Dam. No dam. Those are the only two options for Bend’s Mirror Pond.
But the community cannot make a decision about the best option without better information about costs and other uncertainties.
The water rights issue is muddy. It’s not clear if once the dam is no longer used for power generation, the state would allow a dam to create a pond without a special exception to state law.
Would the local delegation back such a bill? Could lawmakers get it through the Legislature?
That’s one unknown. Many are about costs and liabilities.
If the decision is to remove the dam, what will the costs be?
What would it cost to remove the dam? One estimate for the Mirror Pond committee put it at about $11 million. PacifiCorp told members of the Mirror Pond committee it believes that is too high but has not provided its own estimate.
There are other issues.
Two local businessmen, Bill Smith, developer of the Old Mill District, and Todd Taylor, president and CEO of the construction company Taylor Northwest, have signed a contract for an option to purchase the land under Mirror Pond. If the river recedes to a channel, would there be developable land exposed? Would riverfront homes become former riverfront homes? What would become of the footbridge? There is no easement for it. Could the parks along the pond be expanded?
PacifiCorp is also interested in keeping its substation near the dam and the adjacent parking lot.
Then there are the costs with the decision to keep the dam.
Smith and Taylor are interested in seeing the pond preserved, so landowner permission to dredge silt should not be an issue. Raising what Taylor estimated would be $3 million to pay for the dredging would be.
The dam also leaks. There is seepage in other places. Some of the structure is 100 years old.
There would be costs for whatever repairs are needed for the dam now and whatever maintenance issues there are in the future.
PacifiCorp has not released any specifics of its recent dam inspection. And contrary to what was said at Monday’s Mirror Pond committee meeting, the state’s dam inspector has no plans to release any report based on his October trip to the dam. His last report from 2012 does not put a dollar figure on repairs.
So the community needs an independent estimate of what the dam would cost to repair and maintain.
There has been some discussion of adding a fish ladder to the dam. What would that cost?
Only after the community gets better estimates can it effectively negotiate with PacifiCorp or present options to voters. It should be clear, though, that PacifiCorp faces significant costs for removing the dam. Those costs and repair costs for the dam should be deducted from whatever price it wants from the community.