- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BEND, Ore. (AP) - A partnership organized in 2013 to purchase the land beneath Mirror Pond has been meeting with Pacific Power, the company that owns the more than 100-year-old dam holding back the Deschutes River.

Bend Park & Recreation District Director Don Horton said that Bill Smith, developer of the Old Mill District, and Todd Taylor, owner of the Taylor NW construction company, have recently taken a larger role in dealing with Pacific Power and may be interested in acquiring the dam themselves.

In late 2013, Smith and Taylor’s partnership, Mirror Pond Solutions LLC, purchased much of the land beneath the pond from a Portland family that had owned it since before the dam was constructed. Until Smith conducted a title search on the property, the land was not generally known to have been privately held.

Reached Tuesday, Taylor said his interest is in preserving the pond at its current water level and removing the silt that has built up on the bottom since it was last dredged in 1984.

Taylor said his group’s discussions with Pacific Power are primarily focused on determining the utility’s plans for the dam.

“We’re not in discussions with Pacific Power to purchase any of their assets,” Taylor said. “Do we have an interest in doing that? Possibly. But we don’t know if Pacific Power is interested in selling those assets.”

The fate of Mirror Pond and the dam that holds it back have been a significant local issue in recent years. Initially focused on how to address silt accumulation, the discussion expanded to a debate over the merits of maintaining the pond versus removing the dam to allow a freer-flowing river.

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

Until early last year, Pacific Power had been in negotiations about a possible transfer with the Mirror Pond Ad-Hoc Committee, a group with representatives from both the Bend City Council and the park district board. Horton said that after the City Council and the district board both determined they were uninterested in owning the dam, those negotiations largely ended.

Taylor said his group hopes to schedule additional meetings with Pacific Power, and with representatives of the city and the park district, sometime in May or June.

Horton said regardless of who owns the dam in the future, the park district will pursue its efforts to reshape the banks of the pond to prevent erosion and enhance wildlife habitat, he said, while the city could continue toward its goal of installing filters on the storm water outlets that empty into the pond. Horton said Smith and Taylor would be involved in any reshaping of the banks, as such a project would require the park district to work on the pond bottom now owned by Mirror Pond Solutions.

Bend City Councilors Barb Campbell and Nathan Boddie both raised concerns about Mirror Pond at recent council meetings, claiming the City Council had not been kept abreast of recent developments.

Boddie said the idea of Smith and Taylor taking over the dam is intriguing, but he remains concerned that the cost of maintaining the dam could eventually prove too high. Sometime in the future, taxpayers could be asked to foot the bill to repair or remove the dam, he said.

“My main goal is to make sure this doesn’t land on the taxpayers - that’s the most important thing, however it happens,” Boddie said.

Councilors Victor Chudowsky and Doug Knight, who represent the city on the Mirror Pond committee, said they wish they could share more about the negotiations but are precluded from doing so because of a nondisclosure agreement the pair signed.

Both councilors emphasized their involvement has been minimal, with neither even sure when the ad hoc committee last met.

“Gee, it’s been quite a while, maybe it was last summer,” Chudowsky said. “But until we have some sort of figure and agreement, there’s nothing really to report, anyway. When that happens, we’ll go to the council for approval.”

Chudowsky noted Pacific Power asked the committee members to sign the nondisclosure agreement and that the utility “wouldn’t have entered into negotiations otherwise.”

“Pacific Power has to be sure any agreement they enter into is in the interest of their ratepayers; they can’t just give away money because they like this community,” Chudowsky said.

Knight said he is “unfortunately sworn to secrecy.” However, he did note that PacifiCorp has brought a new lawyer into the negotiations.

“I’m pretty optimistic (the new lawyer) gives us a wider road by which to tread, just based on the personality involved,” Knight said.

PacifiCorp could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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


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