River Discovery participant examines one of Portland's CSO outfalls on an outing with WRK.
Hello Fine Members and Friends -
Whether one is on a river trip, operating a dairy, or dealing with the waste stream from a city - poop is a significant issue. In reality, this has been likely "the" primary river cleanliness issue since the rise of human civilization.
Today, thanks to the Clean Water Act, there are rules that are applied to the larger generators of such waste in our midst, from municipal treatment plants dealing with human waste and grey water, to permits that regulate how manure from cows and other livestock is dealt with. That being said, the picture is far from perfect.
Recently the City of Monmouth, just a few miles from Salem, released a million gallons of "partially treated" sewage to the Willamette River. On top of that, they waited 5 days to notify the public. The Oregon DEQ indicated to us that they told the City to notify the public, but Monmouth claims that DEQ told them to test the water, then notify the public. Clearly one of these responses makes little sense. It is a very basic responsibility to notify the public immediately when such spills occur. The irony is that Monmouth's permit under the Clean Water Act does not specifically require them to notify the public when a spill occurs.
We will be working with both the DEQ, and the City of Monmouth to improve this response, and to ensure that all municipal wastewater permits contain such a basic requirement. This is one problem with DEQ's inability to update permits every 5 years as required under the Clean Water Act. They are being sued by the Northwest Environmental Advocates on this issue.
Monmouth is certainly not alone. Multiple cities have such spills due to human error, mechanical issues, or systems that are in need of an upgrade - such as Corvallis, Salem, and others. Even the City of Portland, after investing over a billion dollars in its system, has sewer overflows during heavy rain events - including this past weekend. Unfortunately, this is allowed under the City of Portland's agreement with the Oregon DEQ.
On a related note, over the years there have been significant issues with Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). These are areas, such as a dairy, that contain a large amount of animals in a relatively small area. Such operations generate significant manure, which has to be dealt with. At times their waste management systems go awry, with the result being impacts to water quality. Often manure is allowed to be sprayed onto local farm fields where the nutrients can be "utilized."
Over the past year we've encountered situations where significant questions have arisen in regard to how much manure is applied, and whether operations are in full compliance with their permits. We will be placing additional focus on this issue in the coming months. While most agricultural operators conduct their operations in careful compliance with the law, there are sometimes exceptions in the wide agricultural valley that surrounds much of the Willamette River system.
We have previously taken legal action with such issues, and will again to help ensure continued improvement.
Finally, for those who recreate along the Willamette, please do not be part of the problem. There are some very basic solutions to dealing with your waste. If you need help there are myriad resources such as Leave No Trace, and the classic book "How to Shit in the Woods, An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art, " by Kathleen Meyer. Frankly, this book is both funny, and provides practical considerations.
We all have to do our part to keep the Willamette as clean and healthy as possible. It is both an ecological and a human health issue.
Riverkeeper & Executive Director
Paddle + Native Plant Hike on Elk Rock Island- 5/1
WHEN: Tuesday, May 1st from 5:00pm - 8:30pm
WHERE: Meet at the City of Milwaukie's Boat Ramp in Milwaukie Bay Park
DETAILS: Elk Rock Island is located on the Willamette River just offshore from the City of Milwaukie, who now owns and manages the property.
In 2010 the thirteen-acre island underwent a small oak restoration project to reduce shading of established Oregon white oak trees. Since that time, the city has been recruiting volunteers to assist in the monitoring of the unique island oak and prairie plant communities.
That monitoring led to City of Portland staff and volunteers re-discovering
more than 20 plant species that are uncommon and rare
to Portland. Some of those include
Saxifraga occidentallis, Lomatium triternatum, Fritillaria affinis, Piperia elegans, Plagiobothrys figuratus, Gratiola ebracteata.
on the island are particularly interesting. City staff have been monitoring unique plants, water quality, and critters in the vernal pools. Each time we visit the island we find several new species! Join us on this trip and help discover more!
We will be providing use of canoes, PFD's, and paddles free of charge. No paddling experience is necessary. If you have your own boat and plan to bring it along please let us know when you register.
Bring warm layers, rain gear, close toed shoes, water, and a snack. If you plan to bring a camera or phone it would be best to have it stored in a water tight dry bag.
Greenway Celebration Paddle- 6/16
Pick up a paddle and celebrate the Willamette River Greenway with Willamette Riverkeeper and our friends at Oregon State Parks!
Enjoy a scenic paddle trip from downtown Salem to the Wheatland Ferry where we'll observe wildlife while learning more about the river, its history, and our combined efforts to improve habitat.
WHEN: Saturday, 6/16 from 9:30am - 3:30pm
DETAILS: We will run a FREE shuttle service for this trip! Meet us at Wallace Marine Park at 9:30am. We'll aim to launch from the gravel bar by 10:00am. At the take out, we'll drive you and your boats back to Wallace Marine Park.
Riverkeeper canoes are available to reserve upon request FREE of charge (you must recruit your own paddling partner), or feel free to join us in your own canoe or kayak. Rentals include paddles and PFDs. If you bring your own boat, you must wear your PFD and have a whistle accessible, as required by the US Coast Guard.
Plan to be on the river for about 4.5 hours. Be sure to dress for conditions and pack extra layers, sun glasses, hat, sunscreen, water, snacks and a lunch.
Volunteers Needed: Trashy Tuesday
WHEN: Tuesday, 4/17 from 11:30am to 1:30pm
DETAILS: Join us at the Portland Boathouse dock, and help us pick up trash in the central part of Portland along the Willamette. Park in the 2 hour visitor parking spaces near the building, on the street, or ride your bike.
Reserve a seat in one of our canoes, or bring your own boat. We will provide trash bags, non latex gloves, and trash pickers. Dress for the weather and paddling (layers, boots, and rain gear). We will spend about an hour or so on the water.
If river conditions evolve to become too challenging or unsafe, we will cancel in advance.
Clean Water For Great Brews- 4/21
We bring you the 12 Brews of Earth Day- enjoy clean water for great brews!
In honor of "Earth Day," we invite you to come join our River Guardian team, along with local coffee and beer brewers, to help clean up our urban waterfront in Eugene and Springfield. Volunteer to pitch in and "get dirty for good"
at one of seven riverside clean up locations, and you'll
earn a punch card good for 12 FREE BREWS at coffee houses and breweries in Eugene and Springfield.
WHEN: Saturday, 4/21 from 9:00am - 12:00pm (on land), 8:00am - 12:00pm (on water)
WHERE: see registration link for water and land based clean up locations
DETAILS: This is not an easy task. We ask that you please dress for the weather and wear sturdy boots or hard soled shoes. All BYOB (bring your own boat) volunteers must be able to paddle class II water and are responsible for bringing their own gear. PFDs are required at all times during the event. Gloves, garbage bags and other clean up supplies will be provided. Bring a coffee cup for morning check-in!
Folks, registration is filling up! We anticipate that once again, we will need to close registration early. Don't risk getting shut out! Come and discover why our award winning Paddle Oregon adventure is the premier multi-day experience offered on our National Willamette River Water Trail.
Your enjoyable, educational, environmentally focused vacation awaits at www.PaddleOregon.org.
Interested in volunteering?
We are looking for qualified Pod Leader and Roving Safety Boater candidates.
Our overnight training weekend is scheduled for May 5th - 6th.
If you are an avid river and/or whitewater paddler, current or former guide, Swift Water Rescue and First Aid certified, please contact
. See our
for more details.
We believe that a river with good water quality and abundant natural habitat, safe for fishing and swimming is a basic public right. Your enduring support through a gift in your will, trust or by beneficiary designation, will enable us to continue our programs and projects that address everything from Clean Water Act compliance and river education, to Superfund cleanup and habitat restoration, long into the future.