Ned Dempsey is perhaps the best choice as the third member of the team appointed by the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee to meet privately with Pacific Power in hopes of striking a deal to purchase the aging Newport Avenue Dam. Purchasing the dam, of course, is critical to the game plan to preserve Mirror Pond. No functioning dam, no preserved pond.
Dempsey has worked as a civil engineer for more than four decades, and has been a Bend resident for nearly that same time span. His graduate work was in environmental engineering and, for a decade, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey measuring and monitoring American rivers. He has been on Oregon's Sustainability Climate Change Board, and helped lay out the Deschutes River Trail from Mt. Bachelor Village to the Bill Healy Bridge. He even helped deliver the Cascade Cycling Classic to Bend, and rang the bell to start the first race. And, oh yeah, he designed the sewage system at Black Butte Ranch.
Two weeks ago, the nine-member Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee, the group that has decided, hell or high (er, low) water, to move forward with a plan to preserve Mirror Pond, appointed Dempsey to its negotiating team. The team is charged with brokering a deal for the Pacific Power-owned Newport Avenue Dam. Of course, that plan relies on the idea of fixing, acquiring or somehow dealing with the 103-year-old dam, the man-made structure which is currently leaking and not quite holding the pond in place.
As the citizen member of the team, Dempsey joins city councilor Mark Capell and Bend Park & Recreation District Executive Director Don Horton. Let's say that one more time: Dempsey is a very appropriate addition—his engineering expertise and specific knowledge of rivers should serve the group well. As one prominent local leader, who preferred to stay anonymous, explained, "Of all the problems with the approach to Mirror Pond, I don't see Ned being one of them. If anything, I think they should be listening to him more."
Dempsey himself has been critical of the Mirror Pond decisions, which, again, is another cheer for his addition. "Opinions were based on emotions and agendas," he said in a recent interview with the Source. "I want to know the data," he added, specifying that cost, operation plans and environmental impacts should be considered before determing a final outcome. "Then you can start worrying about what you really want. If you can't back it up, you're just talking."
But what is the problem is the process that picked this third member. And yes, process matters, especially in a divided decision between whether to maintain Mirror Pond, and the attendant Newport Avenue Dam, and the concept of allowing the Deschutes River to run free.
That is, there was no process, we're giving the boot to that fact. Dempsey was simply appointed, fait accompli, a decision that smacks of a closed-door, backroom deal—especially troubling to opponents because Dempsey lives on property overlooking Mirror Pond, which may seem to skewer opinion as much as a Russian ice skating judge. Again, though, we believe that Dempsey is a great choice, but there was no public opportunity to submit names or review the process. Really? How is this meant to rally public opinion—which is currently split down the middle?
City councilor Capell, one of three men on the negotiating team with Dempsey, was as surprised as anyone. "All I did was get a memo," Capell said of Dempsey's appointment to the negotiating team. The memo was sent by Bend Park and Recreation District board member Scott Wallace, also one of the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee members.
"When I saw the memo, I called Scott, and said we should have talked about this first," Capell added.
When asked whether he knew that Dempsey lives in a house overlooking Mirror Pond, Capell paused. "Not until after (he had been appointed)," he admitted, and added, "yeah, it (the appointment process) probably could have been done better."