Dredge the pond

When the dam broke and drained Mirror Pond, we all looked at the dry riverbed. The pond drained and the solution appeared. Dry dredge Mirror Pond. Drain it, dredge it dry and then fix the dam. Dry dredge is cheap, easy and fast. We were thinking we could only wet dredge, which is expensive and takes lots of time. I say this winter, we drain Mirror Pond, do the dry dredge and then fill it back up in the summer.

Charles Baer

Preserve Mirror Pond

Thank you, Bruce Brothers, for your article of July 10 in The Bulletin regarding the Bend Park & Recreation District’s ideas for our beloved Mirror Pond. This idea of tall reeds and wetlands in our downtown park is so out of place. Instead of “Mirror Pond” they would call it “Mirror Mudflats.”

I answered the survey online with my thoughts, to dredge it and keep it the way it has been for years and years, and for years to come! When the lumber companies were in business, they dredged it when needed. It has been neglected for 30 years, so of course it needs attention. There shouldn’t be any discussion to do anything except dredge it.

The Bend Park & Recreation District has the money to dredge it, so there is no need to put another tax on property owners. This atrocity to even suggest that we turn this scenic downtown jewel into mudflats is absurd. The voters of Bend should make the decision in regard to Mirror Pond. Too many of our rights are being stripped away. I hope you agree with Bruce Brothers and many others, so we can keep our Mirror Pond and Drake Park as the icon of Bend.

Some things we just don’t tread on, and our Mirror Pond is one of them!

Judy Thorgeirsson

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond future depends on dam

Bend city councilors and park board members voted unanimously on Tuesday to form a new committee that will select a final plan for the future of Mirror Pond.

They also viewed the results of a recent community survey on four options for the pond.

But officials said before they can reach a decision they need to know Pacific Power’s plans for the Newport Avenue Dam, which created the pond.

“Certainly we should move forward and form a committee,” City Councilor Sally Russell said.

“But for me, in reading all the information provided to us and in preparing for this committee … I think it’s time to get Pacific Power at the table, and I think it’s time to understand what the future is of that dam, because I don’t see this community being able to make a financially responsible decision about the future of Mirror Pond before we understand what the constraints are around that dam,” Russell said.

Officials are discussing how to manage Mirror Pond because sediment is building up behind the dam and creating mudflats. Unless the community takes action, wetlands will develop and the state will begin regulating any activity that disrupts that habitat, Project Manager Jim Figurski said Tuesday.

“I think it’s time to bring in the governor’s office, our senators, Pacific Power, and really get some direction here,” Russell said. “It’s time to be clear and have them put their cards on the table, because they’ve been holding them close.”

City Councilor Mark Capell agreed. Capell said he appreciates that the power company does not want to make the decision for the community.

“That’s really nice of them,” Capell said. “But let’s get down to reality, which is what’s the business decision?”

Pacific Power representatives have repeatedly said they will continue to operate the hydropower plant at the dam as long as it makes financial sense for their customers, and they do not have a specific end date for the project. Angela Jacobson Price, regional community manager for Pacific Power, reiterated the position on Monday in response to questions from local officials. Price is a member of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which has provided oversight during the process to develop options for the future of the body of water.

The owner of the dam — whether it is Pacific Power or another owner in the future — is responsible for maintaining the structure and, if it decides to remove it, for the cost to take it out and mitigate impacts to the river.

The new Mirror Pond committee will have up to nine members, including park board members Scott Wallace and Ted Schoenborn, parks Executive Director Don Horton, Bend Community Development Director Mel Oberst, two city councilors and as many as three citizens. The City Council did not decide Tuesday which councilors will serve on the committee.

The community survey data that Figurski presented at the joint meeting of the City Council and park board Tuesday did not show a clear preference among respondents for how local governments should manage Mirror Pond. The questionnaire asked people to rate several options, including dredging sediment from the pond, doing nothing and rerouting the river channel and removing the dam.

More than 1,200 people participated in the survey and when they were asked to rank the four options, 41 percent said their favorite option would be to dredge Mirror Pond and leave the dam in place, according to results provided by the park district. However, 36 percent said they would prefer to realign the river and remove the dam. The survey was not scientific, because people opted in by going online to fill it out.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond decision depends on the dam

Central Oregon abounds in pristine river scenes, where water follows natural paths edged by marshy areas and riparian shrubbery.

In downtown Bend, though, for decades we’ve had something else: an urban pond, a landscaped place, partly lined with retaining walls and walkways.

We’d like to keep it.

It’s not that we don’t value the natural, but we like the urban landscape as well. Bend ought to be able to have both, and Mirror Pond is our special exception. Some who share our view have called it the city’s crown jewel.

We’ve argued for dredging, even if it’s expensive, even if it has to be done again in 20 years. We’ve argued that people would likely be willing to pay for it if given a straightforward choice. Without a vote, or at least a scientific survey, though, we can’t be sure that’s true.

Instead the Mirror Pond Steering Committee launched the current series of meetings and questionnaires and consultant’s renderings. Lots of opinions have been expressed, but we still have no idea what the majority in Bend wants and would support.

Meanwhile, the process focused attention on a critical factor: The dam that created the pond a century ago isn’t a sure thing going forward.

Pacific Power owns the dam, and although there appear to be no plans to remove it in the short-term, there’s no assurance of its long-term survival. It’s entirely possible it won’t make business sense for the company to preserve it at some point.

We can’t argue for spending millions dredging the pond unless we know the dam will be there long enough to justify it. That’s where the focus of attention should be, not on alternatives that turn Mirror Pond into one more natural river scene.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Option B1: Dredging similar to 1984

Option B1: Dredging similar to 1984 dredging. Concrete and stone walls adjacent to public parks are replaced with a more natural edge. Wetland plants have developed along the river’s edge.

Option B1

General Description: Mirror Pond is dredge similar to 1984 dredging. The existing concrete and stone walls adjacent to public parks have been removed and a more natural edge has been planted. After 30 years, emergent wetland zones have been developed along the river’s edge and accumulation of sediment continues during that 30 years. Mirror Pond is once again at full capacity of sediment storage and dredging Mirror Pond again will be required.

  • Cost: Estimated at $5.7 million to dredge and remove 60,000 cubic yards of sediment and replace concrete and stone walls.
  • Permitting: Requires Federal, State, and City permits that are likely to require addressing release of silt downstream.
  • Habitat: Dredging may need to be repeated every 30 years.
    • Other maintenance activities focused on plantings and habitat at edge of pond.
  • Recreation: Fishing, floating, boating, swimming, bird and animal watching.

Option B1 - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option C1: Sediment Re-use on Site

Option C1: moves and stabilizes existing sediments on site to create new lawn areas next to public park lands with a natural wetland edge conditions.

Option C1

General Description: Mirror Pond is partially dredged and the removed sediment is re-used on site. The dredged sediment is used to create new lawn areas next to public park lands and a natural edge conditions of riparian shrubs. Thirty years from now, the emergent zonea and riparian shrub zones are fully mature. Mirror Pond is once again at full sediment capacity.

  • Cost: Estimated at $3.5 million to move sediment on site and create new wetlands and grassy uplands adjacent to Drake, Harmon, and Brooks parks.
  • Permitting: Requires Federal, State, and City permits.
  • Habitat: emergent plants at water’s edge- schub/scrub plants higher up. Deep waters temporaily improve water quality favoring trout and cool water species.
  • Recreation: Fishing, floating, boating, swimming, bird and animal watching.

Option C1 - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Mirror Pond’s future still uncertain

Mirror Pond project manager Jim Figurski said Monday it is taking longer than expected for a consultant to produce images of how the pond would look in the future under different management scenarios, but he expects they will be ready next week.

Sediment is accumulating into mudflats behind Pacificorp’s Newport Avenue Dam, which created Mirror Pond on the Deschutes River. Local officials have discussed possible solutions for years.

Figurksi also met with officials behind closed doors Monday to update them on research into ownership of the land beneath Mirror Pond. Outside of that meeting, Figurski said he has seen documentation of who owns land under the pond, but did not identify the owner. Government agencies need permission from any landowners before they dredge the pond and Figurski said officials will probably keep the identity of the property owner secret until negotiations are complete.

Figurksi, an employee of the Bend Park & Recreation District, presented the information to the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which includes representatives of the city and park district, a private developer, PacifiCorp and the civic group Bend 2030. Figurski said he had already given preliminary feedback on images of the pond to consultant GreenWorks.

GreenWorks developed aerial views of how Mirror Pond would look in the future under each scenario, plus views of the pond from a point in downtown Bend and from the Galveston Avenue bridge. There will also be a questionnaire to gauge residents’ opinions of the four options, although Figurski did not present that list of questions Monday. Figurski will present information about the four alternatives at public meetings, which are listed on the website mirrorpondbend.com. Images of the alternatives for the pond will also be posted on the website.

The first scenario under consideration is to make no changes to the Deschutes River and allow mud flats to continue developing in Mirror Pond.

A second option is to dredge the pond and remove sediment but leave the dam in place, costing an estimated $3.5 million. Even under this scenario, the riverbank would look different at Drake Park. The park district plans to remove existing walls along the river, “because the existing stone and concrete wall is failing and it was never really constructed carefully,” Figurski said. A more natural bank line, Figurski said, would benefit the habitat and environment.

A third scenario calls for the city or park district to dredge sediment from the river and deposit most of it nearby, to build out the riverbank. This would cost an estimated $5.6 million, according to the presentation.

Under the fourth option, at an estimated cost of $10.9 million, PacifiCorp would remove the Newport Avenue Dam, and local agencies would alter the river channel to keep water flowing past private homes on the north side of Mirror Pond and prevent riparian vegetation from growing thick and blocking their views, Figurski said.

As for the ownership of the pond, Figurski said government agencies would have to order a title search before entering negotiations with any property owner, but the results probably would “not be public until after the transactions were made.”

“It’s not a public matter, it’s a private matter,” Figurski said of the property negotiations.

The McKay family, whose ancestors were early landowners in Bend, claims ownership of most of the land under the pond, although no one has produced documents publicly to substantiate this. There is no evidence in the Deschutes County Assessor’s records that the McKay family owns or pays taxes on land under the Deschutes River.

Figurski said the title information he examined was commissioned by Bill Smith, a member of the steering committee who is also the developer of the Old Mill District. Figurski would not say which title company provided the information.

Related: Who owns Mirror Pond?

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond should be preserved

Mirror Pond should be preserved as an icon of Bend. This can be achieved by the city of Bend purchasing the dam owned by a private utility, with the revenue thus derived from power generation committed to dredging of Mirror Pond as needed. Bend wouldn’t be the same without Mirror Pond.

Robert Cobb

Mirror Pond future down to 4 options

The group responsible for finding a solution to silt buildup in Mirror Pond has settled on four options, and is expected to be ready to present the public with a look at the possibilities early next month.

Tuesday, the Mirror Pond Management Board picked its four options from a list of eight developed by GreenWorks, a Portland-based landscape architecture firm that has been studying the situation the last several months.

The options include doing nothing, allowing the pond to continue filling with silt but potentially damaging views, water quality and recreational opportunities. A dredging-heavy option similar to the dredging performed in 1984 is also on the list, as is a partial dredging, in which much of the sediment dredged up would be left on-site to create new areas of dry land.

The final option calls for the removal of the Newport Avenue Dam — a choice which would require the cooperation of PacifiCorp, the dam’s owner — and some in-stream work to manage existing sediment and possibly develop a fixed river channel.

Jim Figurski, a consultant working with the Bend Park & Recreation District to oversee the operations of the management board and the public outreach process, said he hopes to have detailed illustrations of what each of the alternatives might look like and rough cost estimates ready in time public open houses planned for June.

Though detailed cost estimates are still a few weeks out, GreenWorks offered management board some idea what it might cost to dredge and remove silt from the pond, placing the price at between $30 and $50 per cubic yard. The estimate, Figurski said, reflects the cost of vacuuming silt off the bottom, pumping it to a nearby location where the silt can be spread out and dried, and disposing of it.

At the estimated price, it would cost between $1.8 million and $3 million to duplicate the 1984 dredging of 60,000 cubic yards of silt, which was done for $312,000.

The pond is currently estimated to contain 380,000 cubic yards of silt, up from the 350,000 cubic yards estimated to be on the bottom prior to the 1984 dredging.

Figurski said dredging all of the sediment from Mirror Pond was never really on the table. As GreenWorks begins filling in the details of the dredging-oriented options, their goal will be to find the “sweet spot,” Figurski said, how much sediment would need to be removed from where in the pond to put off additional dredging as long as possible.

Ryan Houston, director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and a member of the management board, said figuring out how much to dredge — if dredging is to be the solution — is a tricky proposition.

The more sediment you dredge from a river, the slower the water will move, Houston said, and the slower the water moves, the more sediment falls out of suspension and begins piling up on the bottom.

“Taking out twice as much sediment will not necessarily get you twice as much time,” Houston said.

The partial sediment removal option would use sediment dredged from the bottom to create shallows or dry land, Figurski said, most likely around the islands in the upper part of Mirror Pond or on the western Harmon Park side. Doing so should not alter the views enjoyed by any of the private property owners along the edge of the pond, he said.

However, the material — characterized as “goo” in the GreenWorks reports — would not stay in place without reinforcement, Figurski said. The option would likely involve bringing in large rocks to stabilize the artificial banks and hold the dredged material in place.

“It would be as natural looking as we could make it,” he said. “There’s no need for it to be a concrete-lined channel.

Houston said he finds the partial removal option intriguing, as the wetlands it could create could help neutralize contaminants that are currently being emptied into the bond through a series of storm drains.

Spencer Dahl, a management board member representing the Old Bend Neighborhood Association, voted against moving forward with the four options.

Dahl said aside from the do nothing option, none of the alternatives met the group’s goal of finding a fix with limited long-term maintenance costs.

The dam removal with channel building option is more of a “canal building project,” Dahl said, recalling the strong support for a free-flowing river expressed in surveys conducted by the management board and his neighborhood association.

“There was a large number of people who wanted the river returned to a more natural state,” Dahl said. “For those guys, the river rats and old hippies, for those guys when you take out the dam only to replace it with a mile-long man-made canal, it kind of defeats the purpose of going natural.”

Figurski said its difficult to know what might happen if the dam were removed, whether that’s through the dam removal alternative on the management board’s list, or as a result of future action by PacifiCorp.

Aerial photos show the river has established a channel that has remained reasonably consistent over the last several years, he said, but it’s unclear if an un-dammed river would erode its way down to the underlying bedrock, or where that bedrock is.

Depending on the course chosen by an un-dammed river, it could be desirable to remove sediment currently on the bottom of the pond, or to create an artificial channel unlikely to change significantly over the longer term, Figurski said.

Each of the three options beyond the “do nothing” option are quite similar in terms of the regulatory hurdles that would need to be cleared to proceed, Figurski said.

Dahl said without greater certainty from PacifiCorp on what it plans for the dam are, both dredging options are premature.

“If we’re going to bank on it being there and spend millions of dollars to dredge or designer dredge, we need some kind of guarantee that it’s going to be there,” he said.

Houston said none of the alternatives selected by him and his fellow board members were particularly surprising, and that the board could well have arrived at the same four choices months ago before the public outreach process began. However, board’s consideration and rejection of other options — one of the final eight possibilities called for dam removal with no sediment management, another for the partial removal of the dam and the construction of stepped water terraces — should streamline the process from here forward, Houston said.

“The fact they were uncovered, they were brought to the surface, that at least means the probability of these coming up at the 11th hour and throwing a wrench in to the process, I think that probability is less,” he said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013