Deschutes River

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Inspectors on Newport Avenue Dam: "It's Old"

Posted By on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 9:00 PM

Pacific Power engineers at work.
  • Pacific Power engineers at work.

So far, after one full day of inspections, Pacific Power engineers are reporting what we already knew about the leaking, 103-year-old Newport Avenue dam.

"It's inline with our expectations, which is, it's old," said Pacific Power spokesperson Bob Gravely while standing on the Newport Avenue Bridge overlooking the dam. Gravely, who was relaying reports from the engineers onsite, went on to say that the dam would require "extensive work" to continue to make it operational in the long term. "And that's what we suspected," he concluded.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Water Levels in Mirror Pond to Drop Further as Dam Inspection Begins

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 4:28 PM

Mirror Pond water levels are already quite low.
  • Mirror Pond water levels are already quite low.

Pacific Power spokesman Bob Gravely just told me that the utility company will begin drawing down water levels Monday morning at the "crack on dawn" so that company personnel can access and inspect the Newport Avenue Dam, which sprung a significant leak in early October.

Permitting requirements stipulate that Pacific Power can draw down water levels no faster than a rate of 2 inches per hour, which, according to Gravely, should help reduce negative environmental effects downstream. (Flows downstream of the dam will increase as water is drained from the pond.) Gravely expects the draw down to take a couple days, while the actual inspection, he said, should take no more than one day.

Water levels in Mirror Pond are already lower than normal—at least two feet lower—having fallen victim to a double whammy: the leak in the 103-year-old dam and the reduced upstream flows typical of fall and winter, the traditional end of the irrigation season. This October, however and with Wickiup Reservoir levels low following a warm, dry spring and summer, Oregon's Water Resources Department chose to release only 32 cubic feet per second from the reservoir, a decision which led to the deaths of approximately 3,000 fish. Last winter the state agency was releasing approximately 300 cfs. Wickiup Reservoir and various tributaries supply the Deschutes River with its water. Draining Mirror Pond further is not expected to further jeopardize fish populations, though more fish species may yet suffer as a result of the minimal upstream flows.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Low Water Leaves Scores of Fish Dead on Upper Deschutes

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 9:08 PM

This brown trout and smaller rainbow trout are just a few of the victims of our antiquated water management policies.
  • Jeff P.
  • This brown trout and smaller rainbow trout are just a few of the victims of our antiquated water management policies.

Countless fish now lay dead on the banks of the Upper Deschutes, stranded after the Water Resources Department reverted to extremely low winter flow rates earlier this week.

What's perhaps even more depressing than the scores of wild trout, whitefish and sculpin that annually are left for dead, is that for nearly a century the state has allowed such mismanagement. Why? Because water allocations and release schedules at Wickiup Reservoir, put into place in the early part of the 20th century, have long favored farmers who demand water for irrigation. During the summer (warm months) the watermaster releases so much water that up to 1,800 cubic feet per second flows through Bend, enough to satiate the farmers and their fields. But come fall/winter (mid Oct.) the demand for irrigation is nill and the water coming out of Wikiup—the water that feeds the once mighty Deschutes River—is all but cutoff, leaving thousands of fish, quite literally, high and dry.

This year, though, the massive fish kill that followed the reduced winter flows was especially severe.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Care About the River? Here's How to Vote on Mirror Pond's Future.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM


River or pond? Dredge and walk away or remove the dam and add more public green space?

The Mirror Pond Steering Committee has presented the community with four options (or seven, counting the no-dam alternatives associated with the first three options) for managing the silt clogging the pond feature on the Deschutes River near downtown Bend. Read this week's news story and then take the short online questionnaire at This is how to make yourself heard. Your opinion will inform the steering committee as to how to proceed with a solution. Inform yourself and choose wisely.

Want to know more? Go to a public info session. There's three left (and one of them is tomorrow).

June 25, 2013 - Public Open House at 799 SW Columbia Street, Community Room from 5pm - 6:30pm
July 2, 2013 - Juniper Swim and Fitness Center, 800 NE 6th Street, 3pm - 6pm
July 4, 2013 - Drake Park, 10am - 4pm

Take the questionnaire here.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It's Over!

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 5:51 PM


Dredging Mirror Pond won't come cheap. Which means it might not come at all.

Today, during the Mirror Pond Management Board Meeting, we learned there's 380,000 cubic yards of silt (affectionately referred to as "goo" or "warm Jell-O") in the bottom of the man-made lake near downtown Bend. At $30-$50 per yard of silt removed (the quoted cost) a full dredge of the pond would cost $11-18 million!!!!!!!!!!

Since there's no funding mechanism for the silt-filled pond yet in place, a capital campaign miiiiiiiiight prove difficult. Oh, and it'd only last for about 50 years. By the time our kids are George Clooney's age, they'll be, once again, trying to figure out what to do with the silt in the bottom of Mirror Pond.

Luckily, other solutions were also floated. Four of the eight options included dam removal or partial dam removal. One was a "do-nothing" solution and the other three involved some sort of dredging and/or sediment relocation. Project Manager Jim Figurski said clear options would be available for public viewing in June.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pacific Power Says Dam is "Not Very" Important to Company

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Yesterdays MPMB powwow.
  • Yesterday's MPMB powwow.

During Wednesday's Mirror Pond Management Board meeting Pacific Power rep. Angela Jacobson Price was asked "how important is the dam to your company?"
"Not very," she said. Price went on to call the Newport Avenue dam, the 100-year-old structure which impounds the Deschutes River at Drake Park, "a small asset" and said it provides power for less than 1,000 homes.

Although she declined to elaborate further on what that might mean for the community and the future of the dam, Price did say that altering the dam was in Pacific Power's "10 year plan."

It still seems as if the utility company is very much open to relinquishing control of the dam. Price asked "What does the community want us to do?"
Ryan Houston, MPMB member and executive director of the Upper Deschutes watershed Council asked Price if the community says, "keep the dam," would you sell it to the Parks District? Again, Price declined to comment.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Survey Results are Clear: People Care about the River

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 4:25 PM

Late last week the Mirror Pond Steering Committee released the results from 18-question survey that was first issued in January.
And yesterday, Don Horton, executive director of Bend Park & Recreation District summed up the results during a Mirror Pond Steering Committee meeting.
Horton said it was "clear," Bend residents care about water quality, river habitat and picturesque views.

Here are the most telling (and most interesting) results from a survey that proved to be confusing and biased to many of the 1,858 respondents.


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Monday, February 25, 2013

The Somewhat Surprising Results from the Unofficial Mirror Pond Survey

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Further proof that the tide may well be turning:


That long, split-pea green bar on top represents the 62.26% of respondents who think "The dam should be removed and the river returned to its natural channel." About 300 participated in the the unofficial survey, issued by the Old Bend Neighborhood Association via the website

The last two questions of the eight-question survey were also surprising/pleasing to see:

Q7 If the dam is removed, what would you like to see happen to the land no longer submerged under Mirror Pond?

12.31% — It remain in the hands of its current owners. (McKay family?, etc.)
15.77% — It becomes the property of the adjacent land owners, maintaining their river frontage.
71.92% — It becomes public property and remains in public use.

Q8 Which would you prefer?

44.32% — Mirror Pond to retain its current charm and iconic stature.
55.68% — Boat or float the Deschutes River from above the Bill Healy Bridge to below the First Street Rapids.

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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."

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Former Mayors Join Surface Water Opposition

Bend, water, surface

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 11:28 PM

Opponents of the city’s surface water project have grown into a who’s who of local business and political interests. Now they’re taking their case directly to the Bend City Council. At least two former mayors will be present to officially hand over the 1,000 or so signatures gathered by the anti-surface water contingent this week during a press event outside city hall on Thursday afternoon. (12-12:30)

At this point, it’s not clear which former mayors have thrown their weight behind the opposition movement but Allan Bruckner, Bob Woodward and Oran Teater are all potential candidates. The three have previously added their collective voice to the effort to forestall another costly city-backed project, the Juniper Ridge industrial and high tech campus initiative that has produced few returns for the city. Other likely candidates are Ruth Burleigh and Bruce Abernethy.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

With Water Gone, Fish Perish In Tumalo Creek

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 8:22 PM

A project designed to improve fish habitat on Tumalo Creek resulted in an unintended fish kill over the weekend.

It’s not clear how many fish were killed when a crew working with the Tumalo Irrigation District dramatically cut back flows on the already meager Tumalo Creek downstream from Shevlin Park where the district pulls most of the water for its customers. However, local attorney Bill Buchanan said he saw several fish stranded in the dry creek that died over weekend. Buchanan, who has emerged as the most vocal, opponent of the city’s proposed surface water project upstream from Shevlin Park, took two of the fish home in a cooler as evidence of the event. Buchanan who regularly jogs along the lower section of the creek on the outskirts of Bend said he noticed the problem on Saturday. At that time he said the creek was running about four inches deep, just enough to cover his running shoe, when it emerged from a temporary diversion pipe through the construction area. He estimated that the volume was equivalent to about 1 cubic foot per second. Less than ten-percent of the flow required by law in the lower river. By Sunday the flow had increased slightly, but was still well below the seasonal norm. Buchanan said his own observations were backed up by a Trout Unlimited volunteer who used a five gallon bucket to measure the flow  as it emerged from the temporary pipe below the project.

Longtime Tumalo Irrigation District Manager Elmer McDaniels said the district had permission from the Water Resources Department Department of State Lands and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to reduce the flow on the creek to five cfs through the construction zone, which he estimated to cover about 125 feet of the river. McDaniels said crews were out this morning attempting to adjust the flow to hit the five-cfs target, but said that isn’t easy to do because of natural fluctuations in streamflow. Contrary to what Buchanan observed, McDaniel’s said that the state’s water gauge showed that the flow didn’t dip below 3.5 cubic feet per second. While that isn’t enough water to sustain resident fish in that section, McDaniels said that ODFW had organized volunteers to capture and transport fish out of the de-watered area. McDaniels said that the logistics of the construction project made it necessary for the district to reduce the flow so dramatically. However, he said that the district was also using overflow valves on the canal system to return roughly 10 cfs to the creek roughly one-quarter mile below the construction project.

Buchanan said the incident should highlight the need to carefully evaluate projects that impact the fragile section of creek below Shevlin Park. It’s an area where the state and federal government along with the irrigation district have invested millions in water conservation projects aimed at boosting summer flows that support native fish. In the past two decades those flows have increased more than five fold. The implications stretch beyond the short section of Tumalo Creek below. The stream also serves as a cold water injection for the Middle Deschutes below Bend where the river doesn’t meet state temperature standards.

Experts have yet to quantify just what impact a few hundred gallons of cold water have on the Middle Deschutes which runs at about ten times the volume of Tumalo Creek. However, one state expert said earlier this year at a public meeting that it shouldn’t be discounted.

And while it appears there is some disagreement as to exactly how low the flow dropped over the weekend, Buchanan emphasized it was something that had to be seen to be appreciated.

“The fact that you can measure the flow of Tumalo Creek with a stopwatch and a five gallon bucket tells you there isn’t much coming through there,” he said.

 Photo: Bill Buchanan

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