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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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Alameda Stairs: Healthy, Certified Backyard Habitat

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The neighborhood project is the first public space to achieve the designation from the Backyard Habitat Certification Program

Lush green ferns and other native plants now take the place of broken bottles, trash and weeds as Environmental Services and community partners transformed the Alameda Stairs, a popular public walkway in NE Portland, into healthy habitat and a beautiful public space that also filters stormwater.

Planting day at the Alameda Stairs in Northeast Portland

The transformation happened as Environmental Services worked with the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association and partnered with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD).

Some of the 500 native plants planted along the Alameda Stairs

At least 500 native plants were planted during a community event, making Alameda Stairs the first public space created under the Backyard Habitat Certification Program. Today, those plants are now thriving and helping to stabilize the soil. The Alameda Stairs are not just a passage through the neighborhood, but also healthy habitat that will provide stormwater management benefits for many generations to come. Environmental Services supports projects like this that work with nature to clean and infiltrate rainwater that runs off our streets, driveways and roofs.

To learn more about the Backyard Habitat Certification program, visit:

The new signage along Alameda Stairs showing Backyard Habitat Certification

Alien Plant Invader: Japanese Butterbur

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An update on successful efforts to fight this plant, and what you can do to help

At first glance, Japanese butterbur (Petasites japonica) appears to be a tropical beauty and a fantastic groundcover for your back yard. But beauty can be deceiving! Its huge leaves shade out other plants. It steals nutrients and can quickly invade an entire area. It’s not yet widespread in Portland, but it is growing in some sensitive natural areas and it’s hard to get rid of. Japanese butterbur is listed as a “watch” species in Portland, but may be reclassified with a higher “B” ranking.

As its name suggests, Japanese butterbur hails from Japan where some people consider it edible with careful preparation. Some parts of the plant are poisonous. Its scientific name comes from the Greek word petasos, meaning a wide brimmed hat.

Japanese butterbur’s kidney-shaped leaves can be up to four feet wide and are fuzzy on the underside. It emerges in late winter or early spring, sometimes with clumps of white or pale yellow flowers appearing before the leaves, and can grow up to six feet tall.

Japanese butterbur spreads mostly through underground stems, and sometimes through seeds. It seems to be spreading in Portland through yard waste dumping, plant trading and when the underground stems break apart and float down streams. Gardeners sometimes plant Japanese butterbur in containers to check its spread, but this plant is an escape artist! It’s been known to spread in spite of containment.

Hand-pulling is an effective way to remove small areas of Japanese butterbur from your yard, though you’ll have to continue pulling sprouts for at least a few years. Mowing will not remove the plant but can keep it from spreading. More established populations are difficult to control and common herbicide treatments don’t seem to be effective. If you find Japanese butterbur, please contact Dominic Maze at Environmental Services to discuss control options.

Invasive species affect us all. They damage forests, streams, rivers and our property. Nationwide, invasives cause an estimated $120 billion in damages every year. In Oregon, the costs of controlling invasive weeds and the damage they cause amounts to about $125 million each year. It costs a lot less to control new invasive plants before they become infestations, but we need your help. Read more about the problems caused by invasive species and why Environmental Services is concerned about their impact on water quality.

Catch up on previous Alien Plant Invader posts:

·                     Garlic mustard

·                     Tree of Heaven

·                     Goatsrue

·                     Italian arum (orange candleflower)

·                     Lesser celandine

·                     English holly

·                     Spurge laurel

·                     Japanese and giant knotweed

·                     Ivy

·                     Pokeweed

·                     False brome

Environmental Services Tree Program and partners add 3,700 New Trees to Portland’s Canopy in 2017

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After a snowy winter, a word of thanks to the staff, volunteers, and property owners that got involved.

The Environmental Services Tree Program organizes targeted planting events in low-canopy and under-served neighborhoods, along transit corridors, in school yards, and elsewhere. We offer a Treebate on your stormwater bill as an incentive to plant residential yard trees, and we work with Friends of Trees to strengthen communities through neighborhood tree planting events.

This winter brought many surprises, from the usual rain and clouds to some unusual cold and snow. Before the summer sun burns away our memories of winter, we wanted to look back and celebrate another season of tree planting.

After this winter, there are 3,700 more trees in our city thanks to partnerships between the Environmental Services Tree Program, Friends of Trees, and hundreds of Portland residents and property owners. These trees line our streets and grace our yards, contributing to the health and vitality of our urban watershed and all of us who live here.

More than 2,800 trees were planted through Friends of Trees with support from Environmental Services. Thank you to the tireless staff and intrepid volunteers who made that happen!

Photo caption: Volunteers gave their Saturday mornings to tree planting in wind, snow, and cold. Photo credit Confluence AmeriCorps member Marc Czornij.

More than 700 trees were planted with City of Portland contractors at commercial, industrial, and publicly owned properties. Thank you to tenants and property owners for participating and taking that extra step in collaboration for Portland’s urban canopy.

Photo caption: New broadleaf evergreen outside a commercial property on SE Foster Rd. Photo credit Matt Krueger


 Photo caption: New trees line the Trimet Orange Line along McLoughlin Blvd in Portland. Photo credit Matt Krueger.

Finally, more than 130 Treebates were approved for trees planted in private residential yards. These trees will help manage stormwater for years to come. Thank you to everyone who made a personal investment in trees this winter.

You can learn more about the Environmental Services Tree Program by visiting our website at

Volunteers needed! Explorando el Columbia Slough – a bilingual nature festival

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Saturday, June 24, 1-5pm, volunteer shifts vary, Colwood Golf Course, 7323 NE Columbia Blvd.

Join the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, city staff and the community for the annual Explorando el Columbia Slough, a bilingual nature festival with fun for the whole family! Guests enjoy guided canoe rides, music and dance, storytelling, nature crafts and more. The event take place Saturday, June 24th at the Colwood Golf Course at 7323 NE Columbia Blvd.

Volunteer participation is essential to our success!

Volunteers do not necessarily need to speak Spanish. Those with little to no Spanish are still welcome to volunteer and we can pair you up with someone who speaks Spanish!  Volunteers help manage festival set up, registration, canoe rides, arts and face painting, parking, gardening, watershed activities, food and drink and more! Snacks, lunch and an event t-shirt are provided for all volunteers.

To register, visit

Contact Karen at or 503-281-1132 

El Columbia Slough Watershed Council presenta su festival anual Explorando el Columbia Slough, lo cual es un evento bilingüe y divertido para toda la familia. Los invitados disfrutarán de paseos guiados en canoa, música y danza, cuentos, grupos comunitarios, manualidades y mucho más. Los voluntarios ayudarán manejar todos los aspectos del evento- su participación será esencial para el triunfo del evento!

¿Necesito hablar ingles para participar?  No necesariamente. ¡Es una buena oportunidad para cualquier hispanohablante dentro de nuestra comunidad! Hablantes nativos y con fluidez en español se necesitarán durante todas las horas del evento y animamos a que se inscriban para ayudar. ¡No te preocupes si no hablas ingles, estarás al lado de alguien que lo pueda hablar!

Portland students spend some time on the job with Environmental Services

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This spring, the Clean Rivers Education Program offered career awareness field trips for local middle and high school students

Today’s students are our city’s future decision makers and environmental stewards. To keep our rivers and streams clean and healthy in future generations, we’ll need a strong workforce for a variety of career opportunities working for clean rivers. This spring, Environmental Services’ Clean Rivers Education team and other staff have been teaming up to bring career awareness field trips to Portland students.

Benson High School students visit the Tabor Sewer job site to hear from Environmental Services' staff and construction contractors 

Clean Rivers educators visited Benson High School’s construction class to teach students about our wastewater system and sewer repair technologies like open trench, pipe bursting, and cured in place pipe (CIPP). Students then visited a job site in the Tabor Sewer project. There, they learned about the construction techniques employed at the site as well as apprenticeships and construction careers from contractors from Landis and Landis Construction, staff from Constructing Hope, and engineering and contracting staff from Environmental Services.

Mt Tabor Middle School students learn about invasive plants from Environmental Services Revegetation Program staff

After several Clean Rivers Education classroom presentations about native and invasive plants and other watershed health topics, Mt. Tabor Middle School students walked to Mt. Tabor Park and teamed up with Environmental Services’ Revegetation Program staff and Portland Parks Stewardship Coordinators and Botanic Specialists. Students worked alongside environmental professionals to pull invasive English ivy, practice native plant identification, and learn how ecologists are studying the role of earth worms in our natural areas. Revegetation Program staff also visited the classroom and shared about their jobs and personal career paths.

 Roosevelt High School students participate in a mock spill response activity at the Water Pollution Control Lab 

Roosevelt High School environmental science students visited Balch Creek Park in Lower Macleay Park to learn alongside Environmental Services’ staff about watershed health monitoring and macroinvertebrates as biological indicators of water quality. Students practiced taking measurements of streambank conditions and used meters to test water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen and pH. They also learned about jobs and equipment related to watershed health monitoring. The next day, students visited our Water Pollution Control Lab and practiced collecting water quality samples, used GIS maps to track a mock spill, and learned about careers related to spill protection and citizen response. Environmental Services staff also visited classes to share about their jobs and personal career paths.

A huge thank you to all the staff, students and teachers who participated in these career education activities!