Mainstem Sandy River Floodplain Reconnection
On the heels of community meetings with local residents and river restoration experts that identified the Columbia Land Trust side channel adjacent to Timberline Rim as an ideal location for a demonstration restorative flood response project, the Council is moving forward with collecting materials, obtaining permits, and reconnecting this 30-acre floodplain to the main Sandy River channel. Habitat benefits include the creation of side channel connection for salmon feeding, rearing, and hiding during high flows and restored native vegetation of the floodplain including conifer cover and understory plantings. Additionally, this project engages the local community in the large-scale efforts needed for restorative flood response and demonstrates how removing levees can have impacts on entire reaches of river.
Sandy Delta Vegetation Restoration
The Sandy Delta is undergoing multiple methods of restoration, including invasive species removal, native plantings, wetland protection fencing, and the Delta Dam Removal. The Council has received funding from East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, the US Forest Service, the Jubitz Family Foundation, and PGE’s Habitat Fund for this project. With the goal of restoring the native forest ecosystem, replanting started this November, and we will be planting trees and shrubs with Friends of Trees and FedEx again in February 2014.
Additionally, invasive species management has been ongoing, with major progress being made on restoring the forest understory by removing Himalayan Blackberry and Ivy. Our partnership with Project YESS and the US Forest Service has included building a buck-and-rail fence around a 200-acre wetland area to protect resident nesting species from disturbance by hikers and their animals.
Learn more about our reforestation efforts with project partners, and find out what neighboring Watershed Councils and Soil & Water Conservation Districts are up to in our Winter Partner Newsletter.
Timberline to Troutdale River Cleanup
The Timberline to Troutdale Sandy River Cleanup engages recreational enthusiasts as stewards of their favorite areas of the year-round playground that is the Sandy River watershed. Through this cleanup project, we hope to raise awareness about the potential impacts of our use of this an iconic Oregon river that is a wild salmon stronghold and year-round recreational haven for Portlanders who desire to hike, fish, ski, snowboard, mountain bike, paddle, snowshoe, float, and watch wildlife in our region.
The headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Salmon River, a major tributary to the Sandy River and priority spawning stream for threatened wild salmon, begin from glacial runoff in a canyon adjacent to Timberline Lodge, a year-round haven for recreation. The banks of the lower Sandy River near Troutdale are a summer mecca for urbanites seeking outdoor refuge for those who swim or float down the mellow stretches of the lower river. Cleanups on these sections of river in September 2014 removed over 4,500 pounds of trash from our watershed and reached over 90 volunteers.
The 2015 Timberline to Troutdale Cleanup activities included two events, a land-based headwaters cleanup at Timberline and boat-based paddle cleanup to target banks along the lowest section of the Sandy River. With continued efforts in coming years, we hope to reduce the amount of garbage in our river system to prevent further harm to our native wildlife, salmon, and the ecosystem as a whole while engaging our recreational community as river stewards.
Upper Basin Weed Smackdown
Following our 2013-2015 field seasons in partnership with Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) and the Sandy River Basin Vegetation Restoration Coalition (SBVRC), we have identified the Salmon River as the uppermost extent of Policeman’s Helmet, a priority invasive species, in the Sandy River Basin. The Council coordinates our efforts with CCSWCD program staff to reach out to individual landowners to gain permission to survey and eradicate priority invasive species on their property, including Policeman’s Helmet, along the Salmon River corridor.
Most of the invasive plants on our sites are adjacent to water where juvenile salmon are present, a condition that urges avoidance of potential chemical treatment if possible. Hand pulling of Policeman’s Helmet has occurred each summer from 2012-2015 and has helped reduce the spread in infested areas, with measurable reduction in the plant’s extent after multiple years of treatment. This project relies on partnerships with CCSWCD, the Project YESS Habitat Restoration Crew, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and The Nature Conservancy. The Council also hosts volunteer work parties to involve local residents in the reduction of this invasive species, and educates participants on how to identify priority weed species.
Sandy Delta Turtle Town and Education Expansion
Over the past 13 years, an extensive Sandy River Delta habitat effort has restored 900-acres of Oregon white oak woodlands and riparian areas. However, no work has been performed to directly enhance reptile and amphibian populations. The Western Painted Turtle Habitat Restoration Project will improve suitable painted turtle nesting habitat, provide basking structures, prevent visitor disturbance to nesting sites, and educate visitors and local school children during their Delta field trips. The turtle habitat restoration work is made possible by grants from Oregon Wildlife and the Oregon Zoo.
As recommended by ODFW Biologist Susan Barnes, our reptile and amphibian restoration methods include placing Christmas tree bundles along the northern bank of turtle ponds. We will remove blackberry, Scott’s broom and other invasive weeds growing in identified suitable western painted turtle nesting areas. We will construct and place split-rail fences and “Area Closed” signs to prevent trail users from using adjacent turtle nesting areas. As part of the Delta Environmental Education Project, a new Delta Environmental Education Guide for Teachers focuses on western painted turtle natural history and conservation. We will teach 300+ upper elementary and middle school students who visit the Delta annually about turtle ecology during their field trips.
Beaver Creek Conservation Partners Restoration, Community Engagement, and Campus Stormwater Retrofit
The Beaver Creek Conservation Partners represent over 12 organizations that work toward restoration, monitoring, and outreach goals within this sub-watershed that is the lowest tributary to the Sandy. As early as 1990, the City of Troutdale studied the effects that urbanization was having on the stream and partners that work in the creek continue these efforts to this day.
In the summers of 2016 and 2017, Multnomah County will replace the culverts allowing Beaver Creek to cross below Stark Street and Cochran Road because they act as partial fish passage barriers. This major infrastructure project that also promotes ecological restoration allowed the Watershed Council to partner with Multnomah County to increase our community engagement in the lower watershed by hiring an AmeriCorps member.
Another result of this unique partnership is the new effort to create a 5-year stormwater retrofit plan on the Mt. Hood Community College campus, home to the Watershed Council’s office. As part of this retrofit plan, MHCC is working toward Salmon Safe Certification in partnership with the Watershed Council, City of Gresham, and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.