Mirror Pond questionnaire doesn’t reveal public opinion

If more people fill out an unscientific questionnaire, does that make it mean more? Clearly not, which has been the problem from the start with the approach of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee.

Now officials are concerned that too few people are filling out the second questionnaire or coming to the latest round of meetings.

Project manager Jim Figurski said last week that if more people fill out the questionnaire, decision-makers will be more “comfortable” using the “information.”

If true, that’s unfortunate, because the “information” will be all but meaningless, no matter how many people participate.

Mirror Pond, the central feature of Bend’s downtown, is turning into a mud flat, gradually filling in since it was last dredged in 1984. After years of discussion about what to do, the steering committee was formed and spent January and February holding meetings and collecting responses to its first questionnaire, leading to its June presentation of alternatives and price tags. The new questionnaire asks for reactions to those alternatives, which include doing nothing, preserving the pond as it is, returning it to a natural river, and steps in between. The cutoff date for responses is July 12, and results are to be presented to a joint meeting of the Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District’s board on July 16.

We’ve argued for dredging to preserve Mirror Pond as it is, although such a decision does depend on resolving questions about the future of the nearby dam and ownership of the land beneath the pond.

Unscientific questionnaires or surveys can easily be influenced by organized groups or even loose coalitions on either side of an issue. They tell you nothing about what a majority thinks or wants or is willing to pay for. And yet the discussion about Mirror Pond has treated these limited bits of reaction as if they mean something about general public opinion.

It’s a dangerous approach, because it builds public policy on a phony foundation. Without at least a scientific survey, the public opinion portion of this project can be worse than meaningless, it can be false.

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

Steering Committee Minutes 5-6-2013

Attendance: Bill Smith, Angela Jacobson, Don Horton, Michelle Healy, Jim Figurski, Mel Oberst, Matt Shinderman

  • Update on project management:
    • Jim shared information regarding the next steps in the Visioning Process:
      • June 7th is the first public event
      • June 11/12 Website launch (possible) for Alternatives and Phase 2 Questionnaire
      • Public Outreach through month of June to early July
      • Preferred Alternative development July
      • Public Outreach for Preferred Alternative; late July – early August
    • The committee discussed the four Alternatives selected by the Management Board including the perspective views associated with each
      • It was agreed that for consistency at least one of the two required perspectives should be from a common point – the iconic view across Mirror Pond with the North Sister in the distance. The second perspective should be chosen to best illustrate the intent of that Alternative
  • The committee went into Executive Session to discuss real property issues
  • The direction (motion) from the executive session was to pursue a resolution to the real property issues.

Adjourned @ 12:15PM

Document : MIRROR POND SC notes 05-06-13


Future hazy for dam below Mirror Pond

Newport Avenue Dam, located on the Deschutes River, is under scrutiny as officials consider what should be done about the silt buildup in Mirror Pond.
Newport Avenue Dam, located on the Deschutes River, is under scrutiny as officials consider what should be done about the silt buildup in Mirror Pond.

The Newport Avenue Dam could be one significant repair bill away from being shut down for good, according to a spokesman for the utility that operates the dam.

Now 100 years old, the dam brought Central Oregon its first electricity, creating Mirror Pond along the way. The dam’s future has been placed in the spotlight through a Bend Park & Recreation District-led process to determine what should be done about the silt that has been slowly filling Mirror Pond since it was last dredged in 1984.

PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said the dam can be compared to an older car a family might keep around as backup transportation.

“It is the second car — as long as you’re not rebuilding the engine, it’s worth your while to keep driving, but when the mechanic gives you a $3,000 bill for your car, it’s time to reconsider,” he said. “That’s how we view the situation right now.”

Gravely said he couldn’t say how much money PacifiCorp would be willing to put in to keeping the dam running if repairs became necessary.

For now, he said the company is following the local discussion of options for Mirror Pond while trying not to exert undue influence on the process.

“In general, I would say that right now it remains economical to operate for customers,” Gravley said. “But, it is 100 years old, and we’re continuing to make sure it’s safe and all of that. … It would be hard to see any kind of major capital investment being made that would allow it to continue being economical.”

Electricity output

With a generation capacity of 1.1 megawatts, the Newport Avenue Dam is the smallest of the six hydroelectric power plants operated by PacifiCorp, providing just more than one-tenth of 1 percent of the total power potential of the company’s hydro system.

Because hydroelectric plants do not typically generate power all day, every day, capacity figures overstate their actual production. Power output is measured in megawatt hours (MWh), a calculation of the actual electricity generated reached by multiplying the capacity with the number of hours the turbines are turning. With consistent water supplies, a 1.1 MW facility like the Newport Avenue Dam running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year would produce 9,636 MWh of electricity.

Generation figures shared by the company indicate the Newport Avenue Dam produced 3,344 MWh in 2012 and 2,115 MWh in 2011, down from the long-term historical average of 4,106 MWh. Using the U.S. Department of Energy standard that places the average household’s annual electricity consumption at 11,280 kilowatts, the dam’s total output supplied power for 296 homes last year, and 188 the year before.

According to the Oregon Public Utility Commission, the average PacifiCorp residential customer pays 10.8 cents per kilowatt hour. At that rate, the Newport Avenue Dam would have generated an income of $228,420 for PacifiCorp in 2012, not counting any costs associated with transmission, administration or maintenance.

Steve Johnson, the manager of the Central Oregon Irrigation District, said those kinds of dollar figures suggest it wouldn’t take much for PacifiCorp to give up on the Newport Avenue Dam as a power source.

The irrigation district operates two hydroelectric generators of its own, one on a canal intake near Mt. Bachelor Village and one on its canal between Bend and Redmond that together generate roughly 10 times the power of the Newport Avenue Dam.

“It’s only real value now is, it creates Mirror Pond,” Johnson said. “I think PacifiCorp is just gonna follow along with what the community does, but if the community wants that dam removed, the community is gonna pay for it. PacifiCorp ain’t gonna pay for that.”

Possible changes

If PacifiCorp were to give up on generating power at the Newport Avenue Dam, it’s likely the dam would have to come down as well. The state permit under which the dam is operated gives PacifiCorp the right to impound the river for power generation — and, interestingly, debris removal and ice production — but not recreational purposes like creating a pond.

Jim Figurski, a consultant working with the park district to draw up plans for how to address the silt issue at Mirror Pond, said the Oregon Water Resources Department has assured him it wouldn’t rush dam removal were PacifiCorp to give up on power generation, but could be forced to act if a private citizen or group were to raise the issue.

Mary Grainey from the Oregon Water Resources Department’s hydroelectric division said PacifiCorp would have the option of selling or transferring its water rights — again, only for hydroelectric generation, debris removal or ice production — or the rights would revert back to the state.

Grainey said PacifiCorp would have up to five years to transfer its water rights to another user or the state. Alternatively, the company or another party that received the water rights through a transfer could appeal to the Water Resources Commission to create a recreational or aesthetic water right, Grainey said, adding such rights are typically only granted for smaller waterways on private property.

Figurski said he doesn’t think a push to create a recreational water right is likely to succeed.

“I think the recreational components in most places were secondary to flood control, irrigation, power generation,” Figurski said. “To create a new water right, you would be starting from scratch and would be subject to all the new regulations.”

If hydroelectric generation were to come to an end and the dam were somehow allowed to remain in place with a new water right, it’s likely state regulators would require the dam’s owner to address fish passage. Johnson estimated screens to keep fish from being sucked through the dam and a fish ladder for upstream travel could run $1 million to $2 million at the Newport Avenue Dam.

Were PacifiCorp to continue generating power but wish to make significant modifications to the dam, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could require it be re-licensed — PacifiCorp was allowed to opt out of FERC licensing in 1996 — triggering the need to install fish passage and meet other modern regulatory requirements.

Gravely said that although he can’t be certain what would happen were FERC to require the dam be re-licensed, the costs associated with a pending license renewal have led to the removal of many older dams across the Northwest. Still, he said it’s hard to guess when PacifiCorp might decide operating the dam is more trouble than its worth.

“It’s 100 years old. We believe it’s much closer to the end of its viability than the beginning,” he said.

‘There will be a reaction’

Figurski said he can understand why PacifiCorp is trying to avoid dominating the discussion over Mirror Pond, even if what becomes of the dam could alter Mirror Pond as much or more than any of the dredging or channel-building now under consideration.

“I think they’re being pretty conservative,” he said. “Because they could obviously be driving this process, and say ‘We’re going to take the dam out; you guys do whatever.’”

On April 30, members of the Mirror Pond Management Board will see preliminary illustrations of various options for addressing the silt buildup in the pond. Figurski said the board will see a no-dam scenario, a scenario that preserves the traditional look of Mirror Pond, and a number of middle options that ideally could be implemented with or without the Newport Avenue Dam.

Figurski said one of the clearest messages he took from a questionnaire on Mirror Pond earlier this year was the public’s desire to find an approach that will enhance the area upstream of the dam, regardless of how long the dam remains — and ideally, won’t be completely undone if the dam is removed.

“I don’t think the idea is you wouldn’t have to do anything if the dam comes out, but how do you not lose everything you’ve done,” he said. “If and when the dam goes away, there will be a reaction. Let’s minimize what we have to do at that point.”

Related article: Future clouded for Mirror Pond dam

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Steering Committee Minutes 4-1-2013

Attendance: Bill Smith, Angela Price, Don Horton, Michelle Healy, Jim Figurski, Mel Oberst, (Matt Shinderman – absent)

  • Introductions
  • Update on project management:
    • Jim shared preliminary drafts of:
      • a Site Context Map illustrating the river corridor from below the Pacific Power Dam to the Colorado Dam
      • an Opportunities & Constraints Diagram
      • site photos, and
      • preliminary contour information for the Mirror Pond reach
    • The committee provided comments and suggestions for edits and inclusions on each map
  • There was a general discussion of the role of the Steering Committee vs. the role of the Management Board
    • It was pointed out that David Rosell had previously been elected the chair of the Management Board
    • It was suggested that Jim Figurski contacted Mr. Rosell to discuss his willingness to continue in that role and manage the Management Board meetings
  • Jim provided a general outline for the Visioning process to come
  • Don expressed concern that if the dam was removed the change in water levels in Mirror Pond could detract from the proposed work on the Colorado Safe Passage project
    • Don indicated there were 800 floaters/hour coming from McKay Park to Mirror Pond in the peak season and he did not want to see that use disrupted
    • Jim indicated that the engineers on the Mirror Pond project were the same as the Colorado Safe Passage project and that the consultants had been made aware that this was an issue
  • The issue of the Historic designation for the Pacific Power Dam and Powerhouse was discussed and it was suggested that the Steering Committee invite Heidi Kennedy to the next Steering Committee Meeting.
  • Jim indicated that he was in the process of forming a Technical Advisory Committee to assist in the review of work products from the consultant team and to assist as project experts in future public outreach efforts

Adjourned @ 12:15PM

Steering Committee Minutes 3-4-2013

Attendance: Matt Shinderman, Mark Capell, Don Horton, Jim Figurski, Mel Oberst, Greenworks Consulting team members, press

  • Introduction of team members and committee members
  • Discussion of timeline for developing a preferred vision for Mirror Pond
    • March through April – review existing conditions and conduct open house
    • May through June – develop vision alternatives
    • Late June – conduct vision open house
    • June through July – develop preferred vision
    • Late July – conduct vision open house
  • Consultant will be preparing 4 scenarios
  • Mirror Pond Management Board will meet soon to review questionnaire results and recommend range of scenarios to be evaluated, with at least a “no build” and a “dam removal” scenario

Meeting adjourned at noon

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

Crowd shows support for dam removal

A crowd of 30 to 40 made the case Tuesday night for knocking down the Newport Avenue dam and letting the Deschutes River flow at a meeting concerning the future of Mirror Pond.

At the second of two meetings hosted by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, the group assembled to determine what, if anything, should be done about silt accumulation in the pond in the heart of Bend. The artificial pond created by construction of the Newport Avenue Dam in 1910 was last dredged in 1984. The committee is trying to determine if the community would support additional dredging, or other measures to return the pond to something closer to a free-flowing river.

Between community meetings and an online questionnaire available at mirrorpondbend.com, the committee will be taking public input through the end of the month. Starting in March, the committee expects to turn toward drawing up potential plans reflecting public preferences, and by May or June, select a single plan with broad community support.

Jim Figurski, a landscape architect hired by the Bend Park & Recreation District to serve as project manager, moderated Tuesday’s meeting. Unlike a similar meeting a week earlier, the overwhelming majority in attendance spoke in favor of dam removal and river restoration.

Several took Figurski to task for the wording of the online questionnaire, suggesting the questions asked made it very difficult for those who support letting the river flow to voice their opinions.

Barb Campbell, a downtown business owner and 2012 city council candidate, said even if the majority of Bend residents preferred a free-flowing river, they couldn’t make that known through the questionnaire.

Campbell said she found the questionnaire condescending, as it provided few details on what would need to be done to achieve different possible outcomes.

“It’s like asking a child, ‘if you had a pony, would you like a pink pony, or a black pony?’” Campbell said. “Do the pink ponies even exist, and how much do they cost?”

Figurski said the questionnaire is seeking to ascertain community values by asking questions about views, wildlife habitat and use of the river for recreation. In the second phase beginning next month, the plans drawn up by the committee will look to develop plans that respond to the value preferences expressed by citizens.

Dwight Pargee noted that the questionnaire was phrased from “a human perspective,” and asked what might be possible if the committee approached the problem with an eye toward maximizing trout habitat.

Figurski said for now, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will not require the committee to take fish habitat into consideration when developing a plan for Mirror Pond, but that habitat restoration could be a part of the draft plans that will be developed this spring. Mirror Pond is currently not a particularly healthy place for trout, Figurski said, as the water is often excessively warm in summer and decaying vegetation reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Many in attendance wondered how the river would change if the dam were removed, asking where the river would likely establish its channel, and how far upstream the effects of dam removal would be noticeable.

Figurski said scientists working with the committee intend to answer such questions as the process moves into its next phase, adding a free-flowing river can be many different things. The free-flowing portions of the Deschutes River upstream and downstream of Bend change significantly from one place to another, he said.

“The river has so many different looks, and we have that option if the dam goes away,” Figurski said.

Pacific Power has not committed to keeping the dam in place indefinitely. The dam only generates enough electricity to power around 400 homes, Figurski said, and mounting maintenance costs could make its continued operation unfeasible.

Vanessa Ivey said she’s heard from a lot of people deeply concerned about the historical value of both the dam and Mirror Pond. Though both have historical value, Ivey said she’d like the committee to remember that the Deschutes is a highly manipulated river along its entire length, and that the river as a whole defines Central Oregon more than just Mirror Pond.

“Whatever happens, it will never be the Mirror Pond of 1920, 1930, 1940, and it will never be the Deschutes River of 1903,” Ivey said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Board finds no conflict in Mirror Pond deal

Members of an oversight committee say they see no problem with Mirror Pond project manager Jim Figurski’s prior connection to the company favored for a consulting contract.

Figurski, a former principal with GreenWorks, a Portland firm, appears to present no conflict of interest under Oregon law, and Figurski disclosed to the Mirror Pond Steering Committee his connection to the company before reviewing contract proposals. The committee could award GreenWorks a contract later this month.

Committee member Bill Smith, of William Smith Properties Inc., said the committee discussed Figurski’s previous employment with GreenWorks and at least one other firm that submitted a proposal for the project.

“We discussed that at length,” Smith said. “Jim made all the disclosures.”

Figurski worked at GreenWorks, a landscape architecture and environmental design firm, for more than a decade and was a principal there when he retired in February 2011. Figurski said Friday that he held stock in the company worth less than $40,000 when he retired, and he receives a payout that is amortized over five years.

“In terms of whether I have a financial interest, the money that’s paid to me as a retirement is basically a stock payout, and is independent of whether GreenWorks continues to make a profit or not,” Figurski said. “I am, in essence, another creditor.”

The contract is to develop and illustrate with drawings a set of alternatives to manage sediment in Mirror Pond. Sediment has piled up in the pond, which was created by a dam at Newport Avenue in Bend. The price range for the contract was advertised as $75,000 to $100,000, and Figurski said he hopes to take a contract to the park district board for approval Feb. 19. The city of Bend and the park district have pledged $200,000 toward finding a solution for Mirror Pond.

Figurski said the Pacific Northwest landscape architecture and environmental design community is small, and he worked at or with nearly all of the firms that submitted proposals for the Mirror Pond project. Two members of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, an interagency group that oversees the search for a solution for the pond, also said they did not see a problem with Figurski’s connection to GreenWorks.

Under Oregon law, public officials who undertake actions or decisions that affect businesses with which they are associated may have a conflict of interest. This includes a business in which a public official owned stock or had another form of equity interest worth at least $1,000 in the last calendar year. This does not appear to apply in Figurski’s case, because he took a stock payout from GreenWorks more than a year before working on the Mirror Pond contract.

Figurski wrote the request for proposals that described the project for potential bidders, said Bend Director of Community Development Mel Oberst, a steering committee member. “We made a lot of changes to it, and then he sent it out,” Oberst said. “We’re having Jim negotiate the price within the limits we set.”

The steering committee evaluated and scored each firm’s proposal. The steering committee includes officials from the city and the park district, as well as Smith, whose company owns the dam at Colorado Avenue upstream from the pond. The committee also includes a representative of Pacific Power, which owns the dam that created Mirror Pond, and a member of Bend 2030, a civic group.

“The second-place firm also had the same kind of fuzz on their tennis ball,” Smith said, referring to the fact that Figurski had worked for more than one of the companies that sought the contract.

“When I made my ranking sheet, I made (GreenWorks) number one and I didn’t know that he had worked for them,” Smith said. “He told us he doesn’t have any financial interest there. That one is as pure as Caesar’s wife.”

Oberst also said the committee discussed Figurski’s ties to firms that submitted proposals for the project.

“He’s been around for so long, he’s worked for almost all of these companies,” Oberst said. “He’s a veteran of this kind of environmental analysis. He’s 30 years into it.”

Committee members wondered aloud whether Figurski’s history with the firms was an issue. Oberst said it was his understanding that Figurski is completely retired from GreenWorks and does not have a financial interest in the company.

It would be good for the consultant to get an early start on the work this year, because it does require scientific analysis that could require the contractor to work in the river, Oberst said. The proposed options for the pond must be based on information about fisheries and hydraulic actions of the river, Oberst said.

Figurski said he hopes the visioning process brings some clarity to the future of Mirror Pond.

“I think really what I’m ultimately looking forward to getting to is … having a definite direction that we can move forward with,” Figurski said Friday. “I think it’s been missing before, knowing from the community what direction we want to go.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

The Deschutes River in Bend

The high desert of Central Oregon is a special region, blessed with abundant summer sunshine and a moderate climate. The thread that binds the fabric of this region together is an anomaly: a clean, cold-water river in an otherwise arid landscape. Born from springs high in the Cascades, the Deschutes flows through Bend as a highly modified body of water: beautiful to look at, but a pale shadow of what it once was.

Any portrayal of conditions in the river should begin with an acknowledgement of the groups that have worked tirelessly to improve it. The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and Deschutes River Conservancy have built key collaborative relationships with the irrigation districts to secure additional in-stream water rights and restore habitat where opportunities have arisen. To be sure, conditions in the river today, particularly in the middle Deschutes (below the North Unit Canal Dam) are better than they have been in some time.

Historically the Deschutes River was characterized by extremely stable flows, primarily as a result of the unique geology and hydrology of the region. Unlike many western rivers, the Deschutes was not a system prone to flooding. The entire ecological community in the reach, from aquatic insects and plants to native trout species (bull trout), was uniquely adapted to that stability and consistent water quality. Installation of dams and diversions all along the reach changed the flow regime, and thus the river ecosystem, dramatically.

Dams on the Deschutes significantly influence stream flow (which varies up to 90 percent between winter and summer months), reduce stream velocity and disrupt natural sediment movement throughout the river system. Although there is little research on the specific impact of flow variation upstream on sediment loads through Bend, it is clear that rapid and severe changes in flow accelerate natural erosion processes along the river. Land use and management upstream of Bend and within city limits are additional sources of sediment in the river. The combination of increased sediment and reduced velocity results in increasing stream temperatures and reductions in dissolved oxygen.

To comply with the Clean Water Act states are required to monitor and report water quality conditions within their boundaries. Standards for each body of water are developed based on biological requirements for key species and human health. Waters that are below standard, called impaired waters, must be accounted for on the state’s 303(d) list with specific reference to sampling location and which standards are not being met. The Bend reach of the Deschutes is currently listed as impaired for temperature, sediment and dissolved oxygen.

Sediment, temperature and dissolved oxygen all influence habitat for biological communities in streams. Temperatures in particular limit which species are present and can determine whether or not reproduction occurs for a variety of species. As indicated above, sediment and temperature are correlated, but sediment itself can lead to reduced fish spawning by covering spawning gravels and cementing them in place.

It is an oft-celebrated fact that the Deschutes played a major role in the establishment and development of Bend, primarily serving as a vehicle for transporting logs downstream to feed the once-thriving mills. To maximize log-transport efficiency the river was cleared of large woody debris and frequently dredged. These activities and modification of the river downstream at Mirror Pond have reduced overall habitat quality and quantity for native species.

No matter what the ultimate decision is for the future of Mirror Pond, all options will come with a significant price tag. Generally speaking, solutions to Mirror Pond will require some combination of federal and/or state funds, local government funds, grant funds or funds from the general public (e.g. special tax district). Acquisition of federal funds and grants will potentially delay the process and is not a guarantee, especially for any future maintenance costs. Public funds, as in the case of a special tax district, will require the community to vote with our dollars. Either way, when we dam rivers and alter natural flow regimes, at some point the bill comes due. We’ve been served.

Source: The Source Weekly ©2013