Now that PacificPower has announced it's planning to keep the Mirror Pond dam after all, we can all breath a temporary sigh of relief. While in some quarters this decision by the energy company has upended the apple cart of "progress" on Mirror Pond, for those who share the sentiment that the best solution for the Deschutes River is one based in science, the news is encouraging.
PacificPower is not the first entity to be pulled into the vortex of bad policy that seems to prevent meaningful progress around a solution for the river. PacificPower's position shift regarding the dam is a natural business phenomenon that occurs with frustrating frequency when trying to move between the private sector and governmental agencies. It is hard to find fault with PacificPower.
Instead of lamenting the fact that one of the constantly moving pieces in this struggle to solve the river problem is once again moving, perhaps we can use this time to solicit meaningful input about what the community vision for the river looks like and more importantly, what we are willing to pay for that vision.
There has always been and always will be a lot of nostalgia for the ol' pond as a scenic centerpiece. Oldtimers imagine that Bend wouldn't be Bend without a warm, shallow, mirror-like surface. And yet we know fish can't survive in that artificial setting which is why environmentalists and anglers would be happy to lose Mirror Pond altogether by removing the dam and allowing the river to flow more freely. And while the Deschutes would need a lot more restoration work to bring back a healthy anadromous fish population, it needs to start here.
Bendites continue to be sold the idea that the only solution is a public/private partnership that preserves the ol' pond, provides some perks for the Parks and Rec Department, and pays off financially for developers.
And yet, no one seems to know what it will cost to dredge Mirror Pond now, much less in the future. And so far, no private entity has offered to foot the bill. If Bend voters knew the true cost of maintaining the ol' pond, we suspect it would go the way of the gas tax.
Lost in all the hand-wringing over losing out on a deal with PacificPower is the fact that there could be a scientific solution that comes with federal funding, if we are willing to restore the river to its natural state. But as long as there is no clear consensus from the community, Mirror Pond will continue to stagnate.