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Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

1120 SW 5th Avenue, Room 1000, Portland, OR 97204

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Trees are infrastructure


Portland’s trees help provide clean water and other benefits

In case you missed it, there’s a great story in the Portland Tribune: Exploring societal benefits of healthy urban forests.

people on tour of trees and stormwater projects

Cynthia Orlando from the Oregon Department of Forestry recounts a recent Oregon Board of Forestry tour exploring the role of urban forests as “green infrastructure.”  Forests aren’t just for the mountains.  Urban trees help provide many services, including stormwater management for cleaner rivers and streams.

Environmental Services staff led portions of the tour to discuss trees and stormwater management at the City’s Water Pollution Control Laboratory, and the Holman Pocket Park.  


Find out more about the Holman Pocket Park project here.  Learn about Environmental Services’ Tree Program and how you can get involved.

It’s Flood Season in Portland


Resources to prepare and stay safe

flooded house near Johnson CreekThis month we're recognizing the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Christmas Flood in Portland and around the state.  This weekend's weather forecast looks pretty nice, but it's still a good time to check on your emergency kit and plan for the winter weather ahead.

Here are some tips and resources about keeping your home, family, and yourself safe and prepared.  Follow more tips and stories at #floodready and #64flood


Be prepared

Stay informed

Stay safe

  • Don’t walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Just six inches of flowing water can knock you off your feet and hazards can be hidden under the water. If you need to walk through water to get to safety, use a pole or stick to negotiate your way.
  • Don’t drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else in a flood. Flood waters can also damage your car.
  • Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Electrical current travels through water and can be deadly. Report downed power lines to your power company.

Check your flood insurance

Consider how vulnerable your home is to flood damage by asking yourself these questions:

  • How would I pay for flood damage or for measures to reduce damage?
  • Do I have flood insurance?

You should know:

  • Homeowners insurance does not cover flooding. Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, a property in Portland’s 100-year floodplain has a 26% chance of being damaged by a flood. Flood insurance is available through your local insurance agent.
  • Portland is part of the National Flood Insurance Program, which makes it possible for Portland residents to purchase federally backed flood insurance. By purchasing flood insurance, you can protect yourself from significant losses. Talk to your insurance agent about your coverage, and also check to see if you have sewer backup insurance.
  • Even if you live outside the floodplain, consider having flood insurance coverage. More than 60% of the flood insurance claims are for properties outside of the mapped 100-year floodplain.
  • For more information visit these sites:

To find out if your property is in or near a floodplain call 503-823-6892 or visit (Type in an address and click the "search" button. When the property description comes up, float your cursor over the "Maps" tab and click on "Hazard" to see if your property is in or near a floodplain.)

Reduce your home’s risk of flood damage

If you live in a floodplain, consider making permanent changes to your home, like these, to reduce your flood risks:

  • Elevate your home
  • Elevate the belongings in your home that are at risk
  • Consider flood-proofing measures
  • Abandon your basement
  • Provide sewer back-flow prevention

50th Anniversary of the 1964 Christmas Flood


Portland’s restoration of Johnson Creek is rooted in history

The holidays are a time for memories. Unfortunately, for Portlanders and people around the state who remember the Christmas Flood of 1964, some memories aren’t so good. Statewide, flooding in late December 1964 and early January 1965 set records. In many places, it was the largest flood local communities had seen. The flood caused an estimated $514 million in damage statewide, roughly $3.9 billion in today’s dollars. 

Check out the video and historic photos that are part of the US Army Corps of Engineers Portland District's 1964 flood awareness campaign.

truck and people in water 1964 floodOn December 22, 1964, Johnson Creek in southeast Portland crested at 14.68 feet, over three feet above flood stage. Rain falling on snow was to blame for the third highest flood since records were first kept for Johnson Creek in the 1940s. Only the floods of November 1996 and January 2009 were higher. In the 1964 flood, about 1,200 homes, businesses and other buildings were inundated and the community response triggered a series of attempts to address flooding problems along Johnson Creek.  

Floodplain Restoration

After this catastrophic event, many proposals were forwarded to address the flooding problem. But it wasn’t until 1997 that Environmental Services completed Portland’s first flood mitigation project, the Brookside Wetlands Project. Brookside is one of seven Johnson Creek floodplain projects Environmental Services has completed to date. Through the Willing Seller Program, the bureau purchases floodplain properties to restore creek and floodplain habitat. This helps reduce the impacts of nuisance floods, improve water quality and support salmon recovery.

floodwater fills natural area in 2012Recent projects, like the Foster Floodplain Natural Area, make a big difference. Just after New Year’s Day in 2012, Johnson Creek rose to more than two feet above flood stage, but the natural area held the floodwaters and prevented flooding on Foster Road. While the Foster Floodplain is designed to handle these smaller floods, larger floods like the Christmas 1964 event will overflow the site and spread to homes and businesses up to a half a mile away.  

Flood Safety

Floods are natural events, but they’re often made worse in urban areas by the amount of stormwater runoff from streets, roofs and other impervious surfaces. While we can’t keep the rain away, you can keep your family, home and business safe. Visit our Flood Information page for tips and resources.

For questions about Environmental Services’ efforts to restore Johnson Creek and its floodplains, contact Marie Walkiewicz, 503-823-6199 or

Wilkes Creek Headwaters Project: Before and After


Stream provides clean water to the Slough

Wilkes Creek Headwaters, a natural area in northeast Portland, contains the springs that feed the only free flowing stream in the city that still enters the Columbia Slough. The City of Portland and Metro acquired the site, near NE 155th and NE Fremont Street, in 2011.

This summer, Environmental Services removed a culvert that was inhibiting stream flow, wildlife and fish movement and replaced it with a recycled railroad bridge. We also removed two spring boxes once used to store water on the farm that was on the site. Now all the spring water flows directly into Wilkes Creek. Native shrubs, trees and groundcover near the bridge will be planted this winter and spring.

culvert and invasive plants choking the stream Before

 new bridge and free flowing stream After

Although there is not yet public access to the park, the bridge provides access for city staff working on the site prior to the development of a Parks Master Plan. There is no timeline for that process at this point. Both Portland Parks & Recreation and Environmental Services are currently working to make the natural area portion of the site safe and to restore the ecosystem to support clean water and a healthy Columbia Slough watershed. Over the next several years, crews will continue to remove invasive holly and clematis and restore native vegetation.

Take a Ride on the Stormwater Cycling Tour

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The free tour will take place this Saturday, November 22nd from 9:45am - 12:30 pm

This Saturday, join staff from Portland’s Bureau of Transportation and Bureau of Environmental Services for a tour of green streets and other innovative stormwater designs that help protect our watersheds and enhance the beauty and safety of our streets for folks on foot or bike.

Great for folks new to the bike or new to the area, the ride will be an easy-paced loop, with stops along the way and returning to the start location.  The route will occur on low-traffic streets and neighborhood greenways, with some off-street paths.  A few sections will be on streets with bike lanes.  The ride is free, but helmets are required.  Kids under 16 welcome if accompanied by an adult.

The ride is part of the Portland By Cycle series of rides and classes. Click here to see the full schedule. Find your way to the ride by bike or transit with Trimet's multi-modal trip planner.

Stormwater Cycling Tour

Saturday, November 22, 9:45 AM – 12:30 p.m.

Meeting location: Crema, SE Ankeny St and 28th Ave

Over one-third of Portland’s 2,500 miles of sewer pipes are more than 80 years old.  Portland combines sewer improvements that replace or repair Portland’s aging sewer pipes with green streets, ecoroofs, trees and other green infrastructure to increase sewer system efficiency, and protect water quality, public health, and the environment.  Green infrastructure keeps stormwater out of the sewer system, filters pollutants, provides habitat and increases neighborhood green space for healthier watersheds.