MHCC Clean Water Retrofit

sara mhcc

The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council is joining Mt. Hood Community College and other partners to elevate wild salmon habitat and water quality as key goals in future campus management.

Working with the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Gresham, Intel Labs, Metro and others, SRBWC and MHCC are analyzing ways that the 200+ acre college’s facilities and operations can be revamped to conserve water and improve water quality, habitat, and environmental quality in Beaver and Kelly Creeks, the two streams whose confluence flows through campus. Beaver Creek supports populations of wild salmon and steelhead, despite its urban and agricultural development. MHCC plans to gain certification as the first Salmon Safe community college, and the first institution to gain the designation in Gresham.

An opportunity assessment to be conducted this spring will look at MHCC’s 30+ buildings, 20 paved parking lots, landscaping, tree canopy and existing drainage infrastructure to define where green infrastructure practices can improve water quality and habitat. The results will help point to where campus facilities can be retrofitted to make the landscape function more naturally, and create a demonstration of sustainable stormwater management and conservation at campus scale.

Overhead view of the MHCC campus with extensive impervious surfaces, including buildings and parking lots

Developed beginning in 1965, MHCC transformed a former agricultural area into the current campus. The buildings, parking areas and other hardscape mean that rain hitting the campus collects pollutants and warms up to unhealthy levels before draining quickly into Beaver and Kelly Creeks, degrading water quality and fish habitat. The campus development also built a dam across Kelly Creek, creating a pond that significantly warms the creek’s flow beyond water quality standards, although serving as a recreational fishing resource for youth and disabled anglers. SRBWC opened our office, the Sandy Watershed Learning Center, on the MHCC campus in 2014.
The green infrastructure opportunity assessment will lay out activities to be implemented in a five-year period. Potential actions to may include expanded native vegetation in campus landscaping, rain gardens and permeable pavement to interrupt runoff from parking lots and roofs, green roofs on current or future buildings, and water harvesting to make use of roof runoff now routed to stormwater drains.

Failed culvert under Kane Drive that allows Kelly Creek to flow into the pond at MHCC on December 7, 2015

Project partners will work together to seek funding and put as many sustainable water management practices on the ground as possible, tracking water quality and other indicators as clean water retrofits occur. MHCC students will have opportunities to participate in green infrastructure retrofit activities and help monitor results.
Project partners are committed to making the next 50 years of campus life with the campus’s two creeks, and the wild fish that rely on them, a focus of MHCC’s sustainability commitment. Restoring habitat and water quality at MHCC will convert a current stormwater hotspot into another healthy link in the chain of restored habitats in Beaver Creek and the Sandy basin generally. For more information about this program, see MHCC’s website or read about it in the Gresham Outlook.