By Stan Roach
I attended the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee meeting on Dec. 3. It was very informative and I learned a great deal about the complexity and estimated costs of saving Mirror Pond “within reason.” The water-rights issues, the cost of repairing a 100-year-old dam, PacifiCorp’s options and the options for moving forward to save Mirror Pond or allow the river to return to a more natural flowing river.
Also, Todd Taylor discussed the reasons he and Bill Smith negotiated an option to purchase the 25 or so acres that the pond covers. Taylor explained they didn’t have any profit motives, only the desire to make sure, whatever happened, that the pond would remain. I might note that there were only a few people in the audience, and only one on the committee, that live outside the west side of Bend, so it occurred to me this issue is more a west-side issue. But in reality, it’s an issue for all Bend citizens.
Both the committee and the Bend City Council have voted to move forward with a plan to save the pond. So public input, it seems, carries little weight for the time being. However, I would like to suggest that instead of trying to save a dam that even PacifiCorp is not willing to repair or maintain, why not allow the power company to either repair the dam (which they have stated they won’t do), sell it to some private enterprise (no one is likely to buy the dam) or decommission it. It seems the third is likely and the committee agreed on that point.
Saving Mirror Pond is a noble cause. However, based on the conversation and debate from the meeting, it will be a long and expensive process that will most likely not be “within reason.” I’d like to suggest a solution that might satisfy the entire community since it is clear that people are divided on this important issue.
Why not just walk away from the table and let PacifiCorp decommission the dam at their expense? Go to the Legislature to create a new water right to allow a pond to exist for the purpose of retaining a cultural part of Bend and for recreation.
Surely our local legislators could carry that successfully to Salem since the pond is an established cultural landmark. Build a new dam just south of Newport Bridge to restore Mirror Pond where the crossing is narrow, create a passage for fish and water recreation and everyone wins. Instead of spending months and who knows how much money trying to negotiate with a company that really doesn’t care about anything but the bottom line and its own self interests.
In this scenario, whatever money is required from the public would go toward creating a whole new attraction for our city. A new and manageable dam that can be used to regulate the high and low water marks of the pond, allow a smaller river channel that flows alongside the pond through Bend, new opportunities for recreation, restored habitat for fish, less silt buildup. Look at the cost/benefit of that approach rather than taking on the expense of repairing and maintaining a failing dam and then having to still deal with the silt problem. As a property owner across from Drake Park with views of Mirror Pond and the Deschutes and as a taxpayer, I could get behind that approach and it might stand a better chance of getting more people to support the effort, especially when putting it to a vote of the citizens.
— Stan Roach lives in Bend.