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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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Rolling out new plants at Stephens Creek Confluence

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The newly-installed vegetation will help stabilize the creek's banks and protect valuable habitat for salmon

Recently, Environmental Services installed new plants in southwest Portland at the mouth of Stephens Creek and the Willamette River.  This is follow up work for the Stephens Creek Confluence Habitat Enhancement Project.

This revegetation work is unique because we’re using a product developed by a company in Idaho that is fairly new here in Portland - wetland sod mats.  The mats were delivered to the project site by boat, then were unrolled and staked down in place.

The woven coconut coir mesh mats have a variety of wetland plants incorporated into them, such as rice cutgrass, hard stem bulrush and Columbian sedge.  They are grown hydroponically during the spring and summer before they are planted at a project site in the fall.  The goal is to create wetland sod mats with strong root systems that can help prevent erosion and provide a diverse pallet of native vegetation. 

At places like the Stephens Creek Confluence, where a stream that is prone to high flows meets a dynamic river like the Willamette, strong currents can cause young plants to wash out of new restoration areas.  On the other hand, when native plants become well-established, restoration sites can become relatively self-sustaining and require little City maintenance in future years.  Environmental Services is using these innovative wetland mats to help stabilize the Stephens Creek Confluence site, and will be applying any lessons learned from this to future restoration projects.

Green Innovations: A New Video Features Portland's Green Infrastructure

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Over 30 projects were completed with grant funding from the EPA's Innovative Wet Weather Program

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Innovative Wet Weather grant program has funded 37 public and private projects throughout Portland that demonstrate how different kinds of green infrastructure can effectively manage stormwater. Environmental Services has produced a video (http://vimeo/portlandbes/iwwp) that profiles some of the innovations the program funded.

Green infrastructure uses vegetation to slow, retain and filter stormwater. Between 2002 and 2014, $3.4 million in EPA grants funded projects that demonstrate sustainable, low-impact stormwater management solutions. The program funded a variety of green infrastructure projects including green street planters, rain gardens, vegetated swales, pervious pavement and ecoroofs.

Managing urban stormwater runoff with green infrastructure protects rivers and streams, replenishes groundwater, and contributes to healthy watersheds. Green infrastructure can also make sewer and stormwater pipe infrastructure work more efficiently and reduce the need for more expensive pipe solutions.

In addition to managing stormwater, the green infrastructure projects the EPA grants supported have many other benefits including calming traffic, providing bicycle parking space, and enhancing neighborhood livability.

Projects the Innovative Wet Weather Program grant supported include:

Mississippi Commons Stormwater Planter
The Mississippi Commons development installed a stormwater planter in 2004 when sustainable stormwater management and green infrastructure were new concepts for site development. The project introduced several innovative and artistic stormwater management approaches. The stormwater planter integrated into the design of the commercial space manages 340,000 gallons of roof runoff annually.

SE Clay Green Street – Route to the River
The city worked with the community on the SE Clay Green Street Project from the Willamette River to SE 12th Avenue. The project gives inner east side Portland residents improved and safer connections to the Willamette River and an urban greenway through the Central Eastside Industrial District. The green street planters remove about two million gallons of stormwater runoff annually from Portland's combined sewer system. The project also maintains freight and business activities, enhances pedestrian and bicycle access to the Willamette River, and improves watershed health.

Stormwater Education Plaza
Environmental Services worked with Portland Community College (PCC) to combine green stormwater management with an interpretive exhibit and public art in the Central Eastside Industrial District. The rain garden at PCC’s CLIMB Center for Advancement manages stormwater from the roof and adjacent street and a green roof on the interpretive kiosk absorbs rain to reduce runoff. This project manages over 120,000 gallons of stormwater annually.

Stormwater Bike Corral
Rain from this sculpture and covered bike corral at NE Dekum and Durham drains to a green street planter that manages 65,000 gallons of stormwater annually from streets and an adjacent building. Artists Peg Butler and Buster Simpson used oil industry imagery in the project design because the facility replaced vehicle parking with bike parking and vegetation. Ecoroof planters are halved oil barrels with iridescent surfaces that change hues much like oil sheens.

More information about the Innovative Wet Weather Program is available at

Rain garden and interpretive kiosk at Portland Community College CLIMB Center


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