Dam Removal Training Videos from American Rivers

American Rivers is one of the leading experts in managing and implementing stream barrier removal projects.

Over the years, they have developed a series of workshops geared toward state and federal agencies, as well as environmental and watershed groups, to train them in dam removal processes and techniques. And, for the first time, American Rivers is releasing their basic training session as a series of videos.

Check out their Dam Removal Training video series:

These trainings are meant to educate participants on the impacts of dams on their local streams and why dam removal is the most effective way to restore rivers. American Rivers provide participants with specific tools for effectively managing a dam removal project, including determining project complexity, drafting an effective scope of work for the project and navigating sensitive issues like sediment management. The videos are broken into manageable 15- to 20-minute segments to allow you to follow along at your own pace.

You can also download a sample of the companion project manager guide [PDF] they created for their Maryland training or browse through some of the other dam removal tools they have compiled over the years.

– See more at: http://www.americanrivers.org/blog/dam-removal-training-videos-available/#sthash.2jOyGVEJ.dpuf

Dam leak adds twist to pond debate

Water levels in Mirror Pond are expected to drop in the coming days, as PacifiCorp inspects a leak discovered in the Newport Avenue Dam.

Bob Gravely, spokesman for the utility company, said the leak is in one the 13 wooden “bays” visible from the Newport Avenue bridge. The company has previously repaired leaks in two other bays, he said, but the severity of the latest leak will not be apparent until water levels are lowered sufficiently to allow closer examination.

Water levels at the dam have already fallen approximately 21⁄2 inches due to the leak, Gravely said, and PacifiCorp has shut down its electrical generation turbine to maintain water levels upstream.

As of Friday evening, PacifiCorp was checking whether any permitting or regulatory obstacles prevent the company from dropping water levels to begin the work. The company has not yet determined how much water will have to be released, or how low water levels above the dam could drop.

The leak comes in the middle of a larger public process surrounding Mirror Pond, and what should be done to address silt that has accumulated on the floor of the pond in the 29 years since it was last dredged. In public meetings and online surveys conducted earlier in the year, community members were largely split. One faction supports dredging to maintain the pond, and another favors removing the dam to create something closer to a free-flowing river.

PacifiCorp has been involved in the discussions but has been noncommittal, other than to state the day will come when the dam is no longer economical to operate. In recent years, the dam has generated enough electricity to power 200-300 homes.

Gravely said that while the new leak does not appear to be significant, PacifiCorp intends a thorough inspection of the entire dam while water levels are lowered to look for any other emerging maintenance issues.

“It is 100 years old, and I think we’ve been saying we could be one repair away from this not being worth it to fix,” he said.

Don Horton, director of the Bend Park & Recreation District, said he won’t know until PacifiCorp has completed its work if the leak will change the discussion of what to do with Mirror Pond. Horton is one member of an ad-hoc committee that has been gathering information from PacifiCorp to report back to the Bend City Council and the park district board with a recommendation for Mirror Pond. He said the leak will, at minimum, give him and others involved in the process a preview of what a free-flowing river might look like.

“If it does come down, it’s an opportunity for us to photograph what we see — it’s not very often this happens — we may be able to learn something from it,” he said.

Horton said he’s curious to see if opening the sluice gates to lower water levels will actually flush out significant quantities of silt, though he added he’s doubtful that will happen.

Spencer Dahl, a past member of the Mirror Pond Management Board, said he’d prefer to know what the undammed river looks like when flows are not already reduced on account of the end of irrigation season, but is still interested to see what areas dry up when the water levels drop.

During his time on the board, Dahl unsuccessfully tried to persuade PacifiCorp to drop water levels in order to show the public what the area might look like if the dam were removed.

Dahl said he suspects the announcement of the leak — Gravely said the leak was discovered Wednesday; Dahl said he’s noticed the bay in question leaking for much longer — suggests PacifiCorp may be ready to take a firmer public position on their plans for the dam.

“I’m pretty sure its a move toward resolution of the Mirror Pond problem, whether it’s them selling the dam or them trying to justify abandoning it,” Dahl said. “I can’t see any other reason for the timing, because that leak’s been there for months, if not years.”

Gravely said water levels during dam repairs could be further affected by activity at Wickiup Dam, where water managers have begun refilling the reservoir by cutting back on the water released into the Deschutes River. Within the last week, releases at Wickiup Dam have been reduced by more than half, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Reclamation.

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

Park district is set on turning Mirror Pond into wetland

While we blissfully enjoy all that Drake Park and Mirror Pond offer to our community, your park and recreation district is quietly working to inalterably change it from the iconic pond that is the face of Bend, to a wetland complete with narrow river, cattails, reeds and sloping banks.

I recently attended a “community outreach” event hosted by Jim Figurski, the project manager for the “Mirror Pond Visioning Project.” He presented four options, one of which included dredging the pond and otherwise leaving it alone. He then spent our time explaining why that won’t work — too expensive, too much mud, too much trucking, too short-lived and the dam is too old. It became apparent that a “natural” river is viewed by the district as the only sensible choice, with wetlands and natural vegetation making up the greatly expanded banks adjoining Drake Park.

It quickly became obvious that the unintended consequences of the destruction of Mirror Pond have not been considered. Figurski opined that mosquitoes would not be a problem in the newly formed wetlands because the cattails would blow in the wind, drowning the mosquito eggs.

Though much time and money has been spent controlling ducks and geese, the audience was assured that the profusion of nesting areas resulting in more water fowl would not be a problem because the birds’ line of sight to the water would be obscured by the vegetation along the river bank, making them too nervous to use the lawn. He dismissed the idea of people and animals swimming, saying it is against city ordinances. The danger of children traveling through the underbrush and into the river unobserved was not discussed. Nor were ticks and the threat of disease posed by mosquitoes.

He focused on the age of the dam. He sang the praises of a natural river, ignoring the fact that there are two dams just downstream of the power company dam that would prevent the river from being “natural,” even if the dam were removed. The silt that would fill the downstream dam if the first were removed was clearly not considered.

When asked why the questionnaire sent out to residents did not request a preference as to whether to keep the park as it is, he replied that, like a doctor, the park district could not make a decision until first identifying the symptoms. Apparently the district, like a doctor, will decide what is wrong and make a decision as to how best to treat it. He rejected the idea of a vote, saying the people get to decide whether to vote money for parks but the district decides how to spend it.

I must confess a bias. I have occupied an office across from Mirror Pond for the past 30 years, watching people walk along the river, play and picnic on the lawns, and fish, swim and float in the quiet waters. Visitors are quick to assure me how lucky I am to have a view of the beautiful place that makes Bend so special.

I hunt, fish and enjoy the natural rivers with which we are blessed. The Deschutes flows naturally for hundreds of miles, from Wickiup to the Bill Healy Bridge, from Bend to Billy Chinook and on to the Columbia. The continued maintenance of our beautiful pond in the heart of Bend is not too much to ask. You can visit the parks district website at www.mirrorpondbend.com. If you do not act, Mirror Pond, as we know it, will be history.

— Bruce Brothers lives in Bend.

Option D: Dam Removal and Move Channel

Option D: The dam is removed as part of the project and channel has been modified while moving sediment in order to create lawn areas adjacent to parks and reduce the extent of wetlands adjacent to homes. The existing concrete and stone walls adjacent to public parks are replaced with a more natural edge. Sediment moves through the system in a more natural manner.

Option D

General Description: The dam is removed as part of the project and the channel has been modified to a new location. Adjusting the location of the channel accommodates creating lawn areas adjacent to parks and reduces the extent of wetlands adjacent to homes. Thirty years from now, the plantings are fully mature and sediment is moving through this section of the Deschutes River in a more natural river process.

  • Cost: Estimates at $6.4 million to move sediment on site creating new channel, riparian habitat and grassy uplands adjacent to Drake, Harmon, and Brooks parks.
    • Maintains open water in front of residences and maximizes the potential for the upland adjacent to public properties.
  • Maintenance: Maintenance activities focused on planting and habitat at new park land and wetland areas.
  • Permitting: Dam removal requires Federal, State, and City permit process that could be done in conjunction with other project permit requirements.
  • Habitat: Emergent plant’s at water’s edge–shrub/scrub plants higher up. Deep waters temporarily improve water quality favoring trout and cool water species.
  • Dam Removal: $4.2 million cost of dam removal is responsibility of dam owner.

Option D - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option A2: Dam Removal by Dam Owner

A2 Dam Removal: When the dam is removed existing water levels drop and flow back into the original channel. (Illustrated 5 years after dam removal)

Option A2

General Description: In this alternative the Mirror Pond dam is removed by its owner at no expense to taxpayers. Side slopes down to the river are graded and replanted as required by federal and state regulators.

  • Soils would be exposed until new wetland plantings develop.
  • The dam removal process requires mitigation for any exposed soils.
  • $10.9 million cost for removing the dam is the responsibility of the dam owner.

Option A2 - Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option B2: Dam Removal after Dredging

B2 Dam Removal: If the dam is removed after Mirror Pond is dredge in Option B1, this is a possible outcome. After the dam is removed existing water levels drop and flow into original channel.

Option B2

General Description: Mirror Pond is dredge similar to 1984 dredging (Option B1) then the dam owner removes the dam.

Option B2- Views

Related: Official Mirror Pond Visions Page

Be heard: Take the Official Mirror Pond Survey

Option C2: Sediment Re-use on Site then Dam Removal

C2 Dam Removal: If the dam is removed in Option C1, this is a possible outcome. After the dam is removed existing water levels drop and flow into original channel.

Option C2

General Description: After partially dredging Mirror Pond and re-using the sediment on site, the dam is removed. When the dam is removed, the existing shallow waters retreat to the original channel. New lawn areas next to public park lands remain. The emergent zones and riparian shrub zones are re-graded to meet the new channel and require additional plantings for these zones.

Option C2 - 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 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