- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2015

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Uncertainty over the future of the dam that holds back Mirror Pond has prompted local officials to scale back their vision for one of Bend’s most recognizable features.

Bend Park & Recreation District Executive Director Don Horton said an ambitious plan to replace the dam and redevelop properties along the edge of the pond has been shelved - at least temporarily - in favor of a more incremental approach that would initially look at the area between the Newport and Galveston avenue bridges.

The area has become choked with silt that has built up in the more than 30 years since the pond was last dredged, and local officials have expressed interest in dredging and reshaping the banks of the pond to deter future accumulation.

Horton said he hopes to persuade the park district board and the Bend City Council to split the cost of an initial design process to help determine the cost of dredging, bank reshaping and the relocation or filtering of city storm drains that dump sediment into the pond.

In July, Horton estimated the cost of this work at $5 million, compared with $11 to 14 million for a project that would include removal and replacement of the dam.

Horton said talks with PacifiCorp, which owns the dam, have failed to provide much certainty about what will become of it.

In late 2013, a hole opened up in the 100-year-old dam, and PacifiCorp announced its intent to eventually stop using the dam for generating electricity and transfer it to another entity.

For local governments to proceed with dredging and other work around the pond itself, they need to know the dam will remain in place, Horton said, ideally for at least 15 years. Neither the district nor the city is currently interested in acquiring and operating the dam, he said.

“If they’re able to guarantee that we’d have a dam in place for a certain amount of time, that would allow us to move forward with the vision,” Horton said Wednesday.

PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said it’s difficult for the utility to make such a commitment. Gravely said PacifiCorp is willing to continue talks with local officials but is bound by law to act in the interest of its customers. Any decision to sell or otherwise dispose of the dam or the adjacent substation would have to be cleared with public utility commissions in multiple states, he said.

“We’re not committed to one particular outcome but have to be able to demonstrate to our regulators that a decision we’ve made is not a bad decision for our customers, not only in Bend but in Pendleton and Grants Pass and everywhere else,” Gravely said.

Separately, Bend activist Foster Fell has filed a new local ballot measure that would block the park district from acquiring, renovating or replacing the existing dam and commit the district to supporting a free-flowing river.

Fell said he expects he’ll need 6,000 to 7,000 signatures from local voters to qualify for the November 2016 ballot and may rely on paid signature gatherers to collect them.

Starting in 2014, Fell collected signatures for two similar ballot measures, one targeting the park district and one targeting the city. Both failed to attract the support needed to make the ballot.


Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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