A measure that would limit the city of Bend’s ability to acquire the Mirror Pond dam could be headed for the November ballot.
Spencer Dahl, who’s been active in the various committees and public meetings surrounding the future of Mirror Pond, submitted the paperwork to begin collecting signatures for the measure a little over a week ago. If 15 percent of registered voters within the city sign his petitions by Aug. 6, it will go before voters in the November election.
Dahl’s measure would prohibit the city from taking ownership or control of the dam unless it has already obtained one of two permits: the federal permit needed to operate the dam as an updated hydroelectric generation facility, or the state water right permit to operate it as a nongenerating dam.
The idea of the city or the Bend Park & Recreation District acquiring the dam that creates Mirror Pond has gained traction since December, when dam owner PacifiCorp announced it was no longer interested in operating the dam long term. The utility has since repaired a hole in the dam that prompted the announcement, but is continuing to discuss the possible transfer of the dam with officials from the city and the park district.
Dahl said his ballot measure is an attempt to focus the discussion on what he believes is the central issue: Should the Mirror Pond dam continue to be a hydroelectric facility or not? He said his research suggests it’s unlikely the state would grant the water rights needed for the dam to remain if it’s not generating electricity, and if that’s the case, many of the ideas now up for discussion may be pointless.
“If we’re spending money on coming up with all these plans and ideas that may or may not happen without this water right, why don’t we focus on getting this water right first?” Dahl said. “It’s absolutely critical — without the water right, all these plans are a waste of time and money.”
Dahl said he’s personally open to a variety of options for Mirror Pond and the dam, though he’s fairly certain the current dam will eventually come out. He said there’s no need to rush a decision: The recently repaired leak washed away much of the sediment that had accumulated on the floor of the pond, and with the repairs, the dam could have another 10 to 20 years as a viable power generation facility.
“I think there’s a great sense of false urgency in the whole process,” he said. “From the beginning: ‘Mirror Pond’s going to disappear if we don’t do this right away.’ They’ve been saying that for the last 10 years.”
Dahl’s measure is distinct from two Mirror Pond ballot measures being advanced by Foster Fell. Fell’s proposed ballot measures would bar the city and the park district from spending public funds on any improvements at the Mirror Pond or the dam without providing for fish passages and habitat restoration.
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