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"Stormwater for Challenging Sites" workshops begin this weekend

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The FREE workshop series is designed to help homeowners manage stormwater on their property. Registration is open.

Many residents find themselves stuck in the mud when trying to figure out how to manage stormwater on their property.  Internet searches and literature can generate ideas, but don’t always leave residents with the hands-on skills and confidence to successfully implement a project on their own property.

Enter the “Stormwater for Challenging Sites” workshop series, which began in SW Portland in early 2014, now in its third iteration.  The series is a partnership of SW Watershed Resource Center (WRC), Green Girl LLC, Stamberger Outreach, and Independence Gardens, made possible with funding from West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District.

Environmental Servicessupports staff and programming for the WRC. WRC’s role is to recruit and select demonstration project site hosts, manage landowner agreements, and take care of workshop logistics, registration and day of event support, and follow up with program participants

This year’s series begins on Sunday, October 4th with an introduction to stormwater and its relationship to watershed health, followed by field visits to two residential sites for assessment and identification of constraints such as poorly infiltrating soils or steep slopes.  On November 1st and 15th, participants will meet again at those sites.  The design process is explained, and attendees participate in the construction of a project to reduce runoff and improve stormwater management.  The groups will also discuss the periodic tasks required to maintain well-functioning stormwater projects.


The workshops are free, and open to all.  Participants can attend one, or all three workshops.  Space is limited.  To find out more and register, visit

Celebrate the Willamette River this weekend


Sunday Parkways, Salmon Celebration, UPRIVER film, and neighborhood stewardship

This weekend is filled with celebrations of our Willamette River in Portland.  It’s also World Rivers Day on Sunday, when communities across the globe will be raising awareness and celebrating their local rivers. 

How will you enjoy and help Portland’s rivers and streams this weekend?

Upriver poster photo of ducks in river

Portland’s party kicks off Saturday, Sept. 26 with a screening of the new film UPRIVER, right on the banks of the river.  Bring your picnic blanket to this family-friendly event at Sellwood Riverfront Park.  Activities like music, free boat rentals from Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe, and 200 free Chipotle burritos start at 5pm.  The film starts at 7pm. 

UPRIVER comes from the talented team at Freshwaters Illustrated, and is presented by the Portland Eco Film Festival in partnership with Willamette Riverkeeper.  The film is sponsored in part by Environmental Services and Portland Parks and Recreation.  Find out more about the film at

Tilikum Crossing bridge and Willamette River


On Sunday, Sept. 27, hop on your bike for the final Sunday Parkways of the season: Tilikum Crossing/Sellwood.  This new route crosses the Willamette River on the Bridge of the People – a great way to enjoy views of the river and experience this new part of our bike and transit network.

Get the map and brochure of the route here

traditional salmon roast at Westmoreland Park

Along the way, stop at the 2nd Annual Salmon Celebration at Westmoreland Park. The Sunday Parkways route takes you right to the festivities.  Native American cultural activities, a salmon and lamprey roast, games and crafts are part of the fun.  Check out the restored Crystal Springs Creek through the park and keep your eye out for Coho salmon and other native fish.  And of course, grab your fish hat at the Environmental Services booth and show your salmon love for the rest of your ride!  For more details see Portland Parks and Recreation’s press release.   

Both Sunday Parkways and the Salmon Celebration are happening from 11am – 4pm.  You can also get to the Salmon Celebration without a bike: take the new Orange Line MAX to the SE Bybee Station.


And finally, if you’d rather dig in with some hands-on help for Portland’s streams, check out these two volunteer events with SOLVE and local organizations on Saturday:

Last Saturday Weed Warriors at Mt. Tabor

Tryon Creek Watershed Invasive Weed Removal

Vintage train caboose makes way for restoration


Friday, August 21st was moving day on SE Tenino Street. Errol Heights neighbors congregated on their normally quiet dead-end street to see the vintage caboose that had lived at 4320 SE Tenino move for the first time in decades.

1921 caboose   neighbors watching caboose move

Over the course of several hours, they watched local construction company Lorentz Bruun lift the caboose car with a giant crane, deftly angle it through the surrounding trees, place it on a waiting lowboy trailer, and then repeat the process for the steel underframe, wheels and segment of rail on which the caboose sat.

As they watched the action, neighbors speculated on the mysterious origins of the 1921 wooden caboose, which had sat on this patch of ground for more than thirty years.

getting the caboose ready to moveAccording to George Donnerberg, his late uncle Anthony found the caboose languishing on the East Coast in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s, got in touch with the railroad, and convinced someone to ship it – by rail of course – all the way to Portland. No one knows “how many cases of whiskey it cost him,” but the caboose glided into the Errol Heights neighborhood on the Springwater Corridor rail line, then was moved by truck the remaining four blocks.

With a vision long preceding today’s tiny house trend, Anthony renovated the 250 square foot caboose to include a kitchenette, bathroom, living area and sleeping quarters, and rented it out as a studio apartment for many years.

Just steps from Johnson Creek, the unique caboose was vacant and in need of repair when the Bureau of Environmental Services purchased the property from Anthony’s family ten years ago. The property was acquired under the bureau’s willing seller program, in support of the Johnson Creek Restoration Plan.

The city typically deconstructs and removes structures acquired on properties like this in the 100-year floodplain. That makes way for projects to restore floodplain function, reduce flood impacts on homes and businesses, restore salmon habitat and improve water quality. But this caboose had historic value, and turned out to be prohibitively complicated and expensive for the city to move.

moving the caboose wheelsAfter years of looking for a partner who would relocate and restore the caboose, the Bruun family generously stepped in and moved it in exchange for taking ownership. It is currently being restored to its historic condition.

Once renovated, the caboose will sit near the Oregon Rail Heritage Center and the new MAX Orange line—joining part of Portland’s modern rail history. Rumor has it that the restored caboose may house a coffee shop.


Lents Youth Initiative: Community connections and greening the neighborhood


Great video highlights young community leaders and their projects

Lents Youth Initiative graphicThis year, Environmental Services' Community Watershed Stewardship Program (CWSP) awarded a grant to the Lents Youth Initiative (LYI). 

Partners Rose Community Development, Green Lents and OPAL hired two Environmental Stewardship Interns to lead community improvement projects such as building a bioswale and participating in monitoring and data collection for Green Lents watershed heath projects. 




Along the way, they engaged many neighbors and gained new skills.  One project, the bioswale at Beyer Court Apartments, involved organizing volunteers to remove pavement and sod to create a swale and pollinator garden that will manage stormwater runoff from the 6,000 square foot parking lot.  That leads to a healthier Johnson Creek, a healthier environment for residents and neighbors, and a lot of new community connections.  Great work LYI! 

Check out this video that highlights the work of the all of the summer interns, including the two hired through the CWSP grant.  


New green infrastructure coming to Southwest Portland


Roadside swales will improve water quality in Fanno and Tryon Creeks

current ditch along SW Stephenson Street

Green infrastructure takes many different forms, from street trees and concrete-curbed stormwater planters in the Tabor to the River area that serve one block, to large wetlands that capture and filter stormwater from large areas of development (like the Mason Flats project), and everything in between. 

In some parts of Portland, stormwater flows down roadside ditches that carry the water to streams. During big rain storms, the ditches can carry sediment and other pollutants into the stream. As shown at the left, the road itself can also be eroded.

Improving these ditches to help slow and filter the water before it reaches the stream is one way the City is protecting water quality and habitat in local waterways.  “Roadside swale” projects essentially turn ditches into long, linear rain gardens, and can add other community benefits as well.


Two of these green infrastructure projects are underway now in Southwest Portland: 

  • More than ½ mile of swales will be constructed along SW Stephenson Street between SW 35th Avenue and Boones Ferry Road, managing water before it reaches Tryon Creek.  Two green street planters will also be constructed near Stephenson Elementary School.
  • About 920 feet of swales will be constructed along SW Hamilton Street between SW 40th and 47th avenues, to manage water before it reaches Fanno Creek.

jogger along SW Stephenson St. with no shoulderConstruction will start this month to re-construct existing ditches into vegetated swales that will carry stormwater runoff and allow some runoff to soak into the ground as plants and shrubs filter pollutants. 

Currently, many sections of the roads have little or no shoulder for pedestrian safety, like in the photo of SW Stephenson St. at right.  So, the projects also include constructing a four-foot paved shoulder adjacent to the swales, which will increase pedestrian access and safety.  

drawing of new road shoulder and swale project

                   (concept drawing of new swale and road shoulder improvements)

Learn more about these projects, with maps and up-to-date construction information, on the project websites: