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Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

MAILING ADDRESS: 1120 SW 5th Ave, Room 1000, Portland, OR 97204

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Life in the Floodplain: Can working with nature reduce your flood insurance bill?

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Join the Lents Collaborative and elected officials on Saturday June 3rd for a conversation about flooding, flood insurance, and floodplain restoration

In the Lents and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods near Johnson Creek, residents face challenges from both flooding AND expensive flood insurance. The Lents Collaborative, which includes Environmental Services, has the potential to fix both.

Some East Portland homes were built within the Johnson Creek floodplain and experience occasional flooding  

The work is driven by a simple idea: by restoring nature - so that natural systems such as wetlands reduce flooding - we can restore communities.  We’ve done it before. Perhaps the most dramatic example of the power of working with nature is the Foster Floodplain Natural Area. Environmental Services worked with the community over a number of years to move homes and broaden and restore the creek and surrounding wetlands to better absorb water as well as provide habitat for salmon and other wildlife. Before the project, Foster Road flooded about every other year. Today, flooding is expected a couple of times each decade.

Neighbors no longer have the stress and expense of cleaning up after frequent floods. And East Portland neighbors have a world-class natural area that is a point of pride. Now we are building on the model to further reduce flooding in the Lents and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods.

The first Life in the Floodplain event, October 2016

Neighbors and others are invited to the Life in the Floodplain Community Meeting on Saturday, June 3rd  to learn about a new program by Lents Collaborative participant the Portland Housing Bureau to help homeowners in the Lents and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods save money on their flood insurance.

It’s a free event with food and raffle prizes!

Life in the Floodplain Community Meeting

When: Saturday, June 3rd, 2017, Noon to 2 p.m.

Where: Earl Boyles Elementary School, 10822 SE Bush Street, Portland, OR 97266

Students from Portland State University will share the results of their year-long community listening project, done in partnership with local Green Lents. Hear how living in the Johnson Creek floodplain affects your neighbors and about efforts to reduce flooding.

Share your thoughts about flooding and flood insurance with elected officials and learn how the community, the City of Portland and State of Oregon are coming together, through the Lents Stabilization and Job Creation Collaborative, to find long-term solutions to flooding in the neighborhood. Environmental Services leads the Collaborative’s efforts on flood mitigation and floodplain restoration.

Registration optional: Life in the Floodplain Community Meeting. For more information, contact

Tour Historic Vanport on Memorial Day

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Join Environmental Services and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29th, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Join Environmental Services and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council for a tour of historic Vanport on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29th, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Memorial Day is a fitting time to recall Portland's lost city and the power of water to shape our lives. Never heard of Vanport? Today, the low lying community built for World War II shipyard workers is the site of Delta Park, the raceway and wetlands united by the Columbia Slough. Vanport itself disappeared in a single day, in a Memorial Day flood that killed 15 and displaced thousands, many African-Americans. 

In the 1940s, Vanport brought together a diverse population from across the country to work in Portland’s shipyards and railroads. The Vanport Mosaic Festival aims to honor the legacy of the Vanport community and the 1948 flood that destroyed the community. 

Experience a fascinating piece of Portland’s history and learn about how the Columbia’s sloughs and lakes played a role in the lives of Vanport residents.  Vanport residents enjoyed fishing, swimming and boating in the Columbia Slough, but there were serious environmental impacts from Vanport and associated industries.

Environmental Services and Columbia Slough Watershed Council staff will be on hand to explain the importance of the Columbia Slough to former Vanport residents and how to get involved in ongoing cleanup and reforestation efforts.

Join us for narrated bus tours and self-guided walking tours of the original Vanport site.  Seldom open to the public, this route will include sites of historic Vanport’s most important civic functions, residential areas and natural resources.  Learn about Vanport before, during and after the flood.

The Building D lobby at the Expo Center will host information about the unique aspects of the history of Vanport and how Vanport connects to Portland life today. There will also be presentations to engage in conversations about Vanport and its legacy. 

  • Admission is free.  Tours will start and end at the Expo Center

  • Maps and a smart-phone application will be available.

  • Bus tours are approximately 75 minutes. Reservations are strongly recommended for the bus tour.

  • The self-guided walking route is approximately 4 miles long and starts between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The tour route will close at 4 p.m.  

This event is part of the Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017. 

Register for this event. For more information on the festival:

For questions, please contact or 971-319-0156 

Alien Plant Invader: Blessed Milk Thistle

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Help Environmental Services get a jump on this invasive, non-native species.

Blessed milk thistle presents something of a dilemma. On the one hand, it is grown for the herbal supplement market; on the other hand, it has escaped cultivation and is over-running parts of California. For the time being, milk thistle is uncommon in northwest Oregon. Let’s keep it that way! Early detection means that we have a chance of eliminating this alien plant invader from Portland.

Blessed milk thistle

Blessed milk thistle is a Required Eradication species in Portland. That means – if you see it, you are required to report it: Call Mitch Bixby with the Environmental Services' Early Detection/Rapid Response Program at 503-823-2989 or email

Where have we seen milk thistle? 

It has been sighted in several locations along the Columbia Slough and on Sauvie Island, and is relatively more common in Clark County, Washington. As with most invasive species, it is typical to first see patches along I transportation routes like railways and roadways. Clark County, Washington, reports active management of several infestations, as does Clackamas County. To date, aggressive management appears to be substantially reducing known patches.

What’s the problem?

Milk thistle is known to form dense patches that originate in open, disturbed areas. Like other thistles, these plants have persistent root systems and produce large amounts of windblown seed, making management difficult. Milk thistle reduces plant diversity as other species are displaced. Invasions are of particular concern in forage lands, where milk thistle also poses a health hazard to livestock.

How can you identify milk thistle? 

Milk thistle can grow to be six feet tall with distinctive white stripes in the leaves. Milk thistle is also very spiny, more so than bull thistle, with flowers and seedheads ringed by exceptionally sharp spines.

Distinctive white stripes on the leaves can help distinguish blessed milk thistle from other thistle species.

Sharp spines adorn the flowers and stems of the blessed milk thistle.

What can folks do about it?

Control where it goes

  • The best way to do this is to treat plants in the spring, before flowers form and increasing the risk for seeds to blow away.

Control where it grows

Dig: Cutting and digging is possible, but not especially effective on larger infestations. These are also particularly spiny plants, which discourage casual handling.

  • Treat: Low rates of herbicide appear to keep milk thistle under control.
  • Check: monitor the site at least annually, and especially years two and three after treatment, as any surviving seed takes its big opportunity to sprout!

If you suspect you’ve found milk thistle, the City of Portland requires you to report it.  Still, because of its prickly nature, you may decide to take advantage of the free management assistance available from the city.  You can report suspected patches to Mitch Bixby with the Environmental Services' Early Detection/Rapid Response Program at 503-823-2989 or

Come visit Environmental Services at Sunday Parkways this weekend

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The Sunday Parkways season kicks off this Sunday, May 21st in Southeast Portland, and we would be delighted to see you there.

The Sunday Parkways season kicks off this Sunday, May 21st in Southeast Portland, and we would be delighted to see you there.

We’ll be at Ivon Park between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. Just follow the trail of fish hats (see photo below) to find our booths!

And while you’re waiting to get your very own fish hat, we’d love to answer your questions about what the city is doing to manage stormwater and restore the health of our watersheds.

What: SE Portland Sunday Parkways (route map [])

Where: Ivon Park at SE Ivon St. & SE 47th Ave.

When: Sunday, May 21, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

22 volunteers + 2 hours = 75 gallons of trash!

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Green Street Stewards from Widmer Brothers, Surfrider and SOLVE take on 10 green street facilities in North Portland

On Thursday, April 20th, 22 hardy volunteers removed trash and debris (including two gallons of cigarette butts!) from 10 green street facilities and surrounding areas in North Portland. It’s important to keep green street inlets clear so stormwater runoff can flow into the facility. Removing trash and debris keeps green streets functioning well and looking beautiful.  Widmer Brothers provided food and refreshments for the volunteers at the end of the event.  Many thanks to our sponsors Widmer Brothers Brewing, Surfrider Foundation, and SOLVE.

For more information about the Green Street Steward program and to adopt a green street near you, please go to

Surfrider has additional clean up events planned. For information go to