his week, the Bend Chamber of Commerce published an article in its "Bend Business Edition," stating permits and funding were in the "final stages" for the proposed $6.7 million dredging project at Mirror Pond—information the Chamber later discovered was erroneous.
The Chamber's article inaccurately stated that the project was gathering "final funds," including "38 percent from BPRD and 15 percent from the City of Bend." Don Horton, executive director of Bend Park and Recreation District, says this is false.
"The request for funding was about 7 percent of the dredging project cost and not 38 percent as claimed in the article," Horton told the Source. "The article you are referring to has incorrect information." He continues, "...The parks board has not approved any funding for the dredging of Mirror Pond," and notes there "has been a request for funding from Mirror Pond Solutions (LLC), however the Board has not approved any amount."
"In hindsight, I should have fact-checked the information I was given," says Bend Chamber's CEO, president and the article's writer, Katy Brooks, who sat down with the Source after her article came out Oct. 2.
"I was told some very inaccurate information from the main proponents of the project, and I should have known better," Brooks said, confirming the people offering that information were Bill Smith and Todd Taylor, the owners of Mirror Pond Solutions.
During our interview, Brooks was visibly surprised to learn that the FAQ section of the website, celebratebend.org—a website mentioned in the Chamber article—outlines that, "Taylor NW a local construction company, will be the lead contractor on the project, providing the bond, insurance and management." Todd Taylor is CEO of Taylor NW. Brooks said she had not visited that website before publishing the article.
"Taylor NW is acting as general contractor and will be paid a standard 7 percent fee," the celebratebend.org website states. The project is estimated to cost $6.7 million—at 7 percent, translating into an estimated $470,000 payment to Taylor NW. The website's FAQ section states: "This project has not been undertaken by Taylor NW or the other involved parties as a for-profit venture; the primary driver has been to save Mirror Pond."
If the project is completed and the accumulated silt and sediment removed from Mirror Pond, the LLC will donate the land to Bend Park and Recreation District to further manage the area, according to the website. As outlined in the Source in the Aug. 16 article, "Mirror Pond: To Dredge or Not To Dredge?" the land was gifted to Mirror Pond Solutions, LLC by a 98-year-old descendent of the McKay family.
The Chamber's article, titled, "Mirror Pond Project Raising Final Funds," also inaccurately stated that, "The Bend City Council and Parks and Recreation District boards both voted in support of the project and permits have been secured." City of Bend Communications Director Anne Aurand now says that apart from one meeting in July with Mirror Pond Solutions, City Manager Eric King, Mayor Casey Roats and Mayor Pro-tem Sally Russell, there have, "been no meetings that he's (King) aware of, so in our book nothing has changed."
Brooks is quick to point out she is relatively new to Bend, and that the Bend Chamber has since released an electronic "clarification," to the article.
No permits have been granted for the dredging project, according to Nancy Pustis, eastern region manager for the Oregon Department of State Lands, saying ODSL is still "working with the applicant on providing additional information." The state has asked Mirror Pond Solutions to include: "A compensatory non-wetland mitigation plan... (which) will be required to compensate for the adverse effects of suction dredging on food chain support." Pustis said the deadline has been extended until Dec. 31 in order to gain more information regarding "mitigation of the impact of dredging."
In a Sept. 16 letter from ODSL to Mirror Pond Solutions LLC, ODSL writes, "The Department has determined there will be an adverse impact from unscreened suction dredging on the Deschutes River that requires compensatory mitigation. In addition, Block 8 of the application states that benthic macroinvertebrates would be reduced by the proposed project for one to two years."
yan Houston, executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, said: "What strikes me as potentially challenging here is that riparian restoration along the Deschutes River below Wickiup Reservoir is extremely difficult, given the highly modified flow conditions in the river." Houston, along with Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie and a representative from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, wrote letters to ODSL this past summer, citing concerns about dredging Mirror Pond. In its Sept. 16 letter, ODSL acknowledged those concerns, saying they "raise specific biological concerns that are not fully addressed in the application or responses."
Houston told the Source this week: "In the past, groups like the Watershed Council, U.S. Forest Service and others have tried to implement restoration projects along this reach but found very little success because the highly modified flows are not conducive to good plant establishment. The hydrograph is reversed – i.e., low winter flows expose/stress plant roots and then the high summer flows then drown out or wash those plants away. This problem has led most restoration practitioners to avoid doing riparian planting along that stretch of river until such time that the streamflow conditions are improved."
Asked how much additional funding would be required to implement the state requirement, Houston guessed it would "be in the tens of thousands of dollars."
"This is a project with a lot of complexities. It's changing by the week," says BPRD's Horton. "I do believe the Mirror Pond Solutions is having productive meetings about funding, but it takes time for these things to come together. The Park District will also struggle with funding the bank and riparian improvements and will be looking for funding partners such as state grants when the time is right."
"We have not heard clearly from our constituents if they are interested in us using public funding towards dredging," added Nathan Hovekamp, BPRD board member. "I think we understand that there is some concerns in the community about the silting in of Mirror Pond and the buildup of sediment. However, when there are other private landowners, utility companies, individuals who butt up to the pond that are involved in this discussion, they may feel as though they may move things forward with more speed. As a public agency, however, tasked with spending public funds, we have to be extremely thoughtful in how we spend these dollars."
For more information on the proposed project, check out the Source Weekly's in-depth article, "Mirror Pond: To Dredge or Not to Dredge."
Editor's note: Attempts to reach a spokesperson for Mirror Pond Solutions went unanswered.