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Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

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

Happy Earth Day!


Some ways enjoy nature in the city this week.

volunteers planting native plantsTuesday, April 22 is Earth Day.  There are many ways you can celebrate and lend a helping hand this week.  Many local organizations have fun activities planned.  Here are a couple of our picks, and more ways to explore on your own if digging in the dirt isn’t your thing!


NE Portland | Wilkes Creek Headwaters Stewardship (Saturday, April 26)

Did you know the Columbia Slough has only one remaining free-flowing tributary stream? That’s Wilkes Creek! Come help restore this special area with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Portland Parks & Recreation and SOLVE.  The city acquired this 20-acre property in 2011 to protect the water quality and habitat in the stream and provide new park space in the Wilkes neighborhood.  Find more details and register for the event here.    

Explore the Columbia Slough on your own: Get ideas for walking, biking and paddling spots in the Nature in the City guide and map.  Watch for turtles, heron, eagles and other spring birds and wildlife.  For a hard copy of the map, swing by or contact the Columbia Slough Watershed Council office.


trillium flowersNW Portland | Forest Park Ivy Pull (Saturday, April 26): Help save the trees! Join SOLVE and the No Ivy League for a satisfying morning freeing trees from invasive ivy in Forest Park.  Ivy not only suffocates our native trees, it creates a fire hazard and contributes to water pollution from erosion and stormwater runoff.  Find more details and register for the event here.

North Portland | Help Restore Baltimore Woods (Saturday, April 26): Join SOLVE and the Friends of Baltimore Woods to help out at this unique new natural area near the St. John’s Bridge.  Help protect native trees, like the majestic Oregon White Oaks, on this site above the Willamette River. Find more details and register for the event here.  


SE Portland | Take a bike ride! Green Trees and Green Streets Ride (Sunday April 27): Join a bike guru from Bureau of Transportation’s Active Transportation program for an easy-paced ride along neighborhood greenways.  Lots of special trees, stormwater swales, and other happy stuff to see along the way. Find out more here.

new culvert on Crystal Springs creekExplore SE Portland's Crystal Springs Creek on your own: Check out the online walking tour map for a great 2.5 mile stroll along restored sections of the creek or pick up a map at the Woodstock Library or Sellwood-Moreland library.  Or, watch this Oregon Field Guide segment from the comfort of your arm chair!


Check out this article from the Portland Tribune for a list of other Earth Day activities around town.

Open House: Southwest Portland Projects


Stop by Wednesday to learn what's coming up for clean water and infrastructure upgrades in your neighborhood.

There's a lot happening in southwest Portland's watersheds! Many infrastructure and restoration projects are in design or soon to be in construction, including:

  • Roadside drainage improvements
  • Replacement of the culvert at Boones Ferry Road and Tryon Creek
  • Sewer upgrades
  • Rain gardens to treat stormwater runoff from I-5 and city streets
  • Natural area restoration

fernPlease join staff from the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) to learn about upcoming projects in southwest Portland.

Wednesday, April 23

5:30 - 7:30 pm

Multnomah Arts Center, Room 29, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy

Stop by on your way home for refreshments and information, and check out the new stormwater swales in the parking lot!

More information is on the SWNI website.

Can't make the open house? Check out this pdf for a summary of current projects and learn more at

What's Outside Now? Beavers!


Nature's engineers help with a healthier Johnson Creek.

beaver swimming in Johnson Creek

Recently, Watershed Revegetation staff were out at the Schweitzer Restoration site along Johnson Creek and spotted this young beaver happily swimming along a backwater channel. 


We just thought that was fun to share.  It's also a good intro for a little photo trip through history about restoration work along Johnson Creek and why it’s good news to see this beaver there.


aerial view of property in floodplain


First, there was the Schweitzer site before restoration.  This photo from 2007 shows Johnson Creek in the rock-lined, straightened channel built in the 1930s.  This site is near Powell Butte in SE Portland.





aerial view of restored floodplain


Then, there was the same area after a BES project in 2009.  Here you can see the 30-acre site restored with a more natural creek channel and floodplain.  Native plants and trees were just starting to take root.




restoration site trees and plants



Fast-forward several years, and the plants and trees are maturing.  The project is performing well to help store floodwater in heavy rains, improve water quality, and provide habitat for endangered salmon.  Here’s an on-the ground view of the area.



young beaver in Johnson Creek

And that brings us to this spring’s happy beaver.  Beavers make their homes in lodges over the winter and raise their young, who learn to swim about a month after birth.  This beaver is small, so likely a youngster born this winter. 

You might think beavers are nothing to hoot about, or maybe that they’re bad for trees.  While it’s true -- they do gnaw down trees -- beaver activity is an important part of the natural processes in our watersheds

The trees that fall and dams that beavers build help create and maintain wetlands that sponge up floodwater and prevent erosion.  Wetlands naturally filter pollutants out of water, too, which helps the water quality in Johnson Creek

So, native beavers like this one are out there building on the success of restoration efforts by the city and many community partners.  We’re all working together for clean water and a healthy Johnson Creek!

Learn more about the Schweitzer Restoration project.  You can walk or pedal by the project area on the Springwater Corridor Trail, between SE 158th Ave. and SE Jenne Rd.  Keep your eye out for beaver and other wildlife!

Related story: Beavers at Errol Creek confluence



Alien Plant Invader: Italian arum (Orange Candleflower)

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Watch out for this troublesome plant starting in April

Italian arum, also known as lords-and-ladies or orange candleflower, is an invasive species in the Portland area.  It’s originally from Europe and is on the list of Early Detection Rapid Response plants.  These are invasive species that we need to get under control in Portland now, so they don’t become expensive, damaging infestations like ivy and blackberry.

When it’s not flowering, Italian arum can be mistaken for calla lily, but beware – this plant can quickly become a nightmare.

Why is Italian arum bad for Portland?  As the plants establish in residential yards and gardens, Italian arum can easily spread into Portland’s natural areas and parks.  This perennial plant spreads by seed and small underground corms (like bulbs).  The seeds and corms are spread by soil movement, gardeners, and running water. 

These plants, like other invasive species, threaten native plant diversity and damage wildlife habitat.  When invasive species take over our forests and stream banks, they cause increased erosion, slope instability, and water quality problems.  Human health is also a concern, as all parts of Italian arum are poisonous.  Contact with this plant can cause skin irritation; eating any part of the plant can be fatal.


Italian arum starts popping up in April and May.  First, you will see its dark green, waxy leaves with white veins. Then in late May, Italian arum produces white, hood-like flowers that look kind of like a calla lily. Finally the plant will produce tight clusters of berries which change from light green to orange-red.  Italian arum usually reaches a height of 12-18 inches.

Getting rid of Italian arum is a pain.  Even professional land managers struggle with it, which is why early control is very important.  Herbicides don’t work well and digging it up is a lot of work.  Manual removal is only recommended on small patches, because soil disturbance tends to increase the spread of the plant.  All plant parts and nearby soil should be placed in a bag and disposed of in the trash—not your yard waste bin or home compost.  Infested sites should be checked weekly to stay on top of any new sprouts. 

We encourage landowners to contact the City of Portland with any additional questions. Visit this page for more information about Italian arum. The National Park Service also has information available.

Invasive species affect us all. They damage our forests, streams and rivers, and property.  Nationwide, damages associated with invasive species are estimated to be $120 billion each year.  In Oregon, the damage invasive weeds cause and the cost of controlling them total about $125 million each year.  We know that it costs a lot less to control new invasive plants before they become infestations, so we need everyone’s help.  Find out more about the problems caused by invasive species and why Environmental Services works to stop their spread.


Catch up on previous Alien Plant Invader posts:


Oregon Field Guide Features the Crystal Spring Creek Restoration Project

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The story showcases successful urban salmon restoration in the heart of the city spanning over a decade with multiple partners

Crystal Springs Creek is the focus of this Oregon Field Guide feature.  This story showcases successful urban salmon restoration in the heart of the city spanning over a decade with multiple partners. 

Reed College, Environmental Services, and others, are working to bring salmon back to Crystal Springs Creek– one of Portland’s few free-flowing cold water streams without migratory barriers between the headwaters and the Pacific Ocean.  And the work is paying off…

The cold, spring water of Crystal Springs is ideal for salmon recovery (see maps of where coho, Chinook, and steelhead are swimming in Portland). 

The City, with multiple partners, such as Reed College, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland Parks & Recreation, and others have replaced culverts, improved water quality, and enhanced habitat along the creek.  (See an earlier blog posting about projects completed last summer). More than a third of the stream length has been improved with new culverts, plantings, and habitat for native fish and wildlife.  Improvements in stream temperatures are already being seen at Westmoreland Park with reductions of more than 2.5˚C (4.5˚F)!

Environmental Services is using green infrastructure throughout the city to reduce flooding and erosion, filter pollutants, provide habitat and increase neighborhood green space for healthier watersheds. Green infrastructure works with Portland’s sewer and stormwater pipe infrastructure to protect water quality, public health, and the environment.

Get involved!  Spring Canyon Day 2014 in Reed Canyon is Saturday April 5 from 9–3p.m. Take a walking tour along the creek, organized by the Crystal Springs Partnership.  


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