Wednesday, August 10, 2016

YES for Clean Water and Healthy Soil

The Tualatin Soil and Conservation District has served the people of Washington County since 1955. The District is asking voters to approve a permanent tax levy to provide services needed to protect the water, soil, and other natural resources in Washington County. The resource needs of the region exceed the District’s ability to provide services. After a multi-year community engagement process, the District is asking voters to provide stable funding the District needs to continue and expand upon core mission components:
  • Protect the quality and quantity of our drinking water
  • Maintain healthy soil
  • Enhance fish and wildlife
  • Expand youth outreach and education programs
Whether you’re a farmer, forester, business, mother, or father – Every Washington County resident is connected to their upstream neighbor for their drinking water, food, lumber, and natural places to play. And there are a lot more of us – 11,000 new people each year according to recent census.

Coho salmon in Scoggins Creek depend on clean, cold
water.  Streamside 
restoration by the Tualatin SWCD and
partners are helping to bring back
salmon populations.
We have to find ways to protect clean drinking water, restore fish and wildlife habitat, build great jobs, and provide good, local food. That’s a tall order, and what we all do as private landowners is important. Eighty percent of Washington County is privately owned.

The Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District has provided the critical education, technical assistance, and conservation planning to achieve those goals above. They have a nationally-recognized stream restoration program, a countywide-elected and accountable board, and a history since 1955 of making wise use of funds to achieve great outcomes. Over those 60 years, the District is the trusted source of advice for landowners concerned about water and soil.

But the needs of a growing County have outpaced the District’s ability to provide those services to everyone – and those services are adapting to new challenges.

SWCD Staff works with
landowners to eradicate
knotweed and other
harmful invasive plants
In particular, this measure will allow the District to enhance its services to urban residents and forest managers. In urban areas, the District will support residents’ efforts to keep pesticides and fertilizers out of drinking water, and providing opportunities to be active outdoors to promote health. 

The District spent the last two years listening to the public and stakeholders and developing a 5-year business plan to guide our work. The permanent tax rate will provide the stable funding to support clean water, healthy soil, fish and wildlife, jobs and health, and good, local food.


By working with landowners on Conservation Farm Plans, the
Tualatin Soil & Water Conservation District keeps water clean
for all users downstream on the Tualatin River.
Clean WaterWe protect clean water for drinking and for fish and wildlife through expanded services to small acreage and commercial farmers, stream protection from fertilizers and herbicides.

Healthy SoilWe conserve soil through projects to control erosion, fight invasive weeds, and protect against severe rainstorms and drought.

Fish and WildlifeWe help landowners protect streams for salmon and forests for wildlife.

Great JobsThe Silicon Forest is here because making microchips requires clean, reliable water. Outdoor gear makers locate here because nature and rural areas build a lifestyle that attract the best talent in the world.
Education programs for school kids
builds life-long land stewards.

EducationWe deliver kids’ science education and provide technical assistance to farmers, foresters, and urban residents.

Good, Local FoodWe will connect people to Washington County's bounty of good, healthy, and local food.

Restoring native vegetation to streamside corridors is one way in which the Tualatin Soil & Water Conservation District works with partners and landowners for clean water and a healthier environment.

Learn more at

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rural Recreation - What do you want?

Weigh in on Washington County's Rural Tourism Plan

Washington County is studying the future of rural tourism, and they want your input.

Making a splash on the Tualatin River.
The Rural Tourism Study Report is available for review here for your review.  TRK has commented that the study only focuses on agricultural tourism, and neglects the tremendous opportunities for outdoor nature-based recreation, like paddling, camping, hiking, nature observation, fishing, access to waterfalls, etc.  The report overlooks some of the best tourism assets in rural Washington County.  

Some of those existing assets are:
Lee Falls on the Tualatin River

Future assets that are currently under development should also be looked at include:

The Rural Tourism Plan should also prioritize sites for fish habitat restoration on Gales, Dairy, and Scoggins Creeks and on the Upper Tualatin River.

One element of a rural tourism plan that would help the above natural assets reach their full visitor potential would be more campsites close to these destinations.  Developing Access to the Tualatin River Water Trail above Rood Bridge and between Scholls and Sherwood would also be useful for both tourists and local residents.

Washington County Visitors Association (WCVA) has made nature-based recreation one of their 3 programmatic emphases.  It would be beneficial if the Rural Tourism Study would be more closely aligned with the nature-based priorities of WCVA.
You have an opportunity to tell county planners just what you would like to see in the rural tourism plan.  Go to  to learn more and submit your comments.
Fly-fishing near Cherry Grove.

Public comments on the report will be accepted through Sept. 30. Comments can be submitted by using the "Online Comments" box via email or mailed to:

Anne Kelly, Associate Planner
Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation
Planning and Development Services, Long Range Planning
155 N. 1st Ave., Suite 350, MS 14
Hillsboro, OR 97124

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The New Clean Water Service Permit: What would be good for the Tualatin River and our neighborhood creeks?

After many years of delay, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is about to renew the permit that allows Clean Water Services (CWS) to discharge wastewater and stormwater to the Tualatin River system.

There are some great innovations in the draft permit.  Clean Water Services will be permitted to use “natural treatment systems” at Fernhill Wetlands to clean and cool effluent from the Forest Grove Wastewater Treatment Plant before it enters the Tualatin River.  The project has also become a tourist attraction with beautiful Japanese style gardens and wetland habitat aimed at attracting migratory birds.  Using wetlands for final treatment saves energy and reduces CO2 emissions.  An extensive monitoring program will assure that this pioneering approach is working and help inform changes that could improve the system.

Another significant innovation is allowing Clean Water Services to produce ultra-pure water from their effluent.  This is happening on a tiny scale for demonstration that effluent from the wastewater treatment plant can be further treated to produce water suitable for any domestic use including drinking (and making beer).

Combining all four wastewater treatment plants has allowed for efficiencies and innovations in treating wastewater.  The permit has also allowed innovative programs such as Tree-for-All that allow CWS (and partners) to plant native shade trees along creeks to cool the water, rather than cooling the discharge from their wastewater plants by energy intensive and expensive methods.  But combining the wastewater permit with the stormwater permit has delayed implementation of sustainable stormwater management innovations.  Other large urban areas (Clackamas County, Eugene, Portland, and Salem) had their municipal separate storm sewer (MS4) permits renewed years ago.  Because the CWS’ stormwater permit was combined with the wastewater permit, and DEQ was delayed by litigation that challenged water temperature standards, the CWS stormwater permit was not renewed on time.

Almost 3 years ago, CWS and its partner cities stopped a process to revise the Design and Construction Standards that was supposed to be completed and adopted by the end of 2014.  Without the permit renewal forcing the issue, city engineers resisted improvements to the standards and the process was tabled indefinitely.  The cities own and operate their own parts of the municipal separate storm sewer system.

Now that the renewal of the stormwater permit is finally happening, Tualatin Riverkeepers are looking for significant improvements that will protect our neighborhood creeks from polluted, erosive stormwater runoff, including:

Main Street rain garden with trees in Tigard
Main Street Tigard rain garden with trees.
·        Using urban forestry on streets, parking lots and upland areas to reduce stormwater runoff.  TRK asked that the permit and Design & Construction Standards adopt urban forestry standards that were recently developed by the City of Tigard and have received national awards.

·        Reduce impervious surfaces that generate stormwater runoff don’t allow stormwater to soak into the ground.  This was called for in the 2005 Healthy Streams Plan adopted by Washington County and its cities.  Porous pavement, rain gardens, green roofs are all techniques that can reduce effective impervious area and stormwater runoff.  The Riverkeepers have asked that individual cities be tracked for their effective impervious cover reduction.

·        Increase water recycling including harvesting of stormwater for domestic uses.  Cities in the Tualatin Basin import water from distant rivers including the Trask, Clackamas, Bull Run and Willamette.  Pulling water from these rivers impacts these rivers and requires expensive pipelines and energy intensive pumping.  Locally stormwater is dumped into the nearest creek, causing significant erosion and habitat damage.  Capturing rain and using it where it falls is much more sustainable than importing water from distant watersheds.

·        Make land use decisions that prevent polluted, erosive, stormwater runoff and accommodate sustainable natural stormwater management techniques.  Recent land use decisions have focused new development in areas with shallow slow draining soils, steep slopes and encourage deforestation.  Cooper Mountain and River Terrace are areas with slopes and bedrock close to the surface that precludes stormwater infiltration.  The cost of providing utilities, including stormwater management is significantly higher in these areas.

trash in creeks

  • Reduce trash in the creeks.  Urban creeks collect a lot of trash.  Stormwater permits in Southern California require the cities to prevent this from happening.  We can do better too.

·        Reduce stream temperatures by modifying small dams on tributary creeks.  These dams spread the water out to act like a giant solar collector, making the water too hot for our native trout and salmon.

Tualatin Riverkeepers is looking forward to an improved watershed permit from DEQ that will guide improved public policy that cleans and cools our water and makes our river and neighborhood creeks healthier for fish, wildlife and people.

Read Tualatin Riverkeepers' comments to DEQ.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Is Tree Canopy an Environmental Justice Issue?

Trees in the urban environment provide a variety of benefits. Various researchers have touted the benefits of tree canopy in cities: cleaner air, stormwater reduction, carbon sequestration, energy savings, higher property values and health benefits.i   Some have even found a reduction in crime associated with tree canopy.ii   If distribution of these benefits are affected by income, ethnic, or racial disparity it may be viewed as an issue of environmental justice.

 Numerous studies have found strong positive correlations between household income and tree canopy. One major study published in PLoS|ONE  in April 2015 looked at seven major U.S. Cities and found, “Money may not grow on trees, but this study suggests that in a way, trees grow on money. Our findings show that high-income neighborhoods in our selected cities are more likely than low-income neighborhoods to have high tree canopy cover.”iii   This same study found that “correlations between the distribution of benefits and socio-economic variables can vary across cities.” Race and ethnicity correlated with the amount of tree canopy in some cities, but not others. 

Tualatin Riverkeepers took a look at how tree canopy in cities of the Tualatin Basin compares with median household income for those cities and percentage of residents that identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic.  Census data were matched with tree canopy data calculated by Nathan Herzog using i-Tree on 2014 aerial photos from Google Earth to make these comparisons. Tualatin Riverkeepers' results are consistent with the PLoS|ONE study. While there is a weak negative correlation between Latino population and tree canopy, there is a very strong positive correlation between Per Capita Income and the percentage of the landscape covered with tree canopy.

Cities of the Tualatin Basin Latino % Population  Per Capita Income        % Tree Canopy
King City 4.5% $27,536 15.0%
Cornelius 50.1% $15,290 13.0%
Rivergrove 2.4% $31,546 37.3%
Tigard 12.7% $25,110 25.0%
Hillsboro 22.6% $21,680 17.1%
Forest Grove 23.1% $16,992 16.0%
West Linn* 4.0% $34,671 33.7%
Beaverton 16.3% $25,419 25.6%
Sherwood 7.0% $25,793 21.0%
Tualatin 17.3% $26,694 22.9%
Lake Oswego 3.7% $42,166 47.6%
North Plains 11.0% $18,794 15.3%
Durham 13.8% $29,099 49.0%
Banks 7.0% $21,354 11.2%
Gaston 11.0% $17,758 15.5%
Sources:  U.S.Census 2010, i-Tree analysis by Nathan Herzog on Google Earth aerial photos.

Lake Oswego
Trees grow on money in Lake Oswego.

Targeting tree planting programs to lower income areas has its challenges. Research by Geoffrey Donovan of the U.S. Forest Service found that residents of lower income areas in Portland Oregon were less receptive to tree planting programs than in higher income areasiv.  Some of this can be explained by lower home ownership in low income areas. Renters tend to be more transient and may not be able authorize tree planting.

End notes
i McPherson, E. Gregory, et al. "Million trees Los Angeles canopy cover and benefit assessment." Landscape and Urban Planning 99.1 (2011): 40-50.

ii Troy AR, Grove JM, O’Neill-Dunne JP. The relationship between tree canopy and crime rates across an urban-rural gradient in the greater Baltimore region. Landsc Urban Plan. 2012;106: 262–270. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2012.03.010

iii Schwarz K, Fragkias M, Boone CG, Zhou W, McHale M, Grove JM, et al. (2015) Trees Grow on Money: Urban Tree Canopy Cover and Environmental Justice. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0122051. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122051

iv Donovan, Geoffrey H. and John Mills, Environmental Justice and Factors that Influence
Participation in Tree Planting Programs in Portland, Oregon, U.S Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 2014. 40(2): 70–77

Cornelius Oregon.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How much tree canopy does your city have?

  City Canopy
  Durham 49.0%
  Lake Oswego* 47.6%
  Rivergrove* 37.3%
  West Linn* 33.7%
  Portland* 27.7%
  Beaverton* 25.6%
  Tigard* 25.0%
  Tualatin* 22.9%
  Sherwood* 21.0%
  Hillsboro 17.1%
  Forest Grove* 16.0%
  Gaston 15.5%
  North Plains 15.3%
  King City 15.0%
  Cornelius 13.0%
  Banks* 11.2%

Urban Forestry in the Tualatin River Basin

There are numerous environmental  benefits to trees in urban settings. These include the capture of carbon dioxide by trees, shading, and habitat for wildlife. Urban forests can also act as natural storm water management areas by filtering particulate matter (pollutants, some nutrients, and sediment), by absorption of water and by facilitating evapotranspiration to reduce runoff. Evergreen trees generally have greater stormwater benefits than deciduous trees in our climate where the majority of rainfall is in the winter. Trees also reduces noise levels, provides recreational benefits, and increases property values.

To estimate the benefits that the various cities of the Tualatin Basin are achieving from urban forestry, we used aerial photos and i-Tree software from the USDA Forest Service to estimate the average density of tree canopy cover within the city limits of each city.  Here are the results. 
Made in the shade:  Half of the City of Durham Oregon is covered by tree canopy.

One city has decided not to be content with the current situation.  Tigard City Council adopted an Urban Forestry Master Plan to increase tree canopy from its current level of 25% to 40% citywide by 2047.  Tigard provide incentives for developers to protect tree groves and gives away free street trees to Tigard residents.

Many cities participate in the Tree City USA program which sets standards for urban forestry. They have achieved Tree City USA status by meeting four core standards of sound urban forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.  Local cities that have attained Tree City USA status are indicated in the table above.

Tigard's program takes steps to prevent pre-development clearing.  Often developers will clear a property prior to annexation in order to avoid tree mitigation fees.  Loss of tree canopy from pre-development clearing increases stormwater runoff, reduces property values, and eliminates ecosystem services in a way that does not make economic sense.  Tigard contacts property owners in newly urbanizing areas and provides incentives and flexible regulation that reduces the loss of tree canopy.
Pre-development clearing like this on South Cooper Mountain adds to urban runoff and makes no economic sense.
Volunteers have a tremendous role in increasing tree canopy in our cities.  Groups like Friends of Trees and Tualatin Riverkeepers have many opportunities to plant trees in the fall, winter and spring.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How Impervious is Your City?

What's on the land determines the condition of the creeks and water quality.

Before we developed our urban landscape and farms, the Tualatin River Watershed was covered with forests, prairies and wetlands.  When the rain fell, it was intercepted by plants or soaked into the ground.  There was very little runoff from the ground.

Impervious cover connected to storm drains causes urban
creeks like Fanno Creek in Tigard to rise and fall rapidly.
Now in the urban environment, the landscape is covered with “impervious surfaces” that don’t allow the rain to soak into the ground.  Streets, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways and rooftops are connected to storm drains that rush stormwater, with significant pollutants, to the nearest creek or wetland each time it rains.  This rapid rush of water in creeks caused significant erosion and down-cutting, damaging creek habitat. Sediments and legacy pollutants are re-suspended and can bind with dissolved oxygen, making it unavailable for fish and other aquatic life.

Reducing the amount of impervious surfaces in our cities is a big part of restoring health to our urban creeks.

To estimate what percentage of the land in each of the cities of the Tualatin Basin is impervious, we characterized 600 sample points in each of the cities using I-Tree software from the U.S. Forest Service.  Below are the results for your consideration.

King City
King City, a small city with unique demographics has a high density of impervious cover.

City Impervious Cover
King City 48.0%
Cornelius 47.1%
Tualatin 45.6%
Beaverton 45.5%
Hillsboro 45.3%
Tigard 43.5%
Sherwood 39.4%
Banks 35.5%
Forest Grove 33.0%
Durham 32.4%
North Plains 31.8%
West Linn 29.0%
Urban Unincorporated Washington County 29.0%
Lake Oswego 27.9%
Rivergrove 22.4%
Gaston 20.5%

Portland, which is mostly outside the Tualatin River Watershed, has an estimated 36.9% impervious cover.

According to research cited in the the Clean Water Service Healthy Streams Plan, stream degradation occurs at relatively low levels of imperviousness, less than 10% of the land that drains into the stream.  Biological communities in streams tend to be less diverse in watersheds where there is more imperviousness.

Various cities are looking at ways to reduce impervious surfaces.  Beaverton's Creekside District Master Plan includes projects that enhance Beaverton Creek and restore natural features.  Their first restoration project removes approximately 8,700 square feet of impervious surface and approximately 7,000 square feet of invasive species and creates a vegetated floodplain “bench” to provide additional flood storage during minor rain events, including the addition of healthy topsoil and native plants and trees. Creekside Restoration in Beaverton Beaverton is pulling up some pavement and planting natives to protect Beaverton creek.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Riverkeepers Challenge School District Wetland Destruction

TUALATIN, OR – Tualatin Riverkeepers Board of Directors voted unanimously to appeal the Beaverton Planning Commission’s approval of a Conditional Use Permit for South Cooper Mountain High School.

The Planning Commission, contrary to Beaverton’s comprehensive plan and natural resource protection code voted to allow the Beaverton School District to fill 2.5 acres of wetland for sports fields on the South Cooper Mountain site pending approval by state and federal agencies.  The wetland in question was assigned the “highest preservation priority” by the South Cooper Mountain Community plan adopted by the Beaverton City Council in February of this year.

“The planning commission abdicated their responsibility to uphold local natural resource protections” said Brian Wegener, Advocacy and Communications Manager for Tualatin Riverkeepers.  Beaverton’s Comprehensive Plan states that “Significant Wetlands in the Local Wetland Inventory shall be protected for their filtration, flood control, wildlife habitat, natural vegetation and other water resource values.”  State law ORS 197.175(2)(d) requires cities to comply with their own comprehensive plans. “The school district has available alternatives to build sports fields on adjacent dry property” said Wegener.

“This defies all intentions for the sustainable development of South Cooper Mountain” said former Metro Councilor and Tualatin Riverkeepers Board Member Carl Hosticka.  “When Metro approved bringing South Cooper Mountain into the Urban Growth Boundary, protection of natural resources was paramount.  The Cooper Mountain Plan addressed wetland protection and now Beaverton must enforce its own policy.”

Tualatin Riverkeepers filed the appeal with the Beaverton City Council.  A hearing is expected to happen on August 11.

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