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Mt. Scott Creek revitalization swimming to 'home stretch'

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Dave Stewart, a stream-restoration biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and WES's Gail Shaloum, check out the large woody debris in Mt. Scott Creek.Everyone looks forward to spring and the return of sunlight, and now Clackamas County residents have one more thing to celebrate — the completion of the Mt. Scott Creek Restoration Project at North Clackamas Park.

Most of the major goals have been completed at the park, located near the Milwaukie Senior Center, with the final touches being put on the deck overlook, at the confluence of Camas and Mt. Scott creeks. Also still to come this spring are education signs at both overlooks and volunteer planting parties, including one set for Feb. 9.

The project qualified for an Access to Nature Metro Nature in the Neighborhoods, because Water Environment Service and North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District shared goals for the site.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - David Izar, owner of Buildstrong Construction, measures the supports of the overlook, before attaching the surface of the deck.The NIN grant for $150,000 was awarded in 2010; planning and permitting took another year and a half, and in September 2012 construction began on the restoration of Mt. Scott Creek.

Large woody debris has been installed along 500 feet of Mt. Scott and Camas creeks, the culvert was removed, a new bridge was installed over Camas Creek, a new gravel pathway now leads to a gravel overlook at Mt. Scott Creek, an alcove that enhances fish habitats has been constructed and bank stabilization has been completed, noted Gail Shaloum, environmental policy specialist with Clackamas County Water Environment Services.

Last week, on the first rainy day in a while, David Izar, owner of Buildstrong Construction, was putting waterproofing on top of the main supports for the deck by Camas Creek. Izar’s company, based in Sandy, was subcontracted to do the decking by main stream-restoration contractor, Henderson LLC of Lake Oswego, Shaloum said.

The surface of the deck is made from product called Aqua Grate, a fiberglass grating often used in marine environments; it is very durable, Izar said.

It was crucial to find the right material for the decking, Shaloum said, as the structure would need to stand up to the frequent flooding of the creek in the winter.

Izar said he bought from local merchants where possible as he built the deck: “I was very much trying to get green materials, and I want to learn more about green possibilities.”

One of the sustainable features of the deck is the use of concrete pin foundations, Shaloum said.

“They do not require excavation, so we did not have to dig up soil and figure out where to put it. The pins sit right on top of the soil, and you drive poles into the soil that go down about four to five feet. They are just as strong a foundation as concrete, but you do not have to pour concrete on the site,” she added.

The overall design of the project was done by Greenworks, a landscape architecture firm.

“They just did a great job designing something simple, yet unique and beautiful, intended to inspire visitors to appreciate the natural environment. They also did a great job designing sustainable techniques and materials, and choosing materials that would be beautiful, easy to maintain and durable even under very tough conditions,” Shaloum said.

Soon, park visitors and school groups will be able to stand on the deck, look at the view and learn about the environment they are in, she added.

Cooperative effort

On the same day that Izar was working on the deck, Shaloum and Dave Stewart, a stream-restoration biologist from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, were up to their boot tops in Mt. Scott Creek, working on a habitat survey.

“This project was a cooperative effort, and we jumped in with in-kind matching funds, so we could all work together,” Stewart said.

“We are going to be documenting the changes in fish distribution and fish abundance in this area, as we build working relationships with the groups on this project and continue ODFW’s cooperative effort,” Stewart noted.

Shaloum and Stewart were checking out all the different factors in the stream and the streambed, looking at the pools created by the fast-flowing water and seeing how much silt there was in the substrate, Shaloum said.

Stewart is especially happy with the creation of the shaded fish alcove off the channel of the stream, which he called “rearing habitat for juvenile fish.”

Fish species, like coho, steelhead and cutthroat, have periods of time that they spend in fresh water, and the alcove will protect the juvenile fish from flooding conditions in the winter, and from predators and warm water in the summer.

The water in the alcove stays cool, because it is fed by a ground-water spring, Shaloum noted.

Having a pre-restoration and post-restoration survey and comparing the two will help ODFW figure out what is happening in the physical habitat of the creek, Stewart added.

Connection to environment

Now that the project is in the “home stretch,” Shaloum said, she is looking forward to “people knowing more about a healthy watershed and people being educated about and being connected to the natural environment.”

Stewart said that his department will continue to focus on the recovery of species, since the freshwater habitat is “one critical component” in the life of certain fish species. Other advantages of the project include bank stabilization and the overall improvement of water quality, he added.

Tonia Burns, the natural resources coordinator for North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District, pointed out that the park has wetlands, and the improvement of fish habitat will also improve the habitat for birds, frogs, salamanders and other types of wildlife.

WES has a responsibility to its ratepayers, so from a public health and watershed health perspective, “we are looking forward to completing this project,” noted Amy Kyle, WES community relations specialist. “This is a very popular park, and we work a lot with students and the general public here. Now they’ll be able to see and enjoy what they pay for, and this gives them a connection to the environment.”

Once the deck is completed, the last piece of the puzzle will be the installation of educational signage, at both overlooks.

Signs will answer questions about why trees were cut down, and which ones are being replaced, along with items of interest about dogs in the park.

“Off-leash dogs are not allowed in the planting area, to protect water quality,” Kyle noted.

Signage will allow visitors to learn about how to connect with and appreciate nature, and recognize the project’s overall goals of improving water quality and habitat, Shaloum said, adding, “And people will learn about how they can protect what we have.”

Both Shaloum and Stewart noted that the large woody debris installed on the banks of the creek for stabilization and fish-habitat protection will not last forever.

“The large woody debris will erode away in 30 to 50 years, but by then we should see natural-size trees shading the area,” Shaloum said.

The project will require monitoring and maintenance, but Burns said she is excited about monitoring the project over the years.

“We’ll be able to determine if our methods and techniques are working, and we’ll learn how to improve our practices and management for future projects. Our goal is to make the riparian area more healthy,” she said.

She also noted that volunteer re-vegetation efforts with SOLVE and Friends of Trees are crucial, and she is looking forward to replanting “thousands of trees.”

Fast Facts

Friends of Trees, in partnership with North Clackamas Parks and North Clackamas Urban Watershed Council, will hold a tree-planting event on Saturday, Feb. 9, to help restore native plants in Milwaukie’s North Clackamas Park.

Volunteers will meet at the park, adjacent to the Milwaukie Center, at 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive; registration will take place at 8:45 a.m., and planting will begin at 9 a.m. Be sure to dress for the weather and wear sturdy shoes. Contact Andy or Jenny at 503-595-0213 for more information, or visit friendsoftrees.org.

Learn more about the Mt. Scott Creek Restoration Project by visiting riverhealth.org/mt-scott-creek-restoration.

In addition to North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District and the Clackamas County Water Environment Services, partners for this project include: Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District, Friends of Trees, the city of Milwaukie, Nature Conservancy/ PGE, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Riverhealth and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.




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  • 24 Jul 2014

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