By Hillary Borrud

The Bulletin

Bend Park & Recreation District Executive Director Don Horton said Monday it’s too late for officials to negotiate the acquisition of Mirror Pond dam before the summer irrigation and recreation season.

Horton said he asked PacifiCorp, the utility company that owns the dam, last week to repair a leak in the dam in order to prevent further damage and keep the Deschutes River safe for people who float the river on inner tubes and other devices during the summer.

Horton said he is concerned that when the Oregon Water Resources Department begins releasing water from Wickiup Reservoir for irrigation this spring, the increased flow will put more pressure on the leak in the dam. “And I’m worried about safety once summer hits and we have so many floaters going down the river and getting out at Drake Park,” Horton said.

PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely confirmed the utility and local officials are discussing the issue, but Gravely did not provide any details.

“Discussion of an interim fix for the dam is part of the broader discussion with (Bend Park & Recreation District) and the city of Bend over potential transfer of the dam,” Gravely wrote in an email on Monday. “As with other real estate transactions, the details of those discussions are confidential.”

Local officials are discussing how to manage Mirror Pond in the future. Silt has built up into mudflats behind the dam on this section of the Deschutes River, and officials have considered options that range from doing nothing to removing the dam.

An unscientific survey last year suggested public opinion is split on the issue, but a committee tasked with deciding the future of the pond voted to maintain it.

Gravely said in an interview last week that PacifiCorp representatives are working with Horton to arrange for an independent inspector to examine the dam. PacifiCorp’s chief dam safety engineer inspected the dam in fall 2013, but local officials also want to hire a contractor to inspect the dam.

Horton said he expects the inspection will cost less than $25,000, and the park district will pay for the work with money from its general fund. The district has sent documents on the project to seven firms, which are supposed to respond with proposals by Feb. 10. The water level on this section of the Deschutes River will be low in the second week of March due to irrigation districts withdrawing water, so this would be a good time for the inspection, Horton said.

City Councilor Mark Capell, who along with Horton has been meeting with PacifiCorp representatives to negotiate acquisition of the dam, said last week that PacifiCorp was delaying negotiations in order to improve its negotiating position. This summer, members of the public will grow more frustrated by low water levels due to the leak in the dam, and they will put more pressure on public officials to negotiate an agreement with PacifiCorp, Capell said during a City Council meeting last week.

“That desire to move things forward could end up costing the community, at (subsidiary) Pacific Power’s benefit, and I don’t want to see that happen,” Capell said.

On Monday, Capell said he was frustrated last week because PacifiCorp canceled a meeting with Capell and Horton. Since then, an attorney for the park district has been talking with PacifiCorp representatives, and Capell said he believes the company is making a good-faith effort to negotiate.

Gravely said the utility company is not trying to delay a deal.

“PacifiCorp is prepared to begin earnest negotiations as soon as possible with the local entities on an overall solution that balances the interests of the community and our customers,” Gravely wrote on Monday.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

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