Back in mid-November the Bend City Council decided to spend $200,000 on an "interim fix" for the Mirror Pond problem that would have involved some dredging. We said that was a bad idea. Now it looks like the council has come up with a better one.
It's talking about contracting with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, a nonprofit conservation and restoration group, to explore alternatives to dredging. The group has done some nice-looking restoration work along the banks of the Deschutes just downstream from the Bill Healy Bridge, and the city had been talking with it about possible Mirror Pond solutions a couple of years ago, until the dredge-it-at-any-cost faction in town put the skids to that approach.
Predictably, those same knuckle-draggers are not at all happy with the council's latest change of course. They want that pond dredged, and they want it dredged yesterday. No "dithering, studying and fussing" with other possible options, as a recent editorial in another local newspaper put it - get those dredges churning.
"More study won't cure Mirror Pond," says the headline on that editorial. But the problem with the dredging "cure," as we've said before, is that it isn't a real cure at all. Mirror Pond is an artificial feature, created by backing the river up behind a hydropower dam installed early in the last century. It will always silt up. It was last dredged 23 years ago at a cost of over $300,000. It would cost more than a million dollars to dredge it now, and God knows how much to dredge it when it inevitably fills up with muck again.
Over the long haul, dredging is a huge waste of money. It also creates a huge environmental problem - all the dredged gunk has to be hauled away and disposed of somewhere.
What's more, dredging ultimately doesn't produce aesthetically satisfying results. The pond looks okay for a few years after dredging, but soon the mud begins accumulating again.
The editorial cited above claims that without dredging Mirror Pond "will become a mudflat with a river running down its middle." Of course, with intelligent management the pond will not become a mudflat with a river in the middle. It could become an attractive, natural meadow-like area filled with birds and other wildlife, and with a healthy, sparkling river coursing through it. We think that would be a hell of a lot better than the stagnant sump we're looking at now.
The watershed council will be coming up with a number of alternative "looks" for the pond area that can be achieved through various management approaches, and hopes to give the community a look at them with computer-generated images. That process could take about a year.
While it's going forward, we hope the council won't be stampeded by the gotta-dredge-now lobby into going back to a shortsighted, unsustainable approach. To give it a little encouragement, here's the GLASS SLIPPER.