Pick a future for Mirror Pond

Engineering built Mirror Pond. Not nature. And now, Bend is trying to decide the pond’s future.

Mirror Pond has been Bend’s centerpiece since 1910. It is the source of so many memories — floating Christmas parades gliding across the water with twinkling lights, furious clashes of plastic ducks, and river floaters clambering out to float down the Deschutes again. Mirror Pond is one of the images Bend projects to the world.

Get close, though, and Mirror Pond is becoming Mirror Mudflat. Silt is building up because the river dawdles before the dam near Newport Avenue.

The options for the pond’s future are acutely different. Some want the dam taken out and the river restored to a more natural state. Others want to do what’s necessary to keep the pond.

There are complications. Where will the money to pay for any option come from? Dredging would need to be done again and again. The dam is old and owned by Pacific Power. And those are not the end of the complications.

On Tuesday, the Mirror Pond Steering Committee hosted the second of two public hearings on the pond. A crowd of at least 30 made the case for taking out the dam. At the previous hearing, the sentiment tilted toward keeping the pond.

It’s dangerous to conclude much from these two early public hearings. And it won’t be much easier to conclude anything from the responses to the committee’s online questionnaire, either. It’s not a poll that attempts to be a statistical sampling of opinion. Don Horton, the executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District, told us the purpose is to get as many people involved in the process as possible.

That’s admirable, of course, but the choice to use an online questionnaire rather than something more scientific will make it easier to criticize any decisions the committee makes.

After this phase of the questionnaire and public meetings, options will be developed with costs and funding. The strengths and weaknesses of each option will be presented. There will be more meetings. By June, the plan is to “create (a) preferred vision based on public response.”

The steering committee is the decision-making authority on this stage of the plan for the pond. If you have an opinion about the pond’s future, better let them know. Go to www.mirrorpondbend.com.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

New Mirror Pond attraction could be Bend’s gold mine

The city of Bend looks at the silting of Mirror Pond as a major problem. Bend needs to turn this around and discuss how it might be a gold mine. At some time in the near future, you will have to dredge the pond, as it is too valuable to not dredge or eliminate it. Here might be one solution:

Begin looking for an old gold dredge. The town of Mt. Vernon used to have one. Track it down or maybe purchase the one in Sumpter.

Maybe there are others out there, waiting to be sold and moved. Right now, with the price of gold where it is, these may be difficult to purchase at a cheap price. But find one! Move it and set it up on Mirror Pond.

Now you will need to be creative. Create at least two condos on the upper floor of the dredge. These condos could have an old-time flair and be available for rental. Make them quite high-end affairs, as they will be in a super prime location as they will slowly move as you dredge the material in the pond. On the roof you could put a dining area, perhaps not reaching the height of the Space Needle in Seattle or other unique locations, but no one else would have the Mirror Pond view that would look back into the city or the park. I realize this might be only a summer and early fall endeavor. Now think of the value of the home sites along the pond.

Maybe if this worked out you would add a barge, to be towed, with a number of condos sitting on the barge. This might be so successful that property taxes might start falling.

The gold dredge will not be a fast-moving enterprise, as it needs to complete Mirror Pond dredging every twenty years or so. So it would be a long-term project that would just continue and continue. It might just create enough activity that the geese are disrupted and take their business elsewhere.

Now the dredge material has to be dealt with, so again, get a little creative. Salt the pond with small gold nuggets, maybe purchased from Sumpter or some other gold area, or really go big and maybe Baker City might sell some of their gold nuggets or even rent them out. Put them on display to show what the condo renters might find. When you stay in the condo, you have to agree to take all metals that become part of the tailings, including the salted gold or any other strange metals. As the tailings come out of the dredge, separate the metal from the silt. Now dealing with the silt needs to be a moneymaker also. Here I am kind of shaky on ideas, maybe places with considerable wind erosion might purchase this silt, or make it part of the deal with Sumpter and it could go back to replace the damage of bygone years when they dredged for gold; or, we have many dry canyons around, fill one up and sell the filled area as land for development. Of course, you would need an environmental study to make sure no endangered species of rattlesnakes or scorpions would be involved.

I could see this now, all over social media of all kinds. Think of the additional tourists who might come to view this lasting impression of the frontier. You could have stagecoach rides to go along with the beer/bike rides to see the community. With deeper water, you might have water shows or even parades along Mirror Pond. Imagine Christmas lights reflected on the pond. What a sight!

— Bob Vancil lives in Redmond.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

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 mirrorpondbend.com — 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

Pick the future of Mirror Pond

Bend residents are taking the first steps to decide Mirror Pond’s future. Should the dam go? Should the pond be dredged? Should the community do nothing, or is there a better choice?

If you want to have a say in the process, now is the time to get involved. The steering committee for the pond has established a questionnaire to identify options to present to the community.

The questionnaire has been up only a short time at www.MirrorPond.info. There are already some 350 responses.

It’s not a scientific poll, but Don Horton, the executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District, says the purpose is to get as many people involved in the process as possible.

Public meetings are planned for February. Jim Figurski, the Mirror Pond project manager employed by the park district, is also going to be speaking to various community groups. In March and April, a consultant will come up with a series of options with cost estimates.

Then there will be another round of outreach to pick a preferred option. It should be chosen by June.

Paying for the chosen option is only one significant issue.

What is the future of the dam? Representatives from Pacific Power, the dam’s owner, have repeatedly said they want to find out what the community wants first before making decisions about its future. But what Pacific Power does with the hydroelectric dam is obviously fundamental to any choice. It doesn’t make any sense to spend millions dredging if Pacific Power wants to give up the dam.

There’s also the issue of the ownership of the land under the pond. About 90 percent of it belongs to the McKay family, whose ancestors shaped Bend’s development. The family wants liability protection if there is a dredging operation. That’s so they wouldn’t be forced to pay to clean up the dredged material, if it is found to be contaminated. It’s not clear how much that protection might cost.

Mirror Pond has been a central feature of Bend since 1910. Make your voice count and fill out the questionnaire.

Correction: The Mirror Pond Steering Committee’s website is at www.MirrorPondBend.com.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Stop studying and solve Mirror Pond’s problem already

It amazes me when we have two front-page headlines that point out a serious flaw in the leadership of the Bend Park & Recreation District leadership. In one headline, the park district proposes and appears to be well down the road toward purchasing the Mount Bachelor park and ride property, and in the other they can’t seem to find the money to clean up Mirror Pond.

Oh, really? I don’t live in the Bend park district, although I have a Bend address. I actually pay school taxes to Redmond. I am stuck in the same limbo as parts of the Juniper Ridge project. If I did, I would be down at their meetings regularly pointing out their shortcomings. The shortcomings are typical these days of government entities that see a bottomless pit in the pockets of the public they are supposed to serve.

The district has invested a lot of time in trying to figure out what to do to clean up Mirror Pond. How about quit studying, detail analyzing and meeting and just go remove the dirt and silt. Is that not the end result you seek, or are you folks just puttering around spending money for nothing?

Here is a plan for you. In the old days when the community needed work done on its streets and parks, the village would let it be known. They would let it be known that they needed folks to come out and work on a certain day and what tools they needed to provide to accomplish the work at hand. Folks would show up with buckets, rakes, horses, wagons, shovels, etc., and be organized and directed to useful tasks to accomplish what needed to be done. There was usually a picnic at the end of the day — also provided by the folks who took part, not the village. This was before we had a government agency for everything.

I think everyone in the community has at least one or two of those wonderful 5-gallon plastic buckets that paint and such come in around their house; if not you can buy them pretty cheap. Each one of those buckets holds about 2.5 cubic feet of dirt; 10.8 buckets is one cubic yard. If a thousand folks show up, you can offload nearly 100 cubic yards of material in short order. What if 3,000 folks showed up! Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Folks could take the dirt home and spread it in their flower beds and gardens. It has to be wonderful stuff; most likely better than the compost you have to pay money for.

I think the folks around here would support such an effort. Just a dent, I know, but you have to start somewhere. In a few short years the pond would be clean. It was pointed out to you last year the river drops every winter and the mud flats are exposed. Low river conditions are coming up pretty fast, so you better get the word out.

Just a pipe dream, I know. By the time the environmentalists, safety folks, ODOT, State Board of Land Use, the city manager, the City Council, health department, dog catcher and the county get in their 2 cents’ worth, it could never happen. More government to pick your pocket is not the answer. The park district needs to take care of what it has in inventory first and then worry about expansion.

— Robert Fouse lives in Bend.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Mirror Pond Plan

A recent Bulletin article quoted Ryan Houston as saying, “when we look at a project like Mirror Pond, we really try to put all of the crazy ideas on the table.” With that in mind, here’s a couple of mine.

Should it be dredged? Let it slowly revert to a wetland? Remove the dam and once again become a free-flowing river? My vote would be to remove the built-up silt and let it remain the visual centerpiece of Bend that it has been for 100 years.

Another question is how to pay for the improvements. Studies so far have pointed toward trying to get a government grant, which means tax dollars, which means dealing with Salem and Washington, D.C. It will be difficult enough working through the government permitting process even without taking their dollars. I would suggest organizing a pledge drive and raising the money locally. After all, the Bend community will benefit the most, residents and businesses alike.

A pledge drive would also quickly determine community support for the project. No money equals no support. It would be interesting to have someone Photoshop what the existing pond area would look like as a wetland and as a free-flowing river.

What about construction methods? All that has been suggested so far is to do a dredging project at a cost of up to $5 million? Why not ask some local earth-moving contractors if it would be feasible to drain the pond, as is done periodically, move in equipment to load up the material and truck it to a dump site. It might be cheaper and could put some locals to work. Temporary access roads could be left in place for a time and the removal done in stages as the money becomes available.

Dick Bryant

Source : The Bulletin ©2011

Reviving history

The heavy, antique dragline bucket that once worked the logponds along the Deschutes River has found a new home in Bend’s newest roundabout sculpture, titled “Ghost.” Photo: Andy Tullis / The Bulletin

In its prime, it was a workhorse: A multi-ton dragline bucket with fearsome foot-long spades for teeth and a gaping maw of a mouth.

A barge-bound crane would drop it into the log pond upriver from Bend’s two main lumber mills and drag it across the river bottom, scooping up yards of sediment at a time. It was also used to scoop bark and other debris out of the river. But when the mills closed, the dredge foundered, the heavy bucket left to rust.

Now, it’s a work of art, the centerpiece of Bend’s newest roundabout sculpture in the Old Mill District at the intersection of Bond Street and Wilson Avenue.

It’s a bucket reborn.

“We really wanted to bring it back to life,” said artist Andrew Wachs, who designed and built the sculpture with Erik Gerding and Andy Hall, all Bend residents.

“It’s beautiful, just so well designed,” said Wachs. “It has a lot of grace to it.”

The owner of a metal fabrication shop, Weld Design Studio, Wachs knows metal. The bucket, he says, is one-of-a-kind. He estimates it weighs several tons and likely took three weeks to build. Its craftsmanship is superb, from the rivets and reinforcing welds to the circular collar, hand forged from 3/4-inch thick steel. It is stamped with a manufacturer’s name, Baer, but not much more is known about its origin.

Wachs doesn’t necessarily have a thing for antique metalwork. In fact, most of his creative work is of a more modern bent.

The idea to revive the bucket belongs to Old Mill District developer Bill Smith, who is building the roundabout. The original plans called for landscaping the center of the roundabout, but once Wachs and his collaborators heard about it, they pitched an idea for a sculpture to Smith. Smith said yes.

It wasn’t Wachs first choice for a sculpture, but upon seeing the bucket for the first time — in what Wachs calls the “boneyard” Smith keeps next to the Les Schwab Amphitheater — he was smitten.

With the help of Gerding, who holds a masters degree in architecture, the two came up with a design to pay homage to the bucket’s past. Their sculpture would include a crane to simulate dredging and steel pilings to mimic floodwalls around a “dredged” area consisting of dry river rock.

Also of note is the crane arm, which is slightly tilted off its horizontal axis, as if straining to pull the bucket across the roundabout, not unlike a fisherman reeling in his catch.

In the sculpture, the bucket isn’t oriented the correct way, but its position implies a sense of movement that is crucial to the installation, said Wachs.

“There’s lots of motion and torque — tension — as it relates to all these objects,” Wachs said.

Another design element is the half-buried state of the crane house. It can be interpreted two ways, said the artists. The sculpture is either rising or subsiding. Rising, as with the Old Mill District’s transformation, or subsiding, as the past is lost to history.

If it doesn’t already sound like an instant classic, consider its location. From the Wilson Avenue entrance to the roundabout, the district’s iconic smokestacks are visible in the foreground and the Cascades in the background. It’s a spine-tingling sight — and a fitting nod to Bend’s heritage.

“This is definitely a site-specific piece,” said Wachs.

A word to would-be admirers: The roundabouts are off-limits to pedestrians.

The roundabout is tentatively scheduled to open today. The artists also plan to landscape the roundabout in the near future.

Source: The Bulletin ©2007

Dredge of Mirror Pond not funded

Rep. Greg Walden

WASHINGTON — Bend’s hopes for federal funding to quickly move forward with its plans to dredge Mirror Pond were dashed Thursday after the project wasn’t included in a U.S. House energy and water spending bill.

The House Appropriations Committee released a list of earmarks attached to the bill Thursday. The Senate version of the energy and water bill, passed in June, also did not include Mirror Pond funding.

It’s possible for earmarks to be added any time before the bill is passed, but that’s unlikely in this case, according to congressional aides. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, sought $490,000, which would have gone toward the planning and engineering work in preparation to dredge the pond of layers of built-up silt.

Without federal funding, Bend will have to delay its plans to remove built-up silt from the pond, said Bend City Councilor Jim Clinton.

“Had that been approved, then the city would’ve gone more quickly to do the dredging than it’s now able to do,” Clinton said. “Now, we have to backtrack a little bit because that was not forthcoming.”

The City Council has debated strategies to fix Mirror Pond for more than a year, since it became clear that sediment was building up in the downtown Bend pond. Sandbars dotted with trees and shrubs have popped up in places, as the water becomes shallower. Councilors last discussed a report drafted by a panel of water experts in Marchbut did not decide how to proceed.

Clinton said he thinks the city will next gather public input on how to prevent the pond from disappearing, ideally before the end of this year.

But before that happens, Bend needs to find money to fund the public process and start study work recommended by the city’s experts earlier this year, said Wendy Edde, a water resource specialist at the city of Bend. Clinton said any fix will run into the millions of dollars.

“At this point, the big hurdle is to find money,” Edde said.

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 the Newport bridge.

The city wants to partner with other agencies and groups that have an interest in the pond, Edde said. That could include irrigation districts that control the flow of water through the Deschutes, federal agencies and other groups, she said.

Sedimentation in the pond first became an issue in 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.

The city dredged Mirror Pond in 1984 at a cost of $1.5 million, much of which came from federal grants. At the time, the project engineer predicted that Mirror Pond would have to be dredged in another 20 years. Any solution, Clinton said, will likely be a mix of dredging, stream rehabilitation and other strategies to help prevent sediment from building up again.

“Scientifically, it’s pretty much understood what should be done,” Clinton said. “There’s the question of how and who is going to pay for it.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2007

Slow-moving Mirror Pond efforts still lack funding

Plans to partially dredge Mirror Pond and restore its banks are moving too slowly for some Bend city councilors, and funding to even continue planning such a project is still up in the air.

The council heard a summary at a meeting last week of the Mirror Pond committee’s work over the last year, including a recommendation that the pond would be best served through both dredging and restoration efforts.

The committee found that a strategy combining partial dredging of Mirror Pond with restoration of some of the banks would be the most sound option. Such a course would slow the buildup of sediment and improve how the river flows through the area while preserving the appearance of the pond.

But the process is still moving too slowly for some people.

“What I’m hearing is pretty much what I heard the first time,” Councilor Chris Telfer said March 5 in reference to a Mirror Pond update the council received in August. “I’m a little disappointed in that we’re still dealing with the same issues.”

Telfer and Councilor Bill Friedman agreed that the committee had appeared to make little progress in resolving how to involve landowners along Mirror Pond and what should be done about the deteriorating dam. While the nearly 100-year-old Pacific Power & Light Dam is still owned by another company, any changes made to the dam in the future would also affect Mirror Pond.

“We can argue about which way to go down this path, but it’s a non-starter to just go down there with trucks and start scooping it out,” Councilor Jim Clinton said in response.

Clinton has headed up a committee that spent about six months last year reviewing the state of the pond and coming up with recommendations.

The emphasis for the committee was establishing a strong scientific understanding of why Mirror Pond is silting up so that an eventual project would be more sensible than just dredging it again, Clinton said.

The last time Mirror Pond was dredged, in 1984, the city removed 84,000 cubic yards of silt, as much as 7 feet in some parts of the pond. That project cost about $1.5 million at the time, of which the city chipped in about $312,000.

Much of the silt comes from the fact that the federal government heavily regulates the release of water from Wickiup Reservoir, about 40 miles upstream. The Deschutes River would maintain a relatively constant flow all year if it were not dammed, hydrologists contend. But the releases from the dam vary between a relatively low 30 cubic feet per second in the winter and 1,700 cubic feet per second during peak irrigation times. That extra flow means that river banks below the reservoir are eroding faster than they naturally would, adding a greater amount of sediment to the river, the committee said in its report.

But now Mirror Pond is reaching a state of equilibrium, as sediment has built up in many places and the river itself has carved a deeper, narrow channel for itself through the pond up to the old Pacific Power & Light dam.

Because of that, the committee estimated that it would be another five to 10 years before the pond accumulated so much silt that it turned into a mud flat or wetlands.

The next step is for the city to hire consultants to conduct public meetings and gather information on what Bend residents would like to see done with Mirror Pond. But that, too, has no clear timetable. City staff may come back to City Council in the coming months to request money to start that process.

Last month, the city filed a formal request with Oregon’s congressional delegation for $490,000 in federal money to help with the project. That is substantially less than the $2 million the city requested last year, but did not receive. This year’s appropriation, if approved, would fund only the first phase of the project, which would include generating detailed plans for restoring Mirror Pond. Future funding would be needed to actually work on the pond.

“It’s something that we’re definitely moving forward on, but it’s not the only thing I’m working on by any means,” said Wendy Edde, a city water specialist. “There’s urgency, but we’re not panicking.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2007

Dredge the pond

Thank you for the update on dredging Mirror Pond. I would like to invite the group who is reviewing the status to come kayaking and see the exact situation up close. To see the islands of goose turds is absolutely disgusting.

This summer, I was kayaking on Mirror Pond when I decided to get out of my boat to remove a chair that someone had tossed into a very shallow part of the pond, right off the park.

To my surprise, I was sucked into the muck and absolutely could not get out. It came up to my stomach and I just sunk right in. My husband had to come help pry me out. Later, I had another friend who flipped his kayak and it took two people to help pull him back out.

I think if they had this firsthand experience, they might see the real hazard of the situation. I cannot even believe we have people swimming and floating in it. How long before we lose a kid because they can’t get out of it?

Source: The Bulletin ©2006