Friday, August 24, 2018

West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District

Date of Visit: August 23, 2018
Type of event: Study tour
Topic: Habitat restoration and conservation on local public lands
Location: Wilcox Estates Homeowner Association, Portland, Oregon; Oak Island and Sturgeon Lake, Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, Oregon
Tour Guides: West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District staff- Jim Cathcart / District Manager, Michael Ahr / Forest Conservationist, Mary Logalbo / Urban Conservationist, Scott Gall/ Rural Conservationist, Michelle Delepine / Invasive Species Program Coordinator, Laura Taylor / Conservation Technician and Education Coordinator, Randi Razalenti / Office Manager, Ari Demarco / Seasonal Conservation Technician
International Fellows: Jeen Bunnik (Netherlands), Meei-ru Jeng (Taiwan), Xuejiao Li (China), Thammarat Mettanurak (Thailand), Tuan Manh Phan (Vietnam)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager, Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator

Map of WMSWCD project sites visited on study tour
Staff from the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (WMSWCD) led the World Forest Institute (WFI) International Fellows on a day-long study tour to see habitat restoration and conservation in action at several project sites within the Portland Metro area.

Forest and stream restoration project site
at Wilcox Estates Homeowner Association
The first project site we visited was the Wilcox Estates Homeowner Association (WEHOA) forest and stream restoration site in the West Hills of Portland. The project covers 7.2 acres of a forested ravine and is led by Margaret and Mike Schonhofen, John Long, Victoria Vining-Gillman, and Karen Suher. The work is actively supported by the WEHOA Board, an HOA comprised of 152 homes. The land being restored is an important drainage in the area and part of the larger headwater system draining to the Tualatin River. The native shrubs and trees that have been planted support wildlife, absorb and slow stormwater runoff, and provide natural filtration which enhances the local waterways. Restoration planning began in September 2012 and gained momentum with a $10,000 grant from WMSWCD for contractor services to eliminate invasive species and plant native shrubs and trees. in January 2013. Mary Logalbo, Urban Conservationist for WMSWCD developed the Conservation Plan for the project, and the grant was increased to $18,000 as the project expanded to include most of the bordering properties. WMSWCD annually monitors the site and provides maintenance recommendations.

Oak savannah habitat at Sauvie Island Wildlife Area
Afterwards, WMSWCD staff took the WFI Fellows to Sauvie Island Wildlife Area (SIWA), a wildlife area established north of Portland at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers in 1947 with the primary objectives of protecting and improving waterfowl habitat and providing a public hunting area. Over time the management challenges of SIWA have become more complex as ODFW balances traditional waterfowl habitat needs and waterfowl hunting with an increase in wintering geese populations, increased demands for public use, habitat needs for federal and state-listed species, and the need to integrate SIWA with the statewide Oregon Conservation Strategy (OCS). SIWA staff have identified four primary management foci:

1) Providing habitat for ducks and other waterbirds,
2) Providing habitat for wintering Canada geese,
3) Helping achieve OCS objectives, and;
4) Providing recreational opportunities for hunters, anglers, and wildlife viewers.

Sturgeon Lake
We met with Kasey Scrivens from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn about efforts to restore oak savannah habitat, of which 99% of the historic range has been lost. We also met Pat Welle from Scappoose Bay Watershed Council, who gave us an overview on Conservation Opportunity Areas and the "Sauvie Island Plan."

Addition of logjams (lower left) to create habitat features
 for salmon and other wildlife at the mouth of Dairy Creek
Finally, we visited the Sturgeon Lake/Dairy Creek Restoration Project site, where Scott Gall, Rural Conservationist with WMSWCD, explained to us the project's benefits to salmon and waterfowl. Sturgeon Lake is approximately 3,000 acres of open water and wetland habitat that is critical to the production and protection of waterfowl and other wildlife species, including migratory salmonids, many of which are listed under the state and federal Endangered Species Act. Due to levee construction which has altered the natural hydrology, Sturegon Lake is silting in. There has been an ongoing effort to restore water movement and reduce sedimentation in Sturgeon Lake. WMSWCD is helping to develop a plan to monitor future sediment build-up, unwanted debris accumulation, water flow, water temperature, and presence of  invasive species. WMSWCD will take ownership and maintenance responsibility of an irrigation pipe that passes through the Multnomah County road right-of-way and also take ownership of the project's debris boom at Dairy Creek's confluence with the Columbia River. WMSWCD is also responsible for maintaining a project Stewardship Fund for the purpose of funding any specialized maintenance activity, including repair and replacement of the debris boom.

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