Columbia Slough Part II- Natural Surroundings Education

IMG_0113-Columbia Slough near Columbia Blvd. Wastewater Treatment Facility-

I’m a huge proponent in learning about your natural surroundings. What are the native species in your area? What are the bodies of water near you, and the mountains and hills that surround your city/town? Do you know where your tap water comes from? I encourage everyone to attend free events to learn more about your surroundings. It’s a great way to meet interesting individuals, and learn about the “behind the scenes” people that help run our city!

I shared my new found interest in the Columbia Slough in my last post, and I  just couldn’t get enough, so I attended a free educational event to learn more about this enticing area. Co-hosted by the Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) and Multnomah County Drainage District No 1., the hour-long event was a great opportunity to learn about the Columbia Slough, the watershed, and the human impacts on the water flow using flood control levees.

Byron Woltersdorf, P.E., an engineer for the Drainage District NO. 1 (MCDD), was our tour guide and educator for the event. IMG_0024He explained there are four drainage districts along the Columbia River from west of I-5 to Troutdale, the watershed has  31 miles of flood control levees, and with the help of the 1936 flood act and then the revised 1950 flood act, the lower Columbia River basin is now protected from flooding with the help of levees constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

When the MCDD was formed in 1917, the land in and around the district was primarily agricultural.  This use of land was perfect, as the annual flooding was great for adding nutrients to the soil. However, as the land use changed over time, eliminating flooding was necessary for the growing urban lifestyle.

IMG_0026-Drainage District NO. 1 Pump House-

After a general history lesson and Q&A session, Woltersdorf gave us a tour of the pump house. Water is pumped down the slough towards the Willamette River, however, there aren’t any pumps on the lower portion of the slough. This portion is tidally influenced from it’s close proximity to the Columbia River, which can be influenced by as much as 1.5-3.5 feet, depending on the tide. (Pretty amazing, considering how many miles away Portland is from the ocean!) The pump house we visited at Drainage District No. 1, can pump 600,000 gallons of water a minute if every pump is running (not normally necessary.)

IMG_0022

-Pump Area at Drainage District NO. 1-

During a Hundred Year Flood event, the stations would require to pump a million gallons a minute in a 24-hour period of time.

Speaking of power, apparently, there is not enough of an elevation difference to use the pump house as an energy source, but if the power went out during a time that the pumps needed to be running, five semi-trucks and five tanker trunks would be necessary on site to operate with a generator according to Woltersdorf. (Yikes- that is a huge monthly electricity bill!)

The MCDD meets a few challenges along the way. One interesting critter is none other than Oregon’s state animal, the beaver. There are approximately 3000 beaver in the managed flow plain. Woltersdorf explained, somewhat hesitantly, that his department is allowed to trap and kill the animals when necessary, as the beavers can be problematic. The workers are also allowed to remove dams when needed. The effectiveness of this is limited however. Woltersdorf said that his crew took down a four-feet tall dam once, and in only two days, the beaver erected the same size dam in the same location.

Turns out, “Busy as a Beaver,” is relevant!

Although this department is not in charge of water quality, (mentioned in my previous post), Drainage District  NO. 1 station takes in storm water runoff from a 20,000 acre area of town.

IMG_0121

-Columbia Slough Pump area- East of Wastewater Treatment Facility-

For all my history buff readers, a wonderful resource for additional information on the history of the Columbia River Basin, and the Slough, please visit Center for Columbia River History website. It’s full of images, stories, and historical accounts of the area.

Do you have any favorite waterways near you, or stories on discovering your surroundings? I would love to hear them, please share in the comment section below!

Special thanks to the Drainage District NO. 1 and Byron Woltersdorf for all the valuable information, and fun tour!

Thank you for opening  your doors to the public and keeping us all safe from floods….the unsung heroes of Portland!

Special Thanks to the Columbia Slough Watershed Council for all the environmental education, stewardship awareness, restoration, and relationship building they perform in the community and watershed. Please visit the site for additional information, volunteer opportunities, and announcements for future events and workshops.

Published by heathercyrus

I have lived in the Pacific Northwest nearly my whole life and was raised to appreciate and enjoy the natural world. My passion for the environment and studying environmental justice, eco-tourism, green design, renewable energy, green cities, biodiversity, and biology led me to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies. My knack for event planning, community organizing and media communications led me to pursue a degree in Journalism & Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. My two degrees dovetail nicely, providing me the tools to play my part in protecting natural areas in a constantly changing world of communications. I believe strongly in environmental education, and communicating the beauty and necessity of local stewardship. Being a mother is a daily reminder of the importance to lead by example for our younger generations. I strive to do all I can in my daily activities to make healthy choices for my community and family. I am Currently Seeking Employment! If you have a lead on a position that sounds like a good fit, please keep me in mind and let me know! I am currently in Portland Oregon, but willing to relocate for the right position. I’m interested in the business sector as well as non-profit or freelance work. I am available to guest blog regularly, part-time or project based for your company or organization. In the end, I have a lot of passion, leadership and drive to make a difference, and I can’t wait to start! See my PORTFOLIO section on heathercyrus.com for a resume and samples of work.

6 thoughts on “Columbia Slough Part II- Natural Surroundings Education

  1. Loved reading your posts about this – I’ve been telling myself for so long that I want to bike out there from my home in NE and with this mild weather that may come sooner rather than later! Also, thanks for following me on Twitter! PS – I’m on the board of LettuceGrow.org and we’re always looking for volunteers so if you’re interested in learning more, ping me OK?

  2. Thanks for reading Aimee, I’m glad you enjoyed the posts. It’s amazing how little we know about our immediate surroundings sometimes. There are some great bike trails out by the slough- we have had some fun adventures and everything is relatively close (doesn’t take long to get out to Kelley Point Park for example), you should have fun exploring! Thanks for the suggestions on LettuceGrow- I actually haven’t heard of the program, but it sounds awesome. I would actually love to get involved. I will look into it more, and I would appreciate any additional insight you can provide, thank you!

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