Editorial: Mirror Pond debate does not need another ballot measure

Deciding Mirror Pond’s future has been corked by secrecy and polls with no scientific basis. It hasn’t helped that there are already two ballot measures that seek to compel removal of the dam before many of the questions about the dam’s future are answered.

But this week, we learned a third ballot measure may be added to the muddy cocktail. The new measure seems to have been born of reasonable concerns. It’s hard to see how it’s going to help things.

The new measure would require that before the city of Bend could take ownership or control of the Mirror Pond Dam it must get the necessary permits lined up. Either it gets the necessary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to operate a hydroelectric dam or it gets a permit from the state to preserve Mirror Pond with a nonhydroelectric dam.

Spencer Dahl, who has been active in the Old Bend Neighborhood Association and has run various media enterprises in Bend, is the author of the new measure. Dahl told us he is trying to ensure the focus in the debate over the pond is in the right place. He sees a false sense of urgency to do something about Mirror Pond. And he is concerned that with so much pressure to do something, the city might do the wrong something — such as take on the responsibility and liability of the dam without getting the proper permits.

He originally considered two ballot measures, one for the city and one for the park district. He says he talked to city officials about the issue and did not get a satisfactory response. When he spoke with park district officials, they gave him assurances that they would not do something so stupid as to take on the dam without getting permits lined up. So Dahl decided only a ballot measure constraining the city would be necessary.

The question now is if voters in Bend should try to help him gather the 7,000 or so signatures needed to put his effort on the ballot or consider voting for it.

We haven’t talked to every city councilor, but we can’t imagine they would vote to take control of the dam without having lined up the proper permits. So for that reason alone, passing this ballot measure is not important.