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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Deschutes River: "Integrated Solution" Called for at City Club Today

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Ryan Houston of Upper Deschutes Watershed Council explains what is and isnt possible.
  • Ryan Houston of Upper Deschutes Watershed Council explains what is and isn't possible.

Today's City Club of Central Oregon forum was a who's who of Bend's movers and shakers. Not surprising given the topic: Mirror Pond.

It was perhaps the first time in recent years where river experts, hydrologists and stakeholders, as well as notables like Gary Fish, founder and CEO of Deschutes Brewery, gathered in one room to discuss options for the silt-filled pond near downtown Bend. One thing seemed clear—dredging and walking away, as was last done in 1984, is an option that has fallen out of favor.

"The way we think about rivers is in a period of change," noted Mayor Jim Clinton, who was also on today's six-man (no women!?) panel. He explained that the 20th century marked an era of dam building. Now, in the 21st century, we're seeing more dams taken out, he said. Clinton advocated for what seemed to be a popular solution—a creative, multifaceted fix that might restore the river to a more natural state. Clinton called the issue a "great opportunity."

Mike Hollern, chair and CEO of Brooks Resources Corporation, made no effort to hide his bias—he wants to keep Mirror Pond. But, Hollern, who lives along the water, said he'd be willing to help pay for a fix—and so should others who live nearby, as they benefit the most from the pond. Hollern also said while the best solution should include some dredging, maybe we could expand the grounds of the parks which would add increased green space. Such a fix would make for a narrow, deeper, faster and colder waterway—all of which would make for a healthier river.

Ryan Houston, the Executive Director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council did not reveal a solution but did answer a number of questions concerning what was and wasn't possible. Houston called a "good solution" one that was sustainable (both environmentally and economically), fit the community's desires, and appealed to the various user groups—fisherman, paddlers, dam owners, floaters, homeowners, etc. Like Clinton, Houston said an "integrated solution," is the best way forward.

The sold-out event drew out four of our seven City Councilors—Victor Chudoswky, Doug Knight, Sally Russell, Mayor Clinton (Mark Capell, Jodie Barram and Scott Ramsay were absent); City Manager Eric King, E.D. of Parks Don Horton as well as county commissioners, environmentalist groups, notable attorneys and at least one former Mirror Pond project manager.

Unlike the Park District meetings, which were free, this event did have a significant barrier to entry: tickets for the City Club discussion were $35 ($20 for City Club members). Bourgeois!

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