Welches Meeting to Begin Restorative Flood Response Effort

The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council invites local residents to participate in the kickoff meeting for our Restorative Flood Response project. With support from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Council will work with neighborhoods impacted by flooding to explore actions that can increase habitat along the river and also reduce risk to property owners during future high water events.

“We want this to be the start of a community dialogue to define and learn about actions that landowners can take that will benefit both people and salmon,” said Steve Wise, the Council’s executive director. “The January flood taught some hard lessons about the river’s possible impact to nearby homes and infrastructure. But it got people’s attention too, looking for ways they can sustainably prepare for future high water events.”

The Restorative Flood Response community meeting will be held on Tuesday February 28, 2012 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Welches Elementary School. River experts will explore why the river behaves the way it does, what are the habitat needs of salmon, and which types of potential riverside projects may reduce the risk to homes and infrastructure while also providing habitat for salmon. Discussions will seek residents’ input on possible streambank and floodplain restoration projects that the Council can help to explore in future reviews, including field visits.

“The one thing we’re sure of is that this was not the last high water event the Sandy basin will see,” Wise said, noting recent research from the Marmot dam removal that indicates the 2011 storm had a statistical return interval of less than 25 years even though it was the third largest on record. “Connecting effective restoration approaches along the streambank with possible habitat reconnection nearby, we believe there are opportunities to work with groups of landowners to find actions that will lead to restorative flood responses.”

The Sandy is a dynamic, glacial river flowing through a valley filled with lahars, unconsolidated volcanic deposits. That means that the river can readily change locations within its historic course, a process known as channel migration, as the Sandy did most recently in January 2011. These factors need to be considered when planning development or projects along the river and in the channel migration zone.

Storms also can transport large logs, which create important habitat features including deep pools that provide a cold water refuge for adult salmon as they migrate upstream during warm summer weather. Accumulations of logs also provide hiding cover for juvenile salmon seeking to escape Great blue herons and other predators.

The Sandy flows through materials deposited during Mt. Hood’s Timberline and Old Maid eruptive periods. The largest of the many lahars during the late 1700’s deposited material at least 20 feet deep in the Old Maid Flat area. The erosion and transport of some of those materials, from an eruption in the 1790’s, down to the Sandy’s delta led to Lewis and Clark naming it the “Quicksand River” due to the loose sand they encountered as they waded across the river in November 1805.

The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council is an independent non-profit that works with the community to restore and protect habitat and listed salmon and steelhead in the Sandy, as well as its tributaries the Zigzag, Salmon, and Bull Run.

(Note: The Restorative Flood Response meeting was originally scheduled for January 17 but was cancelled because of snow closure at Welches School.)

For additional information on the Restorative Flood Response project or other Sandy River Basin Watershed Council efforts, please contact Executive Director Steve Wise, 503-668-1428 or by email swise@sandyriver.org.

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