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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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Blanchet House gets an Ecoroof


Last week, the Ecoroof team toured the new ecoroof at the Blanchet House in Northwest Portland. The 2,500 ft² project was completed in 2012 and provides tenants with an accessible outdoor seating area and views of the Portland skyline.  When its raining (like today!), it keeps stormwater out of the sewer system.



Blanchet House ( provides meals, clothing, and shelter to those in need.  The non-profit organization was started over 60 years ago by students from the University of Portland. The new, LEED Platinum building opened in Fall 2012 and serves over 25,000 meals per month. 


Foster Floodplain Natural Area: A Case Study for Restoration


Foster Floodplain Natural Area  Floodplain restoration tour group 

This April, we celebrated the completion of the Foster Floodplain Natural Area.  Since then, it’s been getting a lot of attention.  On August 24, more than 20 local environmental professionals, college professors, students, and government agency staff joined the Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland Parks & Recreation, and Otak on a tour of the site.  The tour was hosted in partnership with the Northwest Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration as part of their Restoration Walk series, which aims to foster interdisciplinary discussion and information sharing among ecological restoration practitioners.

The 63-acre East Lents Floodplain Restoration project (now known as Foster Floodplain) reconnected Johnson Creek to its floodplain, created approximately 140 acre-feet of flood storage, removed three roads, three bridges, and Works Progress Administration-era streambank armoring, created extensive floodplain wetlands, improved in-stream fish habitat, removed invasive plant species, and established native plants.  This project was identified as a high priority in the Johnson Creek Restoration Plan and was partially funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tour participants learned about this significant project and lessons that can be applied in other communities.  It’s a great example of using green infrastructure (our city’s streams, trees, wetlands, rain gardens and green streets) to solve a lot of problems at once.  The natural resources at Foster Floodplain work to reduce flooding on Foster Road, improve water quality, and provide wildlife habitat. 

View the tour brochure.

For more about the Restoration Walk series and upcoming events in the Northwest, visit:

Alien Plant Invader: Pokeweed


Have you seen this striking plant around your neighborhood lately?

Pokeweed plant with berriesPokeweed might look decorative, but it is an invasive plant that is blooming and developing berries right now in Portland.  This makes it easy to identify, so it has the dubious honor of being the first plant in our ocassional series on Alien Plant Invaders.  Pokeweed is native to the southeastern United States, but is increasingly popping up around the Pacific Northwest.  We need your help getting this weed under control before it spreads even more!

Why is pokeweed bad?  Birds often eat the berries and carry the seeds to new locations, including natural areas. Left unmanaged, pokeweed can form dense patches and overwhelm native plants and trees.  This damages Portland and the region’s natural areas and parks, which we depend on for clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation and other benefits.

Here’s another reason: although birds seem to be immune to the berries, every part of the pokeweed plant is toxic to people.  Some people eat parts of the plant (poke salad is an example).  But preparation is tricky and ingesting improperly prepared pokeweed can cause severe nausea, or even death.

For more information about identifying pokeweed, check out this fact sheet and this page from our partners at East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District.

Environmental Services staff are surveying some neighborhoods for pokeweed to help property owners identify it and give them recommendations for dealing with the plant.  Even if you haven’t received a flyer, we highly recommend removing plants you find on your property.  Put berries and flowers in a bag and in the trash (not in your yard debris bin or compost).  Stems without berries or flowers can be put in yard debris.  Digging up the roots and disposing of them in the trash is the best way to remove the plant.  This requires a lot of digging to get the whole root and will likely need to be watched for a couple of years, in case root pieces re-sprout.


 pokeweed by house pokeweed large plants

 small pokeweed plantpokeweed root

Pokeweed starts off small and may be found in cracks in the sidewalk.  It can quickly grow into a large bush.  The root gets bigger every year and should be dug out completely as soon as possible.

Why do we care about invasive species?  They can cause a lot of damage to our forests, streams and rivers, and property.  Nationwide, damages associated with invasive species cost approximately $120 billion each year.  In Oregon, the control of invasive weeds and the cost of the damages they create amounts to about $125 million each year.  We know that it costs a lot less to control new invasive plants before they become infestations.  This takes help from everyone.  Read more here about the problems caused by invasive species and why BES is particularly concerned about their impact on water quality.

For more about the City’s Invasive Species efforts, go to:

Lots of Volunteers and Less Garbage = Johnson Creek Success

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One hundred forty community volunteers came together on August 24th to take part in the Johnson Creek Watershed Council Creek Clean up.

Working in 15 stream segments, from the mouth of the river to upstream of SE 92nd, crews removed about 3 tons of trash (less than last year). Large items like shopping carts and tires were not seen as prevalent this year either. All of this is great news for Johnson Creek!


Photos courtesy Gary Wolff, OTAK


Congrats to the volunteers and the folks at the Johnson Creek Watershed Council for another successful project to improve this urban watershed!

To volunteer in the Johnson Creek watershed contact:


First Big Storm of the Season, but no Sewer Overflow to the River!


sewer pipe in riverThe beautiful weekend may have already erased memories of last Thursday evening’s downpour, which resulted in stormwater flowing down the streets and some trees to crash down on Forest Park’s Lower Macleay trail.  But here’s a great piece of news: in the past, this type of rain storm would have filled the city’s sewer pipes and caused an overflow of combined sewage into the Willamette River.  This time, that didn’t happen.

Thanks to Portland’s investment in fixing combined sewer overflows (CSOs) with upgrades to our sewer infrastructure, the river and Columbia Slough are cleaner and safer for people and fish.  The CSO control program included constructing the big pipe, disconnecting downspouts, and building green street facilities to manage the rain naturally.  Portland’s combined sewer system used to overflow an average of 50 times a year.  Now, those overflows rarely happen.  Learn more in a video about the CSO program here.

In the last two years since the big pipe was completed, there have been only five overflows to the Willamette River.  There hasn’t been a significant combined sewer overflow to the Columbia Slough since 2000.

The wastewater engineers and operators at Environmental Services work 24-7 to keep the sewer system pumping and treating sewage and stormwater. Thursday and Friday, they kept right up with the storm, and the big pipe got only 87% full.  Our green infrastructure, like street trees and rain gardens, also does its part to keep a lot of stormwater out of the system and save ratepayers money.  This big storm dropped an average of 1.25 inches of rain on central Portland in 12 hours, but no sewage spilled in to the river.  That’s something we can all celebrate!  While we are paying off the construction costs of the combined sewer overflow projects for several more years, it’s important to remember that this infrastructure will be working for clean rivers for many decades to come.

Willamette River south of downtown Portlandcanoes on the Columbia Slough