Welcome to the May edition of The Conservation Compass. This monthly report covers the management and operation of the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District. The Clackamas SWCD district operations team provides the support needed for the District to effectively serve customers and to implement conservation practices.
Dear Conservation Friends:
It feels like summer! While I’m certain that the sunshine and warmth feel welcome after the long, cool winter, my thoughts immediately turn to two things: the color of the Willamette River and the upcoming fire season.
Why is the Willamette River so brown in the spring?
The Willamette River watershed covers 12 percent of Oregon. The mainstem of the river is 187 miles long, draining forests, farms, and cities. Sixty-four percent of land in the watershed is privately owned and managed, with the remaining 36 percent publicly owned. Two-thirds of Oregon’s people live in the watershed.
Clearly, the Willamette River is affected by many different land conditions and management practices.
So why is the river so brown? Because it is carrying soil particles, transporting them to the Columbia River and eventually out to sea.
Our incredibly rich, productive soils in the Willamette Valley took eons to create:
The story of Oregon’s dirt is recited more often by locals than the Pledge of Allegiance. Many take the monumental Missoula floods as a starting point, but previous to these there is an important chunk of history where Willamette was effectively a seabed. There is also an important volcanic period in Willamette’s history where rich lava flows created new land. (Read more at: https://aroundtheworldin80harvests.com/2016/12/15/willamette-valley-terroir-why-dirt-matters-oregon-wine-region/)
Two of our highest priority natural resource issues are water quality and soil health. Every spring we see the Willamette turn chocolate brown in color due to soil eroding from land during the wet winter and spring seasons. Every time soil is disturbed – either naturally or by humans – soil may be lost.
Bare soil and disturbed soil are two things we humans can manage to help reduce the loss of soil from erosion.
What can you do?
- Reseed disturbed ground and make sure to keep your streambanks and ditches vegetated.
- If you are farming, consider where you can use cover crops to keep your soil on your farm and to build better soil quality.
- If you raise grazing animals, consider employing rotational grazing to protect soil or use a sacrifice area away from streams and rivers. Need some spring-specific things to do? Read our latest article on protecting spring pastures.
If each of us paid a bit more attention to bare and disturbed soil, the Willamette would not look so brown every spring. Instead of watching the future get flushed down the river each year, we would be building a legacy of opportunity for the land stewards who will follow us in the years to come.
Are we going to have another fire season like we’ve seen the last few years? I truly hope not. But hope doesn’t do much to protect your home if wildfire erupts nearby, so what can you do?
Consider increasing the defensible space around your home. This is particularly true for folks who live in forested parts of Clackamas County, but as we’ve seen in other parts of the country, anyplace can be susceptible to catastrophe from wildfire.
Our neighbors to the south have published a great website to help people Prepare For Wildfire , including their page specifically about Defensible Space. (Thank you to CalFire for providing this resource.)
I encourage every homeowner to prepare now for the next wildfire season.
Yours for conservation,
Tom Salzer, General Manager
The Budget Committee met for the second time on May 1, 2018, to hear public comment and approve the proposed budget and tax levy rate for next year (fiscal year 2018-2019 which is July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019). The Committee completed their work for this budget cycle and we commend them for their help. Download the approved budget here:
The next step is for the Clackamas SWCD to hold a public hearing on the approved budget before it goes before the Board of Directors for adoption. The public hearing and the public Board meeting will be held on May 15, 2018.
Almost all of Clackamas SWCD’s employees and several Board directors attended CONNECT 2018, an annual statewide training event. This year, representatives of soil and water conservation districts, watershed councils, land trusts, and agency partners combined to post record attendance at this event.
This training helps Clackamas SWCD staff improve their ability to provide service to our many customers. Conservation districts in Washington State do the same thing in June and California districts receive training at the annual meeting of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts.
I have attended these events in California, Oregon, and Washington and can vouch that the Oregon program is second to none. Many thanks to the Oregon Conservation Education and Assistance Network and partners for delivering another fine, full, and fantastic set of workshops and tours.
Eagle Creek acquisition
Through the Eagle Creek acquisition project, Clackamas SWCD seeks to protect and improve important habitat for fish and wildlife. Secondary purposes include providing habitat-friendly recreational opportunities and generating revenue through occasional timber harvests. The 318-acre property connects to Clackamas County’s Eagle Fern Park and is sandwiched between old growth forests on land owned by Portland General Electric.
Clackamas SWCD is partnering with The Trust for Public Land on this acquisition.
What’s new since last month?
- An option agreement is being negotiated with the seller to give us time to complete an appraisal and perform other due diligence related to the acquisition.
- In April, the Board of Directors reviewed several financing offers and selected one to investigate in more detail. Clackamas SWCD staff are working with the lender and various attorneys to develop a final package for the Board to consider.
Conservation Resource Center
A long-held dream of the Clackamas SWCD is to provide a combined office, meeting, and education center on land where we can walk out the door to show conservation practices to customers. We have named that new facility the Conservation Resource Center.
Clackamas SWCD bought the Beavercreek Farm in 2013. Since then, planning has been underway for how to turn the dream into reality. This calendar year, we expect to obtain the funding needed to finish the design of the facility and to begin construction. Our plan is to occupy the Conservation Resource Center by January 2020.
What’s new since last month?
- In April, the bid period for the Request for Proposals for Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) services closed. Clackamas SWCD interviewed responsive bidders on May 4. The successful bidder will be sent a Notice of Intent to Award on or before Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Clackamas SWCD expects to formally approve the award at the May 15 Board of Director’s meeting.
- District representatives worked with the architectural team in April and early May to continue refining the conceptual design for the facility and grounds. Clackamas SWCD plans to have a CM/GC on board in June. The architectural team, the CM/GC, and Clackamas SWCD will work over the first months of summer to complete a buildable design for the project.
We welcome your feedback. You can reach the management team through this contact form: