Mirror Pond—part of the Deschutes River in downtown Bend—has been building up sediment since it was last dredged in 1984. The issue of dredging—and who will pay for it—has heated up over the past several years, after Mirror Pond Solutions—which owns the land under Mirror Pond—obtained the permits for dredging last year. But while MPS paid for the permitting and has raised some money from locals for dredging, it's looking to the City of Bend and the Bend Park and Recreation District to bring in the lion's share of the funds.
During the June 18 board meeting, the board of the Bend Park and Recreation District voted to adopt its new Mirror Pond Resolution, with a four-to-one vote. BPRD board member Nathan Hovekamp was the lone member in opposition, stating he was opposed because the resolution didn't include any long-term solutions to the issue of the buildup of sediment that forms behind Newport Dam.
The BPRD resolution lists these seven goals for the future of the pond and the Newport Dam: Retain Mirror Pond in near-historic form, modify the dam to function more like a natural part of a river environment, enhance habitat, enable fish passage, maintain or improve public spaces, reduce the frequency and quantity of future sediment removal efforts and identify funding sources, other than tax dollars.
The rough estimated cost of the dredging is around $6.7 million. The City of Bend has agreed to pay up to 50% of the Mirror Pond project, or $3 million, whichever is less. These payments would occur over a 10-year period.
BPRD has agreed to contribute $300,00 under the condition that a Memorandum of Understanding and an Intergovernmental Agreement that is satisfactory to both the City and BPRD are agreed upon, following the adoption of this resolution.
Some conditions of the forthcoming MOU include evaluating the options for fish passage—which would allow fish to move more freely above and below the dam—and reaffirming the commitment to find funding for a possible fish passage from "other private and public sources other than the City and BPRD."
Under the future IGA, BPRD agrees to "manage, administer, and oversee any proposed project to dredge Mirror Pond consistent with public contracting law." It will also hold "binding commitments from Mirror Pond Solutions and other contributors for all funding sources necessary aside from the contributions made herein by City and BPRD."
Community members expressed a few reoccurring concerns at the June 4 BPRD public hearing and the June 18 meeting.
Some comments focused on the condition of the dam in its current state, and the lingering question as to whether PacifiCorp plans to keep the 109-year-old fixture under its control. The only word from the company comes in the resolution and says that in 2016 PacifiCorp—which owns the dam—said they were "committed to the Newport Dam/Hydro project for the long-term."
During the meeting, Todd Taylor of Mirror Pond Solutions stated that they had reached out to PacifiCorp to let them know that if there would be plans to sell the dam, Mirror Pond Solutions would like to be put on that list of potential buyers.
Other community members expressed concern that their tax money is going toward a dredging project that ultimately would be "wasted" if the dam ends up being removed in the near future. Others expressed concern about the overall safety of an old dam, saying that dredging isn't a "long-term" solution.
At its meeting June 19, the Bend City Council voted seven to zero in favor of its own resolution that sets up a framework to move forward with BPRD on the dredging project.