Julia Shumway
The Bulletin

A Bend man wants voters to prevent the city of Bend from contributing to the dredging of Mirror Pond until it confirms the dam that created the pond will remain and can test how much silt is in the pond.

Spencer Dahl filed paperwork this week to begin collecting voter signatures for a November ballot measure. He called it an extension of conversations he’s had with the Bend City Council, which is considering a request from the private group that owns the land under the pond to pay the bulk of the $6.7 million dredging.

His ballot measure would prohibit city contributions to the dredging project unless Pacific Power, which owns the dam that created the pond, commits to keeping the dam and the pond in place for at least five years.

“I want to make sure the pond’s going to be around,” Dahl said Monday. “If we’re going to spend $7 million to dredge it this summer, we want to make sure it’s going to be around next summer.”

Dahl lives a few blocks from the pond and served on a city-created board dealing with Mirrror Pond in 2009. He now shows up about once a month at City Council meetings to talk about Mirror Pond.

The ballot measure also would require the city to hold off on paying for dredging until a hydrologist completes a report detailing current sediment levels and comparing them to levels found in a 2005 study.

“We’ve been having the Chicken Littles for years saying the sky is falling, the pond is filling,” Dahl said. “I’m pretty sure there’s less mud in the pond now than there was in 2005.”

The City Council plans to hold a special meeting from 5 to 8 p.m. April 22 at the Deschutes Services Building to hear from residents about their opinions on dredging Mirror Pond. The city of Bend, the Bend Park & Recreation District and Pacific Power have each pledged $300,000 toward dredging.

In December, the City Council tentatively agreed to raise the remaining $5.5 million through a 1.5 percent increase in franchise fees charged to Pacific Power customers. After two new councilors took office in January, the council appeared to back away from that agreement, citing concerns that the money could be better spent on transportation needs and city services.

Filing paperwork doesn’t guarantee that Dahl’s initiative will appear on the November ballot. Over the next week, City Recorder Robyn Christie will review whether it complies with constitutional requirements for initiatives. If it does, City Attorney Mary Winters or District Attorney John Hummel will draft the text that would explain the ballot measure.

Only then could Dahl start collecting signatures. He’d need to get at least 15 percent of all registered voters in Bend to sign the petition by Aug. 7 to get the measure on the November ballot.

As of April 1, there were 66,674 registered voters living in Bend, according to the Deschutes County Clerk’s office. That means Dahl would need at least 10,000 people to sign his petition.

Christie said local activists Ron “Rondo” Boozell, Foster Fell and Brian Douglass have tried to start several initiatives, but she doesn’t remember any making it to the ballot. More commonly, the Bend City Council votes to refer issues that received community support — recent examples include increasing the city’s hotel tax and changing how Bend selects its mayor — to the ballot directly, eliminating the need to gather signatures.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com