Dam leak muddies Mirror Pond's future further

Many wondering: Could new look be permanent?

POSTED: 6:35 PM PDT October 7, 2013    UPDATED: 2:29 PM PDT October 8, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

There's a mini-waterfall gushing from the century-old Pacific Power hydro dam by Newport Avenue in Bend -- and in only a few short days, Mirror Pond has gone from glassy to gunky.

 "It's pretty nasty looking," one man riding his bike over the Drake Park footbridge said Monday.

"It's one heck of a way to keep the kids from jumping off the bridge," said a man who chose to go by the moniker 'Neighbor Norm.'

Another young woman said, "I'd rather look at the park than the river now."

And the timing of the leak  is interesting -- right in the middle of a heated debate over the future of Mirror Pond, the iconic waterway created by the dam on the Deschutes River in downtown Bend.

Project leaders say if the dam is removed, the pond will look more like it does currently -- large exposed banks and a narrow and more swift channel.

"What people are seeing now is close," Project Manager Jim Figurski said Monday. "But I would expect that if the dam went away that water levels would drop even further, and you would see most of the silt banks exposed."

Community leaders are still looking at several solutions to deal with the buildup of silt choking the pond -- dredge it, take out the dam, do a partial dredge, or do nothing.

Homeowners said they can't imagine the view getting worse.

"I'm sure the property owners around here will take a hit," Norm said.

Norm owns a house right on the waterfront. He said his home is so unique, he doesn't think it would lose value. However, he said he'd like to see the pond stay, but thinks a new look could work.

"We could still create the pond effect with a buffer and still open it up for fish and more natural river," Norm said.

Figurski said if the dam is removed, the banks would get a makeover.

"(You would see the banks) planted, see them shaped and modified a certain bit, so you could enhance them as much as possible," Figurski said.

"Whatever they do, I'm sure it will still be beautiful," said the man on the bike.

As far as what Pacific Power will do with its dam, that's still a mystery. But officials say the damage might not be worth repairing.

And that's leaving people wondering if the pond's new look is permanent.

"It certainty doesn't look like Mirror Pond," said a Bend man.  "That would be a sad thing, because I enjoyed Mirror Pond the way it used to be."

Mirror Pond will keep draining for the time being. Pacific Power officials said it will be at least a couple months before they can start investigating the damage that led to the leak. They say they first must secure the proper permits to bring the water levels even lower.

Right now, the company is not generating any power from the dam.

The Mirror Pond Steering Committee is also behind schedule to make any decisions on what will happen with the pond. A decision now is not expected until at least December.