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)
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
The Newport Avenue dam is at the end of its life cycle. Everyone knows it—even PacifiCorp, the utility company that owns the 102-year-old dam, which creates the pond at Drake Park near downtown Bend.
What many don’t know, however, is that the dam cannot remain if it ceases to function as a hydroelectric facility. Those are the rules: According to water-right certificate No. 29581, Pacific Power & Light Co. (now PacifiCorp, which owns Pacific Power) has the right only to use the water for power generation and ice and debris removal. There’s no built-in right for storing water.
So, the idea that PacifiCorp can simply retire the crumbling dam from service as a power-generating tool, but leave the structure in place to retain a pond, is a thought that should no longer be considered.
“By no means could it stay there just to keep Mirror Pond,” said Deschutes Basin Watermaster Jeremy Giffin, who also put to rest talk of transferring those water rights for recreational purposes. All of the water rights on the Upper Deschutes River, said Giffin, have already been allocated.
PacifiCorp officials hope, however, the case isn’t as cut and dried as it seems. Company spokesman Bob Gravely said, although, “it’s not really an issue we’ve looked at closely,” he’s optimistic a solution could be found that would allow the dam to remain in place.
But the water-right news puts PacifiCorp in a tight spot. Company representatives have admitted that, from a hydroelectric standpoint, the dam provides negligible electricity. According to company stats, the dam only generates enough power for 300 to 400 homes. Angela Price, PafiCorp rep and Mirror Pond Steering Committee member, recently called the structure “a small asset.”
Moreover, altering the Newport Avenue dam is also an unlikely course. Adding fish ladders and other such necessary updates or repairs would be expensive and would trigger action from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC licensing would be a costly route that could take years to navigate—an unappealing scenario for PacifiCorp.
Jim Figurski, the project manager who’s been hired by the city and Bend Park & Recreation District to find a fix for a pond that is clogging with silt, has already thought about all this.
“My understanding is that the water right is solely associated with the generation of power,” said Figurski, echoing Watermaster Jeremy Giffin’s words. Figurski added that, while he can’t speak for the city, he thought a handoff or sale of the dam from PacifiCorp to the city highly unlikely.
To account for this, Figurski, who also sits on the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, the decision-making body overseeing the project, said at least three of the four possible solutions being drafted by his consultant team will include a Deschutes River with no dam in place at Newport Avenue. Figurski expects to have four designs, ones created by Portland’s Greenworks, a landscape architecture and environmental design firm, ready for public viewing and input by early June.
Fellow Steering Committee member Ryan Houston, Upper Deschutes Water Council executive director, is enthusiastic about Figurski’s approach but wants to make one thing clear: “Whether you want a pond or not is irrelevant—that dam is old,” Houston said. “The writing is on the wall.”
Going forward, Houston said he hopes the community can understand that the issues swirling about the silt-filled pond aren’t either/or.
“It’s either going to benefit recreationalists or homeowners; water quality versus not—when I hear someone playing these things off of each other as if they’re-black and-white solutions, I say ‘no,’ ” Houston said. “They’re false choices.”
Some would like to see the pond stay, no matter the cost, as they see it as an iconic Bend fixture. Other residents, who value the river’s health, would rather see the Deschutes return to a more natural state. River enthusiasts hope the solution allows for more recreating on the river. Others still ask that the area around Drake Park remain aesthetically pleasing.
The solution, Houston said, should be clever enough so that it pleases environmentalists, neighbors and recreationalists alike.
Figurski agrees, and said he’s trying to help his design team think outside of the box.
“The potential to retain pond-like characteristics,” Figurski said, is there, even without a dam.
But, at this point, one eventuality is clear—the dam’s days are numbered. SW
In 2011, the Bend Hydro project generated 2,115 MWh or 2,115,000 KWh of electricity; that is almost enough power for 178 homes.* If Pacific Power had to purchase these 2,115,000 KWhs, the replacement cost is estimated to be around $77,000.
*In 2011, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,280 kWh, an average of 940 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. Oregon had an annual consumption of 11,892 kWh, an average of 991 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month.
Pacific Power owns the dam that creates a small but profitable return of energy for this facility. The dam is also the cause of the Mirror Pond build-up. The cost to remove the dam and restore its construction area would be significant to Pacific Power. Why not leave things as they are and Pacific Power pays the cost of dredging the river every 10 or 15 years as the silt builds up.
What happens when a dam disappears and a river returns? Watch this special edition of Oregon Field Guide about the historic removal of Condit Dam.
In 2012, the 100 foot-tall Condit Dam was removed from the White Salmon River in southeast Washington, making it the largest dam in the world ever removed. The goal was simple: Restore habitat for threatened salmon. This first-ever project tested the ingenuity of those tasked with the massive project. But it may also represent a turning point. In a region built on hydropower, is removing dams for threatened salmon the new norm?
Producer & Director of Photography – Andy Maser
Editor – Nick Fisher
Associate Producer – Hayden Peters
Additional Video – Michael Bendixen, Hayden Peters, Nick Fisher, Todd Sonflieth, Brian Lippy, Andy Johnson-Laird & Sylvain Chancel
Stock Material – Steve Stampfli, Zach Zoller, Ralph Bowman, Ryan Scott, Kevin Felts, Sam Drevo, Oregon Historical Society, Daniel Dancer, PacifiCorp,
Special Thanks – Jaco Klinkenberg, Wet Planet Whitewater, Heather Herbeck, Sam Drevo, Todd Olson of PacifiCorp, Tom Gaunt of PacifiCorp, Rod Engle of USFWS, Larry Moran of JR Merit, Tony Washines of Yakima Nation, Ed Jahn, American Rivers, American Whitewater
Roger L. Raeburn, Manager Dam Safety
P.O. Box 3040
Portland, OR 97208
Re: Bend Hydro (Mirror Pond) Dam (B-99)- Inspection Summary
This dam was inspected on July 12, 2012. I performed the inspection with District 11 Watermaster Jeremy Giffin. You were there, as were Tom Becker and Nathan Higa from Pacific Corp. and provided very helpful dam history and safety information. The Water Resources Department conducts these routine inspections to identify safety, maintenance or operational issues that may affect dam integrity. Dams are assigned a hazard rating based on downstream hazard to people and property, not on the condition of the dam. Bend Hydro (Mirror Pond) dam is classified as a significant hazard dam. Significant hazard dams are inspected every 2-3 years.
The results of this inspection are illustrated and described in the following photos and text. This inspection includes recommendations to keep the dam safe
Results of Inspection:
The spillway is often the most important safety feature of a dam. The spillway is needle type structure, with multiple bays to wood stop and end timbers, and a more recent concrete cap.
A walkway constructed on top of the cap that allowed detailed inspection of top of the spillway section. The walkway was sound.
The rest of the spillway received visual inspection only. Some of the timbers show signs of significant decay. The concrete sections that support the bays, and their foundations near original, and a more thorough inspection at very low water would be prudent.
A leak through the spillway section was discovered by Watermaster Jeremy Giffin a couple of years ago. The leak was controlled by installation of sheet pi ling as shown above. The leak is an indicator that this part of the dam is showing its age, and in need of a thorough inspection to evaluate the base and the condition of the large timbers, and the overall needle structure.
The Emergency gate for this dam was just replaced with a new motor and controls. It was operated during the inspection (for a small part of its cycle, as the gate is not in the same condition as its control). The gate and control functioned well for this limited operation.
The gate structure is also old, but appears to be operational, and was opened for limited flow as described above. When closed, there is moderate leakage, mostly through gaps between the old timbers.
The concrete buttress wall forms the middle section of the dam. It is mostly the original section, so is also 100 years old. There are areas of minor to moderate spall, and some fairly minor cracking. Overall, the section appears sound. The area below the dam is well maintained grass, with no wet areas, and was maintained for easy inspections.
The location above shows the maximum deterioration seen in the buttressed wall section. Seepage loss was low, around one gallon a minute. This is not a concern at this time.
The powerhouse wall is also one of the dam sections. This was inspected from the inside, and is in the best condition of any of the dam sections, with no leaks or significant cracks.
Access to and security at the dam was very good. It is, fenced with appropriate signage. This is a run of the river reservoir, and there are no signs of erosion around the dam site.
Continue with good maintenance and operations, including security, vegetation control, and security.
Evaluate Deschutes River flow, and accompany me on an inspection of the base of the spillway structure at very low water. I will coordinate with you and Watermaster Jeremy Giffin on the timing of such an inspection.
We use a standard inspection form for all dams, and a copy of the field inspection sheet for this dam is attached. The next regular inspection is planned for 2015. Thanks for sending me the drawings of the dam, and please let me know if you have any questions about this inspection.
825 NE Multnomah, Suite 1500
Portland, Oregon 97232
Electronically filed February 29, 2012
Douglas L. Johnson, P.E., Regional Engineer
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
805 SW Broadway, Suite 550
Portland, OR 97205
Subject: Bend Hydroelectric Project, FERC No. P-2643 / Updated Public Safety Plan
Dear Mr. Johnson:
Enclosed is the updated Public Safety Plan for the Bend Hydroelectric Project on the Deschutes River, Oregon. Please consider this updated plan as a replacement of any previously filed Public Safety Plan for this project.
This letter and its attachment have been filed electronically. The security classification of each component in this filing is shown in the Enclosure list below. Two complete copies have been sent to your offices according to current FERC eFiling requirements. If you have any questions concerning this information, please contact Derek White at 503-813-6195 or Derek.White@pacificorp.com.
Managing Director, Hydro Resources
201 SW Columbia Ave
Bend, OR 97702
Re. Dam Inspection for Mirror Pond Dam (Bend Hydro Project, File B-99)
On April 27th, Jeremy Giffin (Watermaster) and I inspected Mirror Pond Dam. A field form is attached. It was great having someone there to discuss issues with and ask questions. These complementary dam inspections are done as part the State of Oregon’s Dam Safety Program. This dam has similar issues to what was observed in a 2005 inspection (Letter dated Octobler 10, 2005) which included the following key issues:
There was considerable seepage and some spalling along the downstream slope of the dam along the spillway area along the center part of the dam (upstream of island area)(Figure 1).
The sluice gates in the turbine bays had considerable leakage (Figure 2).
The stop logs were in generally poor condition.
Some of the cribs were really pushing a great deal of water out along the left side (spillway portion of the dam and make shift repairs had been done to some) (Figure 3).
I would suggest having the damaged concrete examined in greater detail by a concrete expert considering the seepage that is forming there. Some of the cribs along the spillway section are nearing the end of their functional life and should be prioritized and repaired over time. Please keep us in the loop on the current repairs that are going to be done.
Please let me know if you have any questions. We look forward to continued mutual cooperation to insure the safety and stability of this dam.
E. George Robison, PhD Dam Safety Coordinator
c. Jeremy Giffin – Watermaster OWRD, Barry Norris – State Engineer OWRD
On Nov. 2, 1910, electricity snaked forth from a riverside power plant in Bend to light the first arc lamps in the fledgling city.
Now, nearly 100 years later, the riverside power plant churns on, producing power for part of Bend’s downtown core. A brick powerhouse with its original turbines and generators, the Bend power plant — now owned by Pacific Power — perches over the Deschutes River in the heart of Bend. Its dam, 252 feet of earth and rock that creates Mirror Pond, is adjacent to the power plant. Together, the dam, powerhouse and turbines are a relic of Bend’s humble beginnings, the working reminder of a city founded on dreams.
Drake’s big idea
Alexander McClurg Drake, a Minnesota investor, came to Bend in a covered wagon with his wife, Florence, in 1900. Their tired horses pulled the wagon to the banks of the Deschutes River in early June of that year after Drake learned of the irrigation potential of the river. At the time, no dams forced the waters of the Deschutes into the languid spread of today’s Mirror Pond. The quick river flowed past several abandoned cottages, a few homestead ranches and little else in the tiny village of Bend.
But all that was soon to change, much of it because of Drake’s investments. Seeing the business potential in the recently adopted Carey Act, Drake formed the Pilot Butte Development Co. on Oct. 18, 1900, and began creating a town. He bought the future Bend town site, platted Bend’s streets and created the city’s first water system.
Then, starting in 1909, Drake’s Deschutes Water, Light and Power Co. built the dam and original wooden powerhouse, electrifying Bend and giving Drake’s adopted town a bright future. The brick powerhouse replaced the wooden one several years later.
According to The Bulletin on Nov. 9, 1910, when the switch was flipped and power first shot from the powerhouse to the city, 85 poles throughout Bend carried five miles of power lines to businesses. Some 375 lights had been installed, with another 125 contracted for connection. Officials were working on a plan to extend the electrification to the residential district.
Power was on only from 4:30 p.m. to midnight and from 4 to 8 a.m., according to The Bulletin. The paper also published a list of the business that had been connected to the electric system.
Drake sold his holdings in 1910, just a few months before his power project was completed. Pacific Power bought the facility in 1930, said Angie Jacobson, regional community manager for Pacific Power.
Despite its age, Pacific Power’s Bend plant cranks on, putting out a reliable half to three-quarters of a megawatt around the clock, said plant operator Richard Chick.
“It’s a rather simple operation,” he said. “It’s not as complex by today’s technological standards.”
The dam creates a deep pool in the river. Chick keeps the water depth at the dam at about 16 1/2 feet. He does so by controlling how much water spills over the dam’s spillway and how much water flows through the generators.
Water backed up by the dam flows, guided by a concrete wall, into a sort of side channel, where it goes through huge screens and then into large forebays before it hits the turbines. The Bend plant is unusual in that the turbines sit in a “pit” of water, rather than having the water fed to them through a pipe, Chick said. Turbine shafts extend through the wall of the powerhouse to turn three generators.
Inside the powerhouse, the generators whir and emit great heat as electricity flows from the generators to a large control panel through the facility’s original, thick wiring. The control panel occupies an entire wall and features such instruments as synchroscopes and rheostats, gauges, lights, meters and more. Chick said a modern control panel the size of a refrigerator could manage the entire Bend plant instead of this room-size array of devices.
Outside the powerhouse, a pair of spill gates mounted in a smaller wooden dam sit in a mossy grotto to the east of the plant.
Spouts of water gush from gaps in the wood and weeds crawl up the gates. The cranks that raise the gates can now take a power wrench, but the original method was to attach a 4-foot wheel to the crank. It would take two to four men to turn the wheel and raise the gate, Chick said.
The screens in front of the forebays require constant maintenance and are the most labor-intensive part of managing the plant, Chick said. Two or three times per day, Chick harnesses up, snaps a safety line to a chain and cable above the screens, and uses a power rake to scrape off mounds of grass and aquatic plants from the front of the grates before they clog, reducing power output. Occasional dead raccoons, porcupines, fish and even swans get stuck in the grates, too, along with the odd lawn chair or toy boat.
Chick said there might be more money in the land the powerhouse and adjacent substation occupy than there is in the power it generates, which is small potatoes compared with modern plants. But with no place to relocate the downtown substation to, it will stay where it is, Jacobson said.
Modern plants have automatic rakes for the grates before the turbines and computers that monitor every fluctuation in the plant.
“Operators at the nice plants, they just sit behind a desk and push a button,” Chick said. “Me, I got to do it manually.”
Some of the machines in the power plant are so old, parts have to be specially machined if something breaks.
But Chick loves this old plant — he said his mornings working there are nice and peaceful, and he seems to relish the quirks that come with the age of the facility.
The plant was shut down for almost a year during the construction of the Newport Avenue Bridge because the water lever had to drop significantly for the bridge to be built. Chick expects another shutdown when (and if) Mirror Pond is dredged; the silt stirred up would clog up the machines.
Until then, the antique plant chugs away, cranking out enough power to light almost 500 homes and creating an idyllic scene on its little chunk of the Deschutes.
“It’s a challenge because it’s older and takes a lot more maintenance,” Chick said. “But I love it down here.”