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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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How healthy are Portland’s watersheds?

News Release

April 21, 2015

Tomorrow is Earth Day and Environmental Services will use the occasion to announce a first of its kind system for grading and tracking watershed health in Portland. On Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., the Portland City Council will get an advance look at watershed report cards Environmental Services will post online later this spring.

The city tracks conditions in the Willamette, Willamette Tributaries, Fanno Creek, Tryon Creek, Columbia Slough and Johnson Creek watersheds. The monitoring focuses on water quality in rivers and streams, how water flows over land and in streams, how well habitat supports fish and wildlife, and the diversity and health of the city’s fish, birds and other wildlife.

The Willamette watershed, for example, gets a B for water quality. E. coli bacteria and many pollutant levels are low in the river, but high water temperature and mercury levels bring the grade down. The Willamette’s habitat score is C- mainly because of the downtown seawall, rip rap on river banks, and development up to the river’s edge.

“I hope our Earth Day announcement of these report cards will make people more aware of all the things it takes to protect urban watersheds,” said Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish. “We want to remind Portlanders of what we all can do to keep watersheds healthy. Simple things, like planting a tree or cutting down on lawn fertilizer, can have a positive effect on our environment.”

Tracking watershed grades will show what types of projects have the most positive impacts on watershed health and help the city comply with the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and other regulations.

Portland’s watersheds will never return to pristine, pre-development conditions. Reversing the negative impacts of 150 years of urban development is a long process and some watershed conditions get low grades. But they would likely be much worse without the investments Portland has made to protect the city’s natural resources.

For more information contact Linc Mann, 503-823-5328.

The Bureau of Environmental Services works with Portland residents and businesses to protect water quality, public health, and the environment through wastewater collection and treatment, sewer construction and maintenance, stormwater management, and stream and watershed restoration.