Consider facts before removing Mirror Pond dam

Allan Bruckner /

Published Nov 3, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

As our community faces the decision on what to do regarding Mirror Pond, there appears to be many misconceptions, and deceptive statements, regarding removing Pacific Power’s dam at Newport Avenue. Most serve to minimize the impact of the dam’s removal and ignore many likely negative consequences. Consider:

1. Removing the dam will not return the Deschutes River to a wild natural river as promoted. There is a dam just above it at Colorado Avenue. There is also a dam just a few hundred feet downstream and another at the north end of Division Street which forms another large pond. With these three dams, (plus Wickiup and Crane Prairie several miles upstream) the Deschutes will never be a free flowing river in Bend.

2. The Colorado Street dam also impounds water, but rather than encouraging its removal, the Bend Park & Recreation District is remodeling it to provide more recreation opportunities appropriate for the urban setting. Both dams create major recreation areas for citizens.

3. The aerial views of the four alternatives presented by the consultant remain nearly constant. Critics contend this is creative conjecture and reflects the prejudice of the consultant for removal of the dam. A river with cattails and native vegetation would be vastly different than the existing or a dredged Mirror Pond. The recent lowering of the river provided a vastly different view from the consultant’s conjecture.

4. Converting the existing pond into a wetland would attract mosquitoes, and other unwelcome varmints, as portions of the river upstream do.

5. Topographic maps reveal that removal of the dam would likely result in lowering the river 12-15 feet. (The consultant says it would lower the river 5-8 feet). This would make the river essentially invisible to everybody at ground level, like the Farewell Bend Park upstream. People would be denied the vastly popular water interaction available today. We would just have another non-water park.

6. The obvious downstream impacts of dam removal have not been addressed, such as what happens to all the silt and disturbed land. This could be immediately devastating to the dam that diverts water for irrigation companies. Long term, silt could devastate their operation. The consultant’s cost estimates fail to include either the dam removal or downstream impacts.

7. If the dam were to be removed now, all the expenses of removal and mitigation would fall on taxpayers. If eventually Pacific Power decided to remove the dam, they would have to pay. If the dam were removed now, Pacific Power might also insist upon the public paying for moving the adjoining substation.

8. It has been hinted that due to age the dam should be removed. It has not been subjected to unstable acts, i.e., major sudden floods, nor is it in an unstable landslide area or earthquake zone. Much larger dams in Europe are still functioning after 1,000 years.

9. At the time of the 1984 dredging, the project engineer predicted that dredging would be needed in 20 years. It has been 30. Improvements in upstream management such as eliminating most power boats, building controls along the stream and eliminating logs in the river likely contributed to these gains. Continued improvements in water management might further increase the time span.

10. The questionnaire and various statements imply that water quality is an issue because of the dam and pond. But sampling of water upstream, and at Mirror Pond, yielded data that rates excellent in the Oregon Water Quality index. Clearly all the impacts and costs of removing the dam have not been reasonably assessed. Obviously dredging the existing pond would be far cheaper, as well as retaining the greatest icon of Bend.