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Water Bureau Works to Benefit Western Toad Habitat in the Bull Run watershed

By Lindsay Wochnick

 
A western toad at one of the breeding sites in the Bull Run.

The western toad has been identified as a vulnerable species by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

The two biggest threats to the species are breeding habitat degradation and an egg-destroying pathogen called Saprolegnia ferax. The female western toad needs calm, warm, sunlit, shallow water in which to lay strands of thousands of eggs that will cling to the stems of plants or other underwater objects near the shore.

To help ensure the breeding success of western toads in the Bull Run watershed, the Environmental Compliance Group in the Portland Water Bureau's Resource Protection and Planning Group work each year to protect and enhance the toad’s breeding habitat.

 
Staff work to clear reed canary grass from one of the breeding sites immediately before the gates are lowered to raises Reservoir 1 to full pool.

Staff from the Water Bureau's Resource Protection and Planning, Operations, and Sandy River Station groups coordinate annually each May to cut and remove reed canary grass from three toad breeding sites in the Bull Run watershed along the upper portion of Reservoir 1. This is done immediately prior to when the Water Bureau raises the reservoir level to full pool in the spring.  Removing the tall, non-native, invasive grass allows sunlight to reach the shallow pools that are formed when the water is raised.  The sunlight provides the warmth needed for egg and juvenile toad development.  

 
Environmental Specialist (Wildlife Biologist) John Deshler with a western toad at Reservoir 1 in the Bull Run.

This project is one of 49 measures the City committed to implement when it approved the Bull Run Water Supply Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) in October 2008. The HCP is a 50-year plan to protect and improve aquatic habitat in the Bull Run River and throughout the Sandy River basin while continuing to manage the Bull Run watershed as Portland’s primary water supply.

John Deshler
Resource Protection and Planning Group

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