The Bend City Council appeared ready to approve a plan Wednesday that would dedicate $3 million to preserve Mirror Pond, a Bend landmark that for decades has been filling with silt from the Deschutes River.
But at a work session, councilors said they’d insist on certain conditions, including that the Bend Park & Recreation District manage the project and the city will have no future role in managing the pond.
“I think the more broad the proposal, the more likely it is to be successful,” said Councilor Bill Moseley. “I have severe reservations about spending more money.”
Mirror Pond was created in 1910 with the construction of a hydroelectric dam, now called the Bend Hydro Dam.
Since that time it’s collected hundreds of tons of sediment from the Deschutes River, all while becoming a highly popular Bend recreation area commonly used as a takeout point for river users.
The pond was last dredged in 1984 in a project funded in part by a federal grant, along with contributions from the city, the park district, private donors and Pacific Power, which owns the dam that backs up the Deschutes River to create Mirror Pond.
Since 2002, various committees and management boards have considered options, including removing the dam and allowing the river to resume its natural course. In 2013, the council approved a proposed “middle ground” plan that would keep the dam in place and partially allow the Deschutes to flow naturally.
In recent years, councilors have been reluctant to pay more in a dredging project than what the city paid in 1984 — 16% of the project’s cost.
With the city’s estimators expecting a modern dredging to cost about $6.5 million, that would mean the city would contribute around $1 million.
But Wednesday, Bend councilors reckoned with the prospect that the federal government would not contribute nearly what it did in 1984, which was 48%.
Councilors agreed to partner with other entities, including the park district, which operates the park, and Pacific Power.
Conditions discussed Wednesday include developing an agreement in which the park district would manage and oversee the project and the city would have no ongoing or future commitment to operate or maintain of Mirror Pond.
Among revisions accepted Wednesday, Councilor Justin Livingston asked that the resolution will be amended to increase the city’s contribution to $300,000 a year for 10 years.
“The only way I’m supportive is if we spread that out over 10 years,” he said.
City Manager Eric King said he would next take the proposal to the park district board. Next would come an intergovernmental agreement between both bodies. There’s a chance a project can be approved by both the board and City Council by the end of the current fiscal year in June, King said.
Mayor Sally Russell said she’d like to see discretionary funds from the city’s transient room tax go to the dredging project.
“I see this as a heritage project for Bend. I look at it through that lens,” Russell said. “The city was platted around this pond, and it is a centerpiece of what this council wants to accomplish.”
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