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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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Helping Salmon in Our City: Culvert Removal and Replacement in Portland

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Salmon season is upon us, and it’s a great time to look at some of the projects Environmental Services has been working on to improve salmon habitat.

Salmon season is upon us, and it’s a great time to look at some of the projects Environmental Services has been working on to improve salmon habitat. Portland’s rivers and streams support several species of fish protected under the Endangered Species Act. Projects like the Crystal Springs Creek Restoration have shown excellent results and contributed to Portland’s designation as a Salmon-Safe city. Environmental Services is continuing work on other habitat restoration and protection projects throughout the city. One common element of these project is culvert removal or replacement, which can remove barriers to fish passage and habitat access.

What are culverts?

Culverts are pipe segments that take above ground stream flows underground. They are often found at road crossings as they pipe the steam under the roadway. Culverts can present several challenges. First, water flows faster through smooth pipes than it does in a natural streambed, which increases the potential for erosion and adds sediment in the water. Also, culverts tend to be hard for fish and other wildlife to pass through, and can increase the risk of flooding.

Catkin Marsh culvert removal

Two culverts were removed in September 2017 from a Columbia Slough channel within a 54-acre natural area with multiple wetlands known as Catkin Marsh The wetlands collect surface water from surrounding land and direct it to the Lower Columbia Slough, which is a designated Critical Habitat for salmon. The wetlands filter sediments and pollutants from surface water; cycle nutrients and contribute to the food web; moderate air and water temperatures; and provide connectivity to the Columbia Slough. To date, Environmental Services has planted over 17,000 native trees and shrubs throughout the site’s wetlands and uplands.

Culvert removal at Catkin Marsh in September 2017

The removal of the two unnecessary culverts improves stream connectivity, allowing the water and organisms to move freely through the channel. The Multnomah County Drainage District partnered with the City and performed the in-water work. Environmental Services will plant native vegetation along the slough channel, to help improve habitat and water quality by shading the waterways and lowering water temperatures.

To find out more about projects in the Columbia Slough: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/32202

Fanno Creek culvert replacement at SW 45th Ave

Across town, crews replaced another undersized culvert that blocked fish passage much of the year where SW 45th crosses Fanno Creek, just north of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. Fanno Creek is a tributary to the Tualatin River, which flows to the Willamette, and provides important habitat for fish, birds and pollinators. Fanno Creek is also an important part of the stormwater management system in SW Portland, where much of the stormwater stays on the surface and flows through ditches and culverts into streams such as Fanno.

A new constructed streambed culvert getting installed at SW 45th and Fanno Creek

The new culvert under SW 45th will serve two main functions. First, its constructed streambank will consist of a mix of gravel and boulders to simulate a natural stream bottom, which will slow down the flow of water and make the culvert passable for fish and other river-dwelling critters. Second, the larger culvert opening will help manage large stream flows in the rainy season and reduce the potential for flooding. The project also includes the installation of native vegetation and removal of invasive plants. Native plants, which will be installed near the river after the project is complete, help to stabilize stream banks, resist erosion, keep invasives at bay, and provide quality habitat.

Construction is underway, and will be completed this fall. For more project information: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/article/573861.

To find out more about projects in the Fanno Creek Watershed: www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/fannocreek

Forest Park culvert replacement on Leif Erikson Drive

Environmental Services and Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) are working on another culvert replacement project along Leif Erikson Drive in Forest Park. Several of the culverts under the roadway are degraded and failing. They are also not passable for fish or other wildlife since there is a drop between the bottom of the pipe and the streambed (see photo) and the fact that the pipes are steep and have smooth bottoms. They are also contributing to erosion and downcutting of stream banks, which impacts the natural movement of the streams. The project will replace the culverts with pipes that have small dams in them to accumulate small amounts of gravel and sediment to make the stream passable for wildlife even as the stream goes underground. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

Existing culvert and fish passage barrier along Leif Erikson Drive in Forest Park

Culvert removal and replacement projects are tools that help the City of Portland improve watershed health. For more information, the Watershed Health Report Cards are a great way to track our progress.  

Celebrate Salmon at Sunday Parkways this Sunday, September 24th

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The fourth annual Salmon Celebration will be part of the Sellwood-Milwaukie Sunday Parkways, taking place Sunday September 24th from 11 a.m to 4 p.m.

The fourth annual Salmon Celebration is set for Sunday, September 24th in Westmoreland Park to celebrate restoration of Crystal Springs, Portland’s first Salmon Sanctuary. The event is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and celebrates the return of salmon to Crystal Springs Creek with a Native American blessing, a salmon bake demonstration (with samples!), storytelling for all ages, fun and interactive inter-cultural activities, and ways to learn about and get involved in the watershed. It's also the city's first "Salmon in Our City" Day. 

This year's Salmon Celebration will be part of the Sellwood-Milwaukie Sunday Parkways, one of five Sunday Parkways events organized by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Check out the new Sunday Parkways route map for Sept. 24th. Find out more about the next Sunday Parkways event here and on Facebook @PortlandSundayParkways.  And look for the Environmental Services booth where you can pick up free salmon hats and ‘swim’ with the river of bicycles.

The Crystal Springs Partnership is organizing the Salmon Celebration with support from Portland Parks & Recreation, Environmental Services, the Portland Bureau of Transportation and other groups. The partnership is a group of community members, organizations, and city representatives who work with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council on restoration in the Crystal Springs watershed.

Recognizing the successful restoration at Crystal Springs, and the importance of salmon in our past and future, Commissioner Nick Fish led City Council to proclaim Sept. 24 as the first annual “Salmon in Our City Day” and designated Crystal Springs as the first Salmon Sanctuary. As more streams are restored, the City will designate additional sanctuaries. To find out more about salmon in our city and restoration projects, visit the Environmental Services’ Salmon in Portland web page.

 

Before and After: Thanh Thao Restaurant Rain Garden

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Environmental Services works with private property owners in targeted areas to keep runoff out of the combined sewers.

Environmental Services works with private property owners in targeted areas to manage stormwater and keep runoff out the combined sewers. Rain gardens, stormwater planters, swales, ecoroofs, and pervious pavement collect runoff from roof and paved areas and allow it to soak into the ground instead of flowing into the sewer system. Using natural processes to manage stormwater at its source helps control combined sewer overflows to the Willamette River and reduces the risk of sewers filling to capacity and backing up into basements during heavy rains. These kinds of stormwater management facilities also reduce sewage treatment costs, replenish groundwater supplies and beautify neighborhoods. The city provides substantial financial and technical assistance with project construction and the facilities remain private property and are privately maintained.

This new rain garden at Thanh Thao on SE Hawthorne Boulevard is a great example. In addition to the asphalt removed to make space for the facility, the building’s roof and the western parking lot now drain to the rain garden. The result is 4,840 sf of impervious area managed through this project. In an average water year of 37”, this project will keep approximately 106,000 gallons of stormwater out of the combined sewer. With over 56” of rainfall in 2017 so far, it’s already managed over 160,000 gallons of runoff!

Thanh Thao parking lot, before construction

Thanh Thao parking lot concrete getting removed 

Thanh Thao rain garden prior to planting 

Thanh Thao parking lot rain garden complete 

You can learn more about Environmental Services’ Private Property Retrofit program and see more examples here. Also, click here for a list of programs and resources for clean rivers and streams. 

 

Back to School: Kids Learn and Teach "Only Rain Down the Storm Drain"

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Students raise awareness of stormwater pollution. Here's how you can do your part.

Students are hitting the streets to teach neighbors about stormwater pollution prevention. Educators from our Clean Rivers Education team work with students from a variety of schools, including in 2016-17, students pictured here from Boise Eliot Humboldt, Bridger Elementary and Franklin High School, on service learning projects. Together, they raise awareness about stormwater - or where all that rain goes after it washes over pavement. 

Small groups of students spread throughout neighborhood streets near their schools to adhere brightly colored medallions marked, “Only Rain Down the Storm Drain.”  These markers help remind people not to dump motor oil, paint, or other substances down storm drains. Some storm drains lead straight to local streams, rivers or sloughs and carry stormwater, which can pick up oil, gasoline, brake dust and other pollutants from streets and parking lots.

After a classroom lesson on stormwater management and pollution prevention, students at Bridger Elementary raised awareness about storm water pollution through a curb marking service learning project.

 

Students concentrate for a steady hand when applying the glue that holds the markers on the curbs. After the project their teacher noted, “My kids really loved it and are so proud to see the labels they put around the neighborhood! It really created a sense of ownership.”

Want to know how you can help keep our rivers and streams healthy?

  • Know how to properly dispose of household chemicals, oil and paint.  These things should never go down a storm drain, on the ground or down the drain.
  • Recycle your used motor oil – visit OregonMetro.gov to learn more. 
  • Use non-toxic alternatives to home cleaning chemicals.
  • Fats, oils and grease should never go down the drain, because they can clog sewer pipes, leading to sewage overflows to homes, streets and streams. The City has multilingual fact sheets on proper disposal of these items.
  • Storm drains can get clogged with leaves, dirt and litter. Be a good neighbor and check that your drains are clear to allow for efficient street drainage and avoid flooding.
  • Compost your yard debris instead of raking it into streets. 
  • Minimize the use of fertilizer or pesticides – plant native vegetation, which requires little or no fertilizer.

 
Boise Eliot Humboldt 4th graders work in small groups to clear away debris, clean curbs and adhere markers to raise awareness of stormwater pollution.

There are many ways you can get involved in protecting our watersheds: 

  • Report pollution spills or manhole overflows to the pollution spill hotline (503) 823-7180.
  • Volunteer as a Green Street Steward in your neighborhood. Visit https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/greenstreetsteward to learn more about green streets and how you can help. Fact sheets are available in six languages for green street care.

 

Environmental Science classes at Franklin High School worked in the Lents neighborhood to mark curbs near their school at the Marshall Campus, expanding on the work done by another class the previous year.

Visit Environmental Services at Multnomah Days Sat. Aug 19

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The annual Multnomah Days takes place this Saturday August 19 from 9 am to 4 pm in Multnomah Village, SW 25th and Capital Highway

Join us to help celebrate Multnomah Days this Saturday in SW Portland’s Multnomah Village. There will be a lively parade, free live music and local artists along with by booths showcasing organizations working to improve our community. Stop by the Environmental Services booth to learn about our local watersheds and how you can get involved, and to connect with some of our partner groups, including the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, the SW Watershed Resource Center, and more! 

We’ll also have information about upcoming projects in the area. Come and learn more about the SW Capital Highway project, the stream restoration work at Dickinson Park, the upcoming projects at the headwaters of Stephens Creek, and more!

We’ll see you there!

Multnomah Days

Multnomah Village: SW 35th and Capital Highway

Saturday, August 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.