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Turtle Rescue at the Sandy River Delta

By Lindsay Wochnick

Laura Guderyahn and John Deshler remove a Western Painted Turtle from a trap.
Laura Guderyahn and John Deshler remove a Western Painted Turtle from a trap.

In 2013, the Portland Water Bureau cooperated with the Army Corps of Engineers to remove the 1930’s Sandy River Delta dam and restore the historic river channel. By participating in the project, the Environmental Compliance group, within the Water Bureau's Resource Protection and Planning, fulfilled two of the measures Bull Run Water Supply Habitat Conservation Plan. The plan restores habitat for threatened and endangered fish in the Sandy River basin, and allows the Water Bureau to operate the water supply system and comply with the federal Endangered Species and Clean Water acts.

Many people know this area as a great place to walk their dog, but it is also home to a diversity of native animals, including threatened and endangered salmon and native turtles.  During dredging operations, the Water Bureau organized and led the capture and relocation of dozens of native Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii) and Northern Red-legged Frogs (Rana aurora), both of which are on the Oregon Sensitive Species List.

Painted Turtles (C.p.) get their name from the brightly colored underside and rim of their shells.  The western subspecies of this turtle has an especially beautiful underside that is uniquely patterned for each individual, much like a human fingerprint.  Western Painted Turtles were the only turtles inhabiting the historic channel where dredging and dam removal occurred.  Regional turtle experts Laura Guderyahn (City of Gresham), Susan Barnes (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife), Sarah Wilson (Port of Portland), and the bureau’s own wildlife biologist, John Deshler, were successful in trapping dozens of native Western Painted Turtles and moving them out of harm’s way to nearby Company Lake, a Port of Portland restoration site.

John Deshler
Resource Planning and Protection

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