Dam removal will change upper Mirror Pond

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Any discussion of removing the dam at Mirror Pond must address the impacts on the river above and below the pond. I would like to comment on the section of river above the pond, between the Colorado Dam and the Galveston Bridge.

The river above Mirror Pond is free flowing, but in response to the dam, the gradient is low and the river is wide with a gentle current. There are wetlands along the banks, and a wide expanse of shallow water adjacent to a deeper channel. If the dam were removed, the river would become narrower, deeper, and faster through this section. The wide gentle nature of this stretch of water is ideal for both wildlife and recreation. For water sports, the current is not too strong to paddle upstream, and the flow is slow enough for a leisurely float. The number of people floating this section can be over 1,000 per day. Beginner stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers are common.

A narrower and faster channel would decrease the total recreational opportunities. The area has a small island and wetlands supporting great biodiversity. There is a noticeable increase in fish population in this stretch, and the osprey, otter, herons and diving ducks do very well. I once watched an otter retrieve 10 crayfish in 10 dives in the shallows. There is a beaver lodge which has been continuously inhabited for decades. This section of the river has been enhanced by the Mirror Pond Dam, from the point of view of both the wildlife and many Bend residents. Allowing the river to cut down to a faster, narrower channel would see a net loss. Here some photos of this piece of the river; Photos link

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Fallen tree poses challenge

Floaters drift around a fallen willow tree on the Deschutes River on Tuesday afternoon just upriver from the Galveston Street bridge. Photo: Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

When the massive willow tree on Northwest Riverfront Street crashed into the Deschutes River on Tuesday afternoon, it put a lot of people in a tough situation.

“We’re going to have to use some ingenuity and problem-solving skills to figure it out,” Wade Fagen, a tree specialist with Fagen Tree Service and Wood Chips, said. “The tree is in the most impossible spot I’ve ever found a tree in.”

The tree, until its roots gave way, stood on the east bank of the Deschutes. Now it blocks half the river and is proving a challenge to even seasoned tree removal professionals. With the diameter of the trunk measuring about 4 feet, and the fence gate it must go through only 36 inches wide, Fagen is having to find a way to make the impossible possible. Even if the tree could fit through the gate, the crane that would be needed to lift the tree over nearby houses would be too heavy for the driveway concrete.

“The size of crane that we’d need would probably crush the driveway,” Fagen said.

At this point, Fagen said, the most feasible option would be to cut the tree into pieces that can be floated downstream under the Galveston Avenue bridge. Crews would then use a crane stationed on the bridge to lift the pieces out of the water. This would most likely close a traffic lane, Fagen said.

He is working with homeowners and city officials to secure the job, and schedule a time for it. Fagen said his crews will try to work at night or in the early morning to avoid creating traffic congestion on the bridge.

Fagen said the removal project will cost less than $10,000. The owners of the property where the tree stood on Riverfront Street will most likely end up footing the bill, he said. The tree stood on a line between two properties.

“It’s going to be a very huge, tricky job,” said Pam Stevenson, one of the property owners. “It’s an unusual situation. You have this enormous tree sitting in a high-use area of the river.”

Stevenson spent much of Wednesday talking to tree specialists, city officials, insurance companies and Bend Park & Recreation District officials. She said her biggest concern is the danger the fallen tree poses to river floaters and rafters.

On hot, sunny summer days, Stevenson has counted as many as 500 floaters an hour drifting by in the stretch of river that is now partially blocked.

“Most people in rafts would have enough common sense to stay away from the tree,” Fagen said. “But all it takes is one person who can cause problems for everyone else.”

Stevenson said her insurance company informed her Wednesday that it would cover only $500 of her share of the removal costs.

“We’re trying to figure out now how to pay for it,” Stevenson said. “We hope to get some help with it.”

Marybeth Stewart, the owner of the neighboring property that the tree stood on, is in the same situation. After a meeting with city officials and Fagen late Wednesday afternoon, she said she is unsure when the tree will be removed. She wants to get several quotes from tree removal specialists, and is hoping the city will chip in for at least some of the costs.

The tree graced the banks of the Deschutes for about 50 years. Its fall was caused by rot, which took hold after the tree was scarred at some point, Fagen said.

Stevenson is holding a memorial service at 7 p.m. today by the tree, in which community members can honor the fallen giant and take cuttings of it.

“Everyone loved the tree, and it loved everyone back,” Stevenson said. “It had a wonderful life.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Landmark Bend willow falls

Neighborhood residents and a Bend police officer look over damage that occurred Tuesday afternoon when a large willow tree tumbled into the Deschutes River off Northwest Riverfront Street upriver from the Galveston Street bridge. Photo by Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

A prominent willow tree along the Deschutes River in Bend tumbled into the water Tuesday.

“It’s a terrible, sad thing,” said Ellen Waterston, who lives across the river from where the tree fell. “She was just the mother of this river.”

The willow stood on the east bank of the Deschutes, behind homes on Northwest Riverfront Street. People floating the river regularly would grab onto its branches and roots as they drifted past, said Waterston, a poet and author.

“It was just an absolutely beautiful, enormous willow,” she said.

The downed tree blocked nearly half of the river just upstream of the Galveston Avenue bridge. The willow was a Bend icon of sorts, said Pam Stevenson, 50, who owns part of the land where the tree once stood.

“I can’t tell you how many thousands of people enjoyed floating under it and enjoyed relaxing in the shade of the tree,” she said.

Over the last two summers, the willow was also the sight for small concerts Stevenson said she hosted in her backyard, often as fundraisers.

Stevenson said she wasn’t sure what caused the tree to fall around 3:30 p.m. “It ripped out at the roots and fell into the river.”

Waterson and Stevenson both said they didn’t see the tree fall, but did hear the crash and splash.

“(I) came out and there it was, in the river,” said Stevenson, who has lived along the river for 12 years.

She had named the tree after her dog Popcorn, a corgi and and Jack Russell mix that died at age 15 in 2000 and was buried under the tree.

A wooden sign on the tree marked it as “Popcorn’s Willow” and gave warning earlier this summer that the tree was starting to swoon. Stevenson said the once-level sign showed a definite slant.

Hoping to halt its droop, Wade Fagen, a tree specialist with Fagen Tree Service and Wood Chips, said he planned to trim the willow branches this winter when it would be dormant.

After examining the fallen tree Tuesday afternoon, Fagen said the tree appeared to have been scarred at some point, which caused it to rot.

“The roots are all rotten,” he said.

The tree appeared to be about 50 years old, but Fagen said he won’t know for sure until he cuts into it.

Stevenson said she planned to discuss with Fagen how to remove the tree. Fagen said doing so could be a challenge. Removing the tree may require floating it down the river.

Before that happens, Pam Hardy, 44, a friend of Stevenson, said they plan to take cuttings from the willow and use them to plant new trees along the river — including one in the spot where Popcorn’s Willow used to stand.

“This tree will live on,” she said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

River likely to be crowded

With temperatures expected to be around 90 today and edging to within sight of triple digits on Sunday, crowds likely will be flocking to lakes and rivers around Central Oregon looking for a chance to cool off.

Although high-profile, recreational drownings have been rare, a handful of floaters, swimmers and boaters are killed every year in Central Oregon waters. Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said most accidents on the water are avoidable.

For river floaters, Kettering advises people to steer clear of cheap flotation devices.

“No pool toys,” she said. “Pool toys such as the flimsy air mattresses and the things people get out there on that are designed for still water like a swimming pool as opposed to a river with rocks and limbs and other things that could puncture it.”

River users need to know where they’re going before they get into the water. Kettering said nearly every year, the fire department encounters a river floater who put in at Meadow Camp planning to float in to Bend, unaware of the sizable rapids they would encounter. Floaters or boaters should scout their route by land before launching.

Even on well-traveled routes like the Deschutes River float through Bend’s Old Mill District, Kettering said people need to remain aware of their surroundings. Despite an abundance of warning signs advising floaters where to exit the river, nearly every year a few people end up going through the Colorado Dam spillway, Kettering said. Floaters went though the spillway at least twice last year, and in 2006, a woman was pulled though the spillway and killed.

Alcohol is a common factor in water accidents, Kettering said, and should be avoided by anyone planning on boating or floating.

While not legally required for most river floating, Kettering said a life jacket is still a good idea. Inflatables such as inner tubes that are bound together are considered boats under state law, she said, and users are required to carry one life jacket for every person aboard — the same rule that applies to canoes, ski boats, fishing boats and other craft. Children 12 and younger are required to wear a life jacket while on a boat.

“Whether you’re a good swimmer or a poor swimmer or somewhere in between, anybody can get in trouble out there on the water, and a life jacket can be the difference between making it out and not,” she said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Local Fleet Increases

Boaters paddle Mirror Pond in Bend circa 1910. Courtesy Des Chutes Historical Museum
Boaters paddle Mirror Pond in Bend. July, 1910.  Courtesy Des Chutes Historical Museum

local-fleet-increasesSaturday last witnessed the launching of Herbert Allen’s new craft, the “Elf,” upon the waters of the Deschutes. Charles Stanborrough built the “goodly vessel,” which is a clinker-built row boat 16 ft. in length, of beautiful design and workmanship. Despite the protests of interested friends no ceremony accompanied the launching, nor was any champagne or even near beer broken over the prow of the infant Dreadnaught as, sliding from the ways of the Stanborrough ship yard, she felt “a thrill of life along her keel.”

In the first days of this week two more boats have been added to the fast growing fleet on “Park Lake.” After a dusty cruise from Shaniko a row boat arrived for Mrs. Drake. Also a canoe, owned by J. T. Robinson and G. P. Putnam. Counting H.J. Overturf’s “Liza Jane,” formerly the property af A. F. Shireman, and “Cleopatra’s Barge,” as the work scow which has been at large on the pond since the completion of the dam is styled, the local fleet now numbers seven craft, not to mention several more which it is reported are under consideration.

Source: Bend Bulletin-1910-08-03