A new guide to the Sandy River’s flood behavior and ecology will be released at the Flood of Information event, followed by a restoration site field tour, Saturday September 24.
In partnership with the Clackamas County Disaster Management, the Hoodland Fire District, and local river experts, the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council (SRBWC) will join the annual Flood of Information event Saturday September 24th, 9:00AM – 12:00PM at the Resort at the Mountain, Welches, Lolo Pass Room. The Flood of Information aims to help local residents understand and prepare for potential high water events on the Sandy.
SRBWC will also lead a field tour of a restoration project based on the Restorative Flood Response approach following the Flood of Information event. The tour will gather at 1 pm at the Timberline Rim Recreation Lodge, at 65091 E Mountain Meadow Ln Rhododendron and explore the recently restored floodplain upstream owned by the Columbia Land Trust. Restoration actions included removal of a part of the 1964 levee on the site, construction of engineered log jams, and reconnection of the side channel that had been cut off from river flows for 50 years. Fall plantings will help restore the surrounding forest and vegetation.
The Restorative Flood Response Community Handbook, produced by the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council in collaboration with Natural Systems Design, covers the Sandy’s volcanic history, bank erosion erosion, flooding history and other changes that can affect the river and surrounding homes and infrastructure in large storm events. The booklet outlines how communities can work with the river’s natural processes, using restoration-based practices to address risk from future channel migration.
“The way the Sandy works when a large storm comes through is complicated,” said Steve Wise, Sandy River Basin Watershed Council Executive Director, and co-author of the guide. “This booklet can help people get their heads around channel migration, how storms moving through the river’s volcanic landscape can shift the banks in hours.”
The Council has developed Restorative Flood Response and the handbook through a series of community discussions and research following the January 2011 Sandy flood. “Residents around the Sandy wanted to know what could be done to reduce flood and erosion risks during future events,” Wise said. “It turns out old ways of armoring the banks with riprap don’t work, and harm habitat for federally protected wild salmon and steelhead. The good news is that restoration can help to reconnect natural processes, support habitat, and over the long term help absorb some of the river’s energy.”
Historical attempts at bank stabilization, which led to levees built along stretches of the Sandy River after the record 1964 flood, contributed to both habitat loss and some of the problems residents are dealing with today. Channelizing the river, in an attempt to “fix” it and push flow back to where the Sandy had been before the flood, eliminated salmon habitat. Restorative Flood Response seeks to reconnect the Sandy’s flow to floodplains and side channels at the reach scale, in alignment with the river’s natural processes, to disperse flood energy during a storm event and restore salmon habitat at the same time.
The Sandy’s wild salmon and steelhead were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999. Recent population estimates show the Sandy’s fish populations have increased since the removal of the Marmot Dam in 2007 and extensive habitat restoration efforts since then.
The Restorative Flood Response Community Handbook walks the reader through the dynamic forces at play in the Sandy, risk assessment, and restorative solutions. The booklet also examines potential climate change and its influence on future storms, riverbank erosion, and channel migration. Copies will be available for free at the Flood of Information event, or for a for a $5 recommended donation by mail.
The Sandy Floodplain Reconnection project is supported by contributions from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Portland Water Bureau Habitat Fund, Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Timberline Rim neighborhood. Patagonia’s International Trout Fund supported development of the Restorative Flood Response Handbook.
To RSVP for the Saturday September 24 restoration field tour, or request a printed copy of the Restorative Flood Response Handbook please contact Sara Ennis, SRBWC Community Stewardship Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.