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Mt. Scott Creek work tries to snag big fish

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Gail Shaloum, left, and Tonia Burns check the progress of a boulder and log arrangement that will create shady alcoves for fish in Mt. Scott Creek.A man operating a bright red excavator delicately guides the machine to pick up two massive boulders, and, weaving in and around trees, he deposits them on the bank of Mt. Scott Creek, near the Milwaukie Center.

“I call him the gentle giant,” Tonia Burns said of Kurt Hult, the excavator operator, watching as he returns from the creek with a dangling raft of logs.

Burns is the natural resources coordinator for North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District, and last week she and Gail Shaloum, environmental policy specialist for Clackamas County Water Environment Services, donned hard hats and orange vests and came to the northwest corner of North Clackamas Park to watch the Mt. Scott Creek Restoration Project unfold.

“Basically, the whole project is to revegetate and enhance the entire stream system, building in shade to improve water quality and provide habitat for native wildlife” while providing access to nature for human visitors, Burns said.

Two decks, or overlooks, also are in the works, and will have interpretive signs providing environmental education.

In 2007, after the ball fields were finished, citizens asked NCPRD to focus the North Side Master Plan on passive recreation and natural area enhancement projects at North Clackamas Park.

“Around the same time, Water Environmental Services was involved in a policy shift to watershed health through watershed action plans,” Burns said.

“WES had the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife do a fish survey, so this project started with a recommendation from them, in 2008,” Shaloum said.

In 2009, the WES action plan came out, matching some elements in the North Side plan, so it made sense for the two organizations to partner up.

In 2010, WES hired Greenworks and Interfluve to help collect data on specific project elements for the WES portion of the project. The project then qualified for an Access to Nature Metro Nature in the Neighborhoods grant, because WES and NCPRD shared goals for the site.

Those goals included: restoration of Mt. Scott Creek; removing a crushed culvert; opening Camas Creek and enhancing the riparian area; replacing a bridge over Camas Creek; and building two overlooks for visitors to access Mt. Scott Creek, Burns said.

The NIN grant for $150,000 was awarded in 2010; planning and permitting took another year and a half, and this month construction began on the restoration of Mt. Scott Creek.

NCPRD hired Aquatic Contracting to accomplish the project, and Burns said it was a pleasure to work with such professional and competent people.

Mike Herrick, owner of Aquatic Contracting, also is a fisheries biologist, so he “understood more about why they are doing this work and what they are constructing, while paying close attention to safety and public education and outreach,” she added.

Burns estimated that the entire project, with engineering, construction and permitting will cost about $500,000.

Stream restoration

The rehabilitation of Mt. Scott Creek, the first step in the plan, is moving at a brick clip. Last week, Drew Schaefer, a Happy Valley resident and project manger for Aquatic Contracting, and Josh Hughes drilled holes in large boulders, and looped cables around them in order to attach the rocks to huge logs with root wads attached.

These will be moved to the stream banks, and as the creek winds around them, the logs and boulders will form shady alcoves, perfect places for fish to take shelter. The alcoves enhance fish habitat in two ways, Burns said, noting that shaded water is cooler water, which fish prefer, and the spots also will attract insects, providing a food source.

“The other part of this is that the logs provide bank stabilization and restoration. The banks have been undercut in places, and the logs will make sure that not as much sediment gets into the creek,” Shaloum said.

She added that sediment is bad, because it settles in spawning gravel and makes it difficult for fish to lay their eggs, and also because oil, grease and pesticides stick to sediment and cause pollution.

Burns noted that workers with Aquatic Construction have implemented their own precautions in erosion control, making sure there is minimal impact on the bottom of the creek, so that very little silt is stirred up as they move the logs and boulders into place.

She also said that the logs still have massive root wads attached, which trap and slow the water, and further enhance the fish alcoves.

Protecting habitat

In the end, the project is all about education, Burns said.

“We plan to have interpretive signage on the overlooks and decks, and we want people to realize that what we do in parks is an example of how habitat functions and how they can implement these same techniques in their own backyards,” she added.

“When we did the Watershed Action Plan, we found that this watershed has seen a lot of development,” Shaloum said, noting that storm water runoff from streets and homes has negatively impacted the creeks.

“We want to educate people about storm water and what they can do personally to improve water quality.”

Dick Shook, a neighbor and member of the Friends of Kellogg and Mt. Scott creeks Watershed Council, said he attended all the public meetings as planning for the North Side Master Plan moved forward.

“All the aspects of this project came together to improve stream health, including the protection of the stream and its banks, the removal of culverts under the gravel road and the restoration of Camas Creek. This park sees heavy use of people and dogs, and this is a chance to educate the public about how important urban streams are,” he said.



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  • 24 Oct 2014

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  • 25 Oct 2014

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