7:30 a.m.: Another breakfast meeting, this time with Kendra Smith of United Sewerage Agency to discuss the agency’s Watersheds 2000 project. USA is conducting detailed inventories of all the streams within their jurisdiction, which includes the Tualatin Basin inside the region’s Urban Growth Boundary (fish and wildlife habitat) program.

Fanno Creek, with apartments built up to the stream and trees cut.

Photo: Mike Houck.

9 to 11 a.m.: Greenstreets Technical Advisory Committee meeting at Metro, our regional government. This is one committee that I look forward to. First, because it is run by a Metro “crat” with a great sense of humor; second, because committee members are really eclectic. We have landscape architects, traffic engineers, land use policy wonks, fish and wildlife biologists, and citizen activists. The consultant team is just as eclectic. Our task is to advise Metro on the Greenstreets project.

How can we build streets that control the amount and quality of storm-water runoff? The transportation system contributes 40 percent of storm-water runoff. Perhaps the most important issue, however, is the timing and volume of water that is typically collected by gutters and drains and piped directly to the nearest water body. The result: Streams are “hosed out” by repeated deluges. During the summer, water that would have infiltrated into the groundwater is unavailable.

My hope is to create regional standards for road construction that short-circuits the collection and disposal of storm-water and treats it as a resource, rather than a “problem” to be gotten rid of. First, we’d like to mimic the natural forest with street trees that intercept water. In a forested condition, rain typically never reaches the ground. It’s intercepted or evaporated by trees. Rain that does reach the ground is taken up by the duff (or leaf layer) and evapotranspired vegetated “bioswales” along roadsides and in median areas, and the creation of landscaped areas can reduce the “effective” impervious effect of roadways.

Professor Patrick Condon, James Tayor Chair of Landscape and Livable Environments at the University of British Columbia, has developed a scheme whereby impervious or hard surfaces like parking lots, roadways, and roofs, all of which create more storm-water runoff, can be reduced, even in high density urban areas, to approximately 10 percent. Research by the Center for Watershed Protection in Maryland tells us that anything more than 10 percent impervious results in stream degradation and loss of fish and other biological integrity.

Image: Patrick Condon.

At a later meeting with Sue Marshall, executive director of the Tualatin Riverkeepers, we decide to set up an April meeting for Tualatin Basin citizens to review Metro’s Goal 5 stream-mapping project and receive an update on that program, which will help build grassroots support to ensure coordination between the two programs.

Noon: I go back to my office and work up a series of field trips we call City to the Sea, which I will colead with Sue Marshall and Sybil Ackerman. City to the Sea will feature trips from the mouth to the headwaters of the Tualatin River, over the coast range, and out to Tillamook Bay. The purpose of the field tours will be to emphasize the importance of restoring whole watersheds, not just isolated stream reaches, and of addressing negative watershed impacts from headwaters to the mouth in agricultural, forestry, and urban land use practices.

6:30 p.m.: Ron Carley and I are at the Pittock Mansion, a landmark Portland park that sits high above Portland in the Tualatin Mountains, just a few minutes from downtown. We are there for the unveiling of the discussion draft of the 2020 Vision Plan. City Commissioner Jim Francesconi leads the evening by pledging his support and giving a very gracious, and passionate, pep talk to the citizen volunteers and Portland Park Bureau staff about the need to implement the vision and pass a bond measure in 2002 to properly fund the vision:

Portland’s parks, public places, natural areas, and recreational opportunities give life and beauty to our city. These essential assets connect people to place, self, and others. Portland’s residents will treasure and care for this legacy, building on the past to provide for future generations.

Ron and I are pleased that at the top of the list is the need to protect and restore natural areas as an integral part of the park system. The 2020 principles include the following language relating to natural resources:

The city’s parks, natural areas, and recreation programs are among the essential elements that create a livable, dynamic and economically vibrant city; the City will develop multiobjective policies, planning programs, and forums that integrate and coordinate regionally significant parks, recreational facilities, trails, and natural resource protection in all major planning efforts for transportation, water quality, housing, and the Endangered Species Act; the city and region have an interconnected system of trails, parks, natural areas, streams, and rivers that are well protected and ecologically healthy; linking natural areas into larger areas provides healthier ecological systems. Linking parks with greenways, trails, and paths provides greater recreational benefit.

To see the report, contact the Portland Park Bureau.

Finally, Ron and I head back to Audubon Society of Portland, where our board meeting is in progress; we wrap things up around 9:30 and head home.

Thursday, 15 Feb 2001