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Mirror Pond issues come back into view as fish passage advisory panel holds first meeting

(Update: adding video)

Two decades of debate over dredging silt, removing dam and 'community vision' not over

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- For more than a century, Pacific Power's hydroelectric dam by Newport Avenue, which formed iconic Mirror Pond at the heart of Bend, has allowed for recreation along a stretch of the Deschutes River, but it's also stopped the area's natural water flow and disrupted fish passage.

For the last 20 years, those issues -- and a lengthy debate over whether and how to dredge stilt from the pond -- have been studied and debated by a number of groups, including the Mirror Pond Management Board and most recently the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.

Lately, the focus has shifted from the need, cost-sharing and pros and cons of dredging to whether a fish passage would help create a more natural river flow in the area.

“We want to see fish passage for the ecological benefit of fish," Kris Knight said, the executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council said. "Ultimately we want to improve that passage to StEidl Dam so we got this whole network through Bend."

The first meeting of a new, more narrowly focused Mirror Pond Fish Passage Advisory Committee was held Wednesday.

In the past, finding the right funding for a fish passage at Newport Dam has been a key issue.

Gena Goodman-Campbell, a Bend city councilor and member of the committee, says she feels that issue may persist.

“I’m a little worried that we will come up with a solution that is ultimately just untenable," Goodman-Campbell said. "I’m hopeful we can find other sources of funding.”

A "community vision" aimed to lay out a middle ground between periodic silt dredging and removing the dam to let the river flow naturally. Pacific Power, which at one point had talked of divesting the dam to the community, changed course five years ago and said it was committing to the project for the long term.

The committee's stated goal is to "identify a preferred fish passage concept that aligns with community values articulated in the 2015 Community Vision for Mirror Pond and Downtown Bend."

The committee will meet five more times before presenting its ideas and options to the city and the Bend Park and Recreation District.

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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.


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