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Johnson Creek council revels in successes, raises funds

by: David F. Ashton, The Foghorn Duo keeps the atmosphere lively, at the Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s annual open house and auction.

From Gresham to Inner S.E. Portland, a group of dedicated volunteers work to clean and keep up the 26 miles of Johnson Creek. The leaders of the effort to restore the creek say that their acts continue to pay off in measurable ways.

'We can quantify the result of our programs,' explained Michelle Bussard, Executive Director of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC). 'We use scientific measurements: The improvement in Johnson Creek's water quality, and an increase in fish counts. Beyond this, we're also gratified to also see the ways in which landowners, with property along the creek's bank, better steward their property.'

We came to check the progress of the JCWC, at their annual open house and silent auction. The headquarters of the group is located on the creek's bank, just west of the Mill End Store, south of Sellwood, off McLoughlin Boulevard.

'We invite the community in our watershed to come in and look at all the wonderful work we do as a result of the community's investment in our work,' Bussard tells us as we glide through a room with banquet tables laden with exquisite dishes, like poached salmon, mounds of hummus, and salads.

In another room, in which patrons are bidding on a wide variety of items up for silent auction, we speak with Jeff Uebel, JCWC's chair: 'The proceeds of our silent auction support the on-the-ground work in the watershed.'

Uebel says they've expected to raise $5,000 - funds they're able to leverage with matching and in-kind contributions.

How contributions pay off

Two of the group's major projects this year, Bussard tells us as we look a large, colorful maps in their project room, have provided big and positive payoffs.

'First is the work we've done at Eastmoreland Golf Course,' Bussard continues. 'We've removed invasive species in Johnson Creek, especially the Yellow Flag Iris. It crowds out the native plants. And we done really significant wetland restoration there.'

The other really big project, Bussard points out, was their 'In-stream, Watershed Event' mounted in July. 'Our objective was to remove trash, do a reconnaissance of the banks, and remove fish passage barriers.' 60 people worked on this project at four different sites.

'At these and smaller projects, it is very gratifying to see the stuff we're able to pull out of the creek, and to see all that we are able to learn about its condition,' Bussard enthuses.

Importance of their mission

As their keynote speaker, Metro Chair David Bragdon, checks in, and as guests fill the facility, Bussard talks about JCWC's mission. 'It is all about the community investing in being good stewards of this watershed. It is about valuing this resource, Johnson Creek, in perpetuity. Ten years ago, the creek was decimated in many ways. Today, because of the work done by the community, organized by the council and our partners, we've seen some really positive changes.'

It is important, Bussard adds, to recognize their 'partners' in their efforts to improve the creek's hygiene. 'We can't do anything without the help of the cities of Portland, Milwaukie, Happy Valley, and Gresham - and the two counties.'

Your invitation

Metaphorically speaking, Bussard asks Southeast Portlanders to consider 'getting your feet wet' with the council. 'We're a fun group of caring people. Whether you're an intern in our office, or you want to be involved in a volunteer group doing invasive removal and riparian plantings, there is no end of opportunities in which you can get involved here. There are so many ways individuals with many interests and areas of expertise can help.'

So here's your invitation: 'Let us take you on a tour of the watershed,' Bussard entreats. 'You will be amazed when you travel the 26 miles of Johnson Creek's main stream, and venture out around its tributaries. The treasures that exist are unimaginable. We really enjoy showing and sharing these treasures. Come join us.'

Get more information by calling 503/652-7477, or by visiting www.jcwc.org on the Internet.