Future Management

Introduction. For a few years many of us thought the proposal to dredge Mirror Pond was going nowhere. That changed dramatically a few months ago when public access was gained to the ad hoc Funding Strategy Committee .

The public was presented with a proposal to fund a dredging plan for Mirror Pond via a franchise fee increase on Pacific Power. The plan for dredging was considered a closed issue not subject to further debate.

I offered my initial reactions to this in a Guest Column in the Bulletin


and in a letter to the editor in The Source(Dec 19th)


In this communication I will expand on my arguments that the public should not fund Mirror Pond dredging.

At a fundamental level, public funding should require public support. Is public support justified for the current dredging proposal? I’ve used three approaches to answer the question.

1) A first approach is to consider investment opportunities within the City or within the Deschutes River.

What on this list would get your vote for a > $6.7M investment?


  • Transportation
  • Affordable Housing
  • Urban renewal
  • Emergency Services
  • Sewer  hookups
  • Road repairs
  • Growth management issues


  • Habitat restoration
  • Flow restoration Upper Deschutes
  • Fish passage

First to the City options; this list is obviously incomplete. Of note however, at the City Council goal setting exercise on January 16, 2019  as well as in the formal 2017-2019 Council Goals & Objectives no mention whatsoever of dredging Mirror Pond made the various lists

The dredge proposal fails to make a list of the highest value City opportunities.

For the river options consider first that the dredging proposal yields limited benefits for only 1 mile of river for only 10-20 years. By comparison fish passage yields benefits for ~40 miles of river permanently. Restoration of instream flows yields benefits for ~45-90 miles of river again permanently. And as a bonus the latter two have significant returns on investment.

The dredge proposal fails to make the list of the highest value river investment opportunities.

2) A second method for evaluation is based on previously established community goals for management strategies of the pond. These were a product of the Mirror Pond Visioning Project. https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2015R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/73804

That was a robust multiyear joint effort by the City of Bend and Bend Parks and Rec. It followed on a decade of meetings, studies and debate over sedimentation, and what to do about it in Mirror Pond. The Vision identified community goals for management of Mirror Pond. They are useful as a measure of public support of the current dredging proposal.

  • Goal one: No New Taxes for the General Public.
  • Goal two: Reduce or eliminate need to dredge.
  • Goal three: Provide fish passage and enhance habitat.
  • Goal four: Enhance recreation.
  • Goal five: Maintain Mirror Pond.

Sparing the reader a detailed discussion for now, the scorecard for the current dredging proposal can be summarized using the graphic of the Vision Project. The dredging proposal earns an outright negative or a qualified negative for each goal.

Figure 1. Scoring the dredging proposal by community goals

Based on community goals, the dredging  and financing proposal does not merit public funding. Discussion of cost and benefits follow.

3) A third approach is to weigh costs versus benefits. It is independent of the community goals framework.

First the costs. They are more than the publicized $6.7M estimate when analyzed by standard economic techniques that consider immediate costs, costs in the future, usually 30-50 years for public works of this nature, and opportunity costs:

  • Direct line item cost $6.7M
  • Recurrent Dredge Costs ?
    • 2019 cost estimates = 900% increase from 1984!
  • Opportunity costs:  Add Millions of $
    • Other City projects
    • Environmental projects

Costs then should be weighed against benefits:

  • Time limited: 80% of dredged sediment will accumulate again within 10 years, based on experience after the 1984 dredge as well as hydrologists’ predictions. To illustrate the meaning of this, consider that the current proposal targets increasing depth of the pond by ~5 feet. If 80% refill occurs by ten years, then the net gain from the investment after ten years is ~ 1 foot only.
  • Improvement in view is debatable: We still have the same open expanse of water 34 years post 1984 dredge with views as “iconic” as ever – see photos     below. What will dredging add to views now?
  • What % of Bend residents benefit from this expense? Actual enjoyment of dredging benefits (other than views), short lived as they are, will be a reality for only a small percent of Bend residents or visitors, e.g. west bank homeowners or kayakers.
  • The “stinking mud” fallacy. The proponents of the current proposal have frequently referred to relief from “stinking mud flats” or the “stinking pile of mud” as an indication for dredging. The mud story is entirely erroneous reasoning, as the bottom of the pond has only been exposed when the pool level has been infrequently dropped by Pacific Power dam operations for a few days or weeks over recent years. Not only is that not characteristic of the pond under normal current circumstances, dredging will only make a difference at best for a few years until sedimentation again reduces water depth.

Given the high costs relative to very skimpy benefits, the cost/benefit analysis again argues against public funding of the Dredge.

In conclusion, the current proposal to dredge Mirror Pond with financing through a Pacific Power franchise fee does not merit public funding based on any of three methods used to answer the question:

1) by the principle that public monies should be used for the best and highest value investment opportunities.

2) scoring against community goals

3) a basic cost/benefit analysis

It seems remarkable, even irresponsible, for the ad hoc Funding Strategy Committee and subsequent City Council and Bend Parks and Rec board to tell the public that this proposal should be acted upon and to boot with urgency. And the proposal on the table is for TaylorNW, one of the architects of the plan, to get an unbid contract for the dredging!

How did politics highjack science and prior public process conclusions, and proceed as if the public has no vote at this time?

It seems clear that the current proposal to dredge Mirror Pond and finance via a franchise fee should not receive public funding. A return to a transparent open public process is called for.

Michael Tripp M.D.                                                     January 28, 2019

Bend Park district mulls funding for dredging Mirror Pond

District board supports franchise fee, rejects fee for rivergoers

Stephen Hamway | The Bulletin

Funding a plan to remove silt from Bend’s iconic Mirror Pond may be getting less murky.

During a meeting Tuesday evening, the Bend Park & Recreation District’s board of directors discussed options for funding the removal of sediment from the pond, starting with a list of 15 possible options and narrowing it down to three that the board would support.

In particular, the board supported letting the city of Bend charge Pacific Power and Light, the utility that manages Newport Avenue Dam at the edge of Mirror Pond, with a fee that could be passed down to ratepayers.

The board also expressed near-universal dismissal of a proposal, floated during a joint committee earlier this year, to charge people a small fee to use the Deschutes River.

“Philosophically, I wouldn’t want to charge people to use the river,” said Lauren Sprang, park board member.

Mirror Pond was last dredged in 1984, and the pond collects sediment from the Deschutes River and the Newport Avenue Dam. Last year, Mirror Pond Solutions, formed in 2013 by local businessmen Bill Smith and Todd Taylor, began organizing community fundraising efforts to fund efforts to remove silt from the pond, according to documents from the park district. However, those efforts raised only about $320,000 of the estimated $6.7 million required to remove the sediment. Because of that, the City Council and the park district are looking at ways to fund the rest.

Over the summer, a collection of park district board members, Bend city councilors and representatives from Mirror Pond Solutions met twice privately to come up with approaches to the funding.

The ideas were evaluated according to their legality, their ability to attract funding sources, how long each would take to pay for the project and their ability to pay for future dredging projects.

In addition to the fee charged to the utility, the board was open to seeking additional donations and having the city or park district contribute money from their respective general funds, though several board members were uncomfortable with pulling too much from the district’s general fund.

“Personally, I’m really reluctant to contribute general-­fund dollars,” said Nathan Hovekamp, park board member.

For the park district, the dredging is just a portion of a larger effort to improve Mirror Pond and preserve it for future generations. Horton said other projects include preserving crumbling river banks and connecting the area to the rest of the Deschutes River Trail, which the district estimates will cost an additional $6.5 million.

The board also opted to have two members join a public subcommittee, joining with several city councilors to move forward on a solution for dredging the pond.

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com


Mirror Pond dredging could cost Pacific Power customers, river floaters

Subcommittee will discuss options for raising $6.7 million

Julia Shumway @jmshumway | The Bulletin

A new City Council subcommittee will consider ways to pay for dredging Mirror Pond that could mean higher utility bills for Bend residents or fees for people floating the Deschutes River.

Six of Bend’s seven city councilors voted Wednesday to form a subcommittee to discuss paying to remove silt from the pond, and the Bend Park & Recreation District plans to vote Oct. 2 on whether it will do the same. It’s the latest movement in what’s been more than a yearlong effort from Mirror Pond Solutions, the private group that owns the land under the pond, to get the city, park district and Pacific Power and Light to help foot the $6.7 million bill to remove three decades worth of accumulated silt from the pond.

Mayor Casey Roats and city Councilors Bruce Abernethy and Bill Moseley will serve on the subcommittee, and they’ll look at 12 options. But they plan to most seriously discuss four options: charging Pacific Power a franchise fee that would be passed down to ratepayers, instituting a park user fee, having the city or park district contribute money from their general funds and seeking more private donations.

“My gut sense is it’s going to be some kind of a hybrid mix,” Abernethy said.

The new group’s meetings will be open to the public and press, unlike two meetings held this summer by several councilors, park board members, City Manager Eric King, park district Executive Director Don Horton and representatives from Mirror Pond Solutions. City legal staff said those discussions, which resulted in the list of funding options the new group will consider, could remain closed because no formal decisions or recommendations came from the meetings.

Every funding option should be discussed and vetted, Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said.

“We need to be smart about how we move through this financially with the city,” she said.

Two local businessmen — Old Mill District developer Bill Smith and Taylor Northwest construction company owner Todd Taylor — formed Mirror Pond Solutions a few years ago, after the family that had owned the land under the pond gave it to them. They had the permits required to start removing 75,000 cubic yards of silt from the pond this summer, but private donations have raised only about $320,000.

Mirror Pond Solutions has paid $434,000 for permits, but that total is not counted in the $6.7 million dredging estimate.

Other entities haven’t been eager to contribute. The city and park district have their own upcoming costly projects in the area: a $6.5 million park project to repair crumbling riverbanks and connect the Deschutes River Trail, and an estimated $11.5 million that the city will have to spend to replace or update 13 stormwater outfalls and stop debris from entering the pond through the city’s stormwater system.

City Councilor Barb Campbell, who opposed forming the subcommittee, said it doesn’t make sense for the city to pay for a project in a park when it has its own infrastructure projects to fund.

“We’re talking about spending city of Bend money dredging a pond that is in the middle of a park in a city that has a separate parks district,” Campbell said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com


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