis, permitting requirements and public outreach

Tom Atkins is a landscape architect who may be able to prepare conceptual drawings of potential MP solutions

  • Matt will contact Tom to discuss

Need protocols for decision-making

  • Convene Park Board, City Council and Mirror Pond Management Board (MPMB) in a work session to discuss MP solutions and visioning Conceptual drawings are needed prior to this discussion

Matt will engage the 2030 Management Board about community outreach
The committee needs to resolve the legal questions regarding ownership and permitting requirements

  • Bill will contact the McKays (owners)
  • Mel will work with Mary Winters (City attorney) on legal issues

Greg spoke regarding MP issues

  • Need to define purpose and need statement for permit process
  • Need a statement to discuss MP with the public
  • Full blown NEPA process costs $500,000, which was the cost projected by the earlier study

Steering Committee Minutes 6-4-2012


June 4, 2012
Awbrey Butte Conference Room
Bend City Hall
710 NW Wall Street, Bend

Attendance: Bill Smith, Angela Jacobson, Don Horton, Mel Oberst, Greg Blackmore

1. Update on Park District Bond Measure (Don Horton)

/District has held a series of open houses and an on-line web survey regarding the proposed bond measure. Open houses were fairly well attended and participants generally supported the bond measure. Approximately 500 on-line surveys were submitted, survey results were more mixed. Mirror Pond seemed to be the most polarizing project on the bond measure list. It is expected that the Park District Board will discuss the bond at the June 19 meeting and make a decision on whether (and how) to proceed at that meeting or in early July.

2. Information Regarding Meeting with State Agencies (Greg Blackmore)

/Meeting is scheduled for June 13 from 1-4. Meeting was initiated by ODFW and DSL, through discussions with Ryan Houston. The intent of the meeting is to begin dialogue with the policy/decision making bodies and ensure that the permitting agencies concerns are involved in the discussion early in the process. MPSC is open to discussion with agencies, but expressed concerns related to narrowly focused project review (myopic focus), a concern about project creep, and overly exhaustive study  requirements. Keeping the meeting on-task and contained to Mirror Pond will be important for a meaningful discussion. MPSC posed questions related to the minimum amount of study needed and the availability of funds from agencies to support their agency mission. MPSC directed staff to prepare the questions for the agencies review prior to the meeting.

3. Update on Sediment / Water Quality Research (Greg Blackmore)

/GB has been researching City data related to sediment and water quality and is preparing a memorandum that summarizes the data. BS indicated that sediment from the 1984 dredge in addition to subsequent Old Mill projects will document that the sediment is clean. It is anticipated that a report that combines 1984 dredge information, Old Mill study information, and City water quality and sediment evaluation will be necessary for the property owners and the responsible jurisdiction to enter into a shared liability agreement, or indemnification arrangement.

In addition to the indemnification/liability issue, BS expressed concerns related to the amount of study that agencies could require. It was discussed that at time of submittal, rather than ask the agencies what sort of sediment evaluation is necessary, that a thorough report, including a reasonable amount of sediment analysis be provided. In the event the permitting agencies request additional studies and assessments, an appeal to reasonable and adequate scientific assessment could be made.