September Riverscape

In This Newsletter
From the Riverkeeper
River Discovery- Sunday, Sept 19th
Paddle Oregon 2010- We Did It!
Ross Island Restoration Work Parties
2nd Annual Great Willamette Clean Up- Saturday, Oct 2nd
Volunteer Data Spotlight: Comparing Water Quality Across Regions
Down the River Clean Up on the Clackamas- Sunday, Sept 12th
From the Riverkeeper
Dear River Friends,
As you paddle down the river, on almost any stretch of the Willamette, it is hard not to notice the presence of Gravel Mining. Because the river has brought down gravel from upstream, and spread it across its floodplain for thousands of years, there are vast areas of gravel along the Willamette that are unearthed and utilized to make cement and other related products. Most of these pits are large, and have heavy equipment pulling the gravel out of the floodplain, putting it in large trucks, and processing it - with all of the related noise and disturbance you might expect. Over the years gravel pits have been dug along the Willamette and relatively little thought had been given to their placement, their impact on neighbors, and impact on the river.  
Today, if you fly over the river at 1,000 ft, you are literally never out of site of some pit from the Yamhill River to Eugene. Some are small, some are large, some are abandoned, but many are operating. Over the years, WR has gotten into this issue when County lands are proposed to be rezoned from Agriculture to Gravel Mining. Too often we have seen little analysis of the impact of such pits on the river. Typically, once the County gives approval, such pits are almost guaranteed to receive a permit from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI). 
Given that the same flooding and receding of the river helped create good soils that work for agriculture, sometimes these two industries have come into conflict when gravel pits are proposed. Recently this issue has flared up at Grand Island, just across from Willamette Mission State Park. A large pit is proposed for this area, which will affect local agricultural landowners. The proposed pit is also very close to the river, and right next to some wonderful Natural Areas owned by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department. These areas, Grand Island Access, and Wheatland Bar, are amazing, and offer an array of habitat for wildlife, and key areas for people to experience the Willamette Water Trail. 
While I do not buy the idea that there is a shortage of agricultural land in the Willamette Valley, and that we need to protect every last acre (again, just fly over the Willamette and you will see what I mean), there is clearly an imbalance in the system when a large pit can be dug in the Willamette floodplain, affecting local landowners with ceaseless noise and activity, potentially impacting crops, groundwater, and degrading the experience for those utilizing State owned natural areas. 
We feel the proposal at Grand Island is a mistake, but we also feel that we need to take a look at how this Gravel Extraction industry is operated along the Willamette, and throughout Oregon, to see if there is a better balance that can be struck between the need for gravel aggregate, the need to protect agriculture along the river, and the need to protect the Willamette, and restore habitat on both private and public lands that has been degraded. 
There is clearly a need to create and restore the river's habitat, and to improve its ecological function. WR will have more on this in the coming months, so stay tuned, and keep an eye out for opportunities to help protect Grand Island. 
See you on the River, 
Travis Williams
Riverkeeper and Executive Director
photos: Gravel pits in Yamhill County near Grand Island, as seen on the Protect Grand Island Facebook page. See the recent Oregonian article: Opponents Say Gravel Mining Will Harm Grand Island
River Discovery: Grand Island Bike Tour

Grand Island Tour! Bike, Walk, or Run
When: Sunday, September 19th, 1:00pm
Where: at Heiser Farms (Grand Island)
Grand Island is a 4,000 acre agricultural island in the Willamette River in southeast Yamhill County. This beautiful idyllic island is home to a state park and many local farms...
...Grand Island is in trouble. A rock company has applied to convert 225 acres of prime island farmland into a gravel quarry. A larger sand and gravel quarry was already approved on the island in 2004. This is a small island with a strong agricultural heritage and a promising agricultural future, but continued conversion of farmland into quarries threatens that future.
Instead of paddling this month, we will be PEDDLING! Willamette Riverkeeper invites you to join us in discovering the sleepy gem known as Grand Island-- by bike! We will enjoy a free, family friendly ride, touring the rural beauty of Grand Island while learning about the proposed Grand Island Rock Quarry from farmers and residents along the way. While our Riverkeeper group will be biking, participants are also welcome to run or walk the suggested 9.2 mile tour of the island, or explore the island roads on your own (no trespassing please).
This tour is organized by the non-profit Protect Grand Island Farms. This is a perfect road for all level of riders! All roads are either flat or slightly sloped, and there is very little traffic. Bring your own bike repair kit and picnic. Tables and fresh water will be provided at Heiser Farms, and along the route.
To register, contact kate@willametteriverkeeper.org 503-223-6418. Again, this tour is officially organized by Protect Grand Island Farms, and by registering with us we can let them know how many "tourists" to expect!   
photos: farm fields on Grand Island by Protect GI Farms (top right), pumkins and bikers on Heiser Farm earlier this year by Heiser Farms (bottom left)
Padddle Oregon 2010- We Did It!
We did it!  Our 10th Anniversary of Paddle Oregon was our most fantastic adventure to date! This trip just keeps getting better folks!
We enjoyed sunshine, scenic vistas, water fights, live music, swimming, paddle boarding, wine tastings, ecology lessons, riverside yoga and massage, wildlife, art shows, Dungeness crab dinners, lavish desserts, and --what no river trip is complete without-- men in prom dresses (eh, you sort of had to be there...).
We sincerely THANK all of our participants and volunteers for making this trip a true success! Your support helps us to protect and restore our great Willamette River. 
Further thanks go to those of you who have elected to share your trip photos with us! We are working on a most exceptional slideshow, which we will post to our Paddle Oregon gallery page this month. We'll be sure to let you know when it's ready! 
We can also look forward to our first Paddle Oregon documentary, produced by award-winning filmmaker (and new paddlesport enthusiast) Liz Vice. Our film will premier Thursday, November 11th at the Bagdad Theater in Portland, prior to the start of the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, hosted by Willamette Riverkeeper. We hope to make it available for viewing on our website later this fall.
Please feel free to share your feedback on the 2010 trip and/or genius ideas for 2011 with info@willametteriverkeeper.org! And don't wait until next year's trip to get involved- join us for one our paddling day trips, a volunteer opportunity, or a special event. 
photo: several paddling pods heading towards Independence on Paddle Oregon 2010 (top right), thumbs up tp Paddle Oregon (left)
Ross Island Restoration Work Parties 
Ross Island's monthly restoration work parties are back! Come help the Friends of Ross Island restore this beautiful urban greenspace!

when: the 2nd Saturday of the month, 9:00am - noon  
where: meet at the SE Portland Boathouse (1515 SE Water Ave)
Volunteers will paddle a short distance from the boathouse dock to Ross Island. Once on the island, we will

  • Monitor wildlife (September 11)
  • Remove invasive species (October  9th)
Along the way, you will learn about the history of the island, its ecological value, and the vision for its future. Canoes will be provided free of charge by Willamette Riverkeeper for those volunteers who do not have their own. Children are welcome when accompanied and supervised by an adult. Limited to 25 volunteers per work party. 
Registration is required! Please contact Marissa Dorais, Stewardship Coordinator at Portland Parks & Recreation: 503-823-7016. 
photo: this gorgeous photo was taken by Paddle Oregon 2010 participant Casey Greg- thanks for sharing Casey!
2nd Annual Great Willamette Clean Up! 
 Join Your River Community for Willamette Riverkeeper's 2nd Annual Great Willamette Clean Up!
What: Together with a number of community partners such as REI, Teva, UPS, Toyota, EWEB, Popina, Port of Portland, Alder Creek, Adventures Without Limits, OOPS, We Love Clean Rivers, and MANY others, this year's clean up will be a RIVER WIDE paddling and land based endeavor, so our efforts will be matched by volunteers up and down the Willamette Valley-and our t-shirts will match too! That's right, all organized and registered volunteers will receive an event t-shirt. 
Where: We will be posting a list of clean up site options for Portland and Eugene on our website. Currently we are looking for more groups to "adopt" stretches of river in the Corvallis, Albany, and Salem areas. If you are interested in organizing a group of volunteers for a land or paddling based clean up, please contact kate@willametteriverkeeper.org.
When: Saturday, October 2nd @ 9:00am to 12:30pm, followed by post-clean up celebrations beginning at 1:00pm in Portland at Hair of the Dog Brewery & Tasting room's new location on SE Yamhill and Water Ave, and in Eugene's Alton Baker Park. Celebrations including refreshments and prizes from REI and Teva!
And More: Volunteers are also called to participate in a community art/plastic challenge! We are teaming up with Create Plenty's inspiring International Plastic Quilt Project. Volunteers from Eugene to Portland are encouraged to design a 12" x 12" square from single use plastic items recovered during the Great Willamette Clean Up, or anywhere you live, work, or play. Squares can be turned in to the Portland & Eugene REI locations, as well as Willamette Riverkeeper, and will be assembled into an art exhibit that will travel the valley. 
General information can be found here. Registration for Portlnad and Eugene clean up site will be available SOON, so stay tuned! 
photo: volunteers remove a tire from the Milwauliw water front on last year's clean up
Volunteer Data Spotlight: Comparing Water Quality Across Regions 
Volunteer Data Spotlight: Conductivity

Each month, Willamette Riverkeeper's 85 water quality monitors collect data on five different water quality parameters. It's easy to see how some of these parameters relate to the health of our waters. For example, all animal life needs oxygen to live - so it's no surprise that we like to keep tabs on how much oxygen is in the Willamette. This month, our data spotlight shines on a more complex and mysterious parameter known as conductivity.
Conductivity measures how well water conducts an electric current - and more importantly, it indicates the strength of dissolved ions in the sample. Ions are particles with a positive or negative electrical charge, and they can come from natural sources like the weathering of rock, or from pollution such as agricultural fertilizers or sewage. Some examples of ions include calcium, nitrate, sulfate, chloride, and phosphate.
Just as salt dissolves in a glass of drinking water, solid particles dissolve when they enter our rivers from natural erosion, urban and rural run-off, deposition from the air, or wastewater effluent. These ions increase the conductivity of our waters. Not all such particles are charged - for example, oil consists of organic particles that don't carry much of a charge, so we wouldn't expect to see an increase of conductivity after an oil spill. However, we might expect to see an increase after a spill of sewage or fertilizer.
Because the amount and type of these inorganic particles vary naturally with location and season, each stream is likely to have its own norm; hence, there is no official "standard" for conductivity in the Willamette Basin. So what do we hope to learn from our measurements of conductivity? Since our volunteers have been taking conductivity measurements at our established monitoring sites since at least 2007 (and often much longer), we now have established a baseline for the "normal" conductivity at each site. This allows us to recognize extreme highs or lows as potential new water quality issues.

This graph represents a subset of WRK's conductivity data. Specific conductance in our least disturbed streams is typically less than 150 μS/cm (microsiemens per centimeter).
On tributaries with the highest water quality (for example, the Middle Fork, Coast Fork, and McKenzie), conductivity values never exceed 100 μS. Some other tributaries, including Mission and Champoeg Creeks, consistently have much conductivity values over 200 or even 300 μS/cm.
We commonly see conductivity spikes in summer along some streams where there is little water to dilute solids in the stream (for example, at Abernethy Creek in Oregon City and Rickreall Creek in Salem). Note the unusual spike on the Pudding River in March of 2009 - if this occurs again, further testing to verify results and potentially a study of inputs to the site will be in order.
To see specific site locations in each region, visit http://www.willamette-riverkeeper.org/WRK/waterquality.html. For more information or additional data, contact julia@willametteriverkeeper.org.

Down the River Clean Up on the Clackamas River
To have a healthy Willamette River, we need healthy tributaries!
Here is another great opportunity for you to both enjoy and improve the Willamette River Basin...
The 8th Annual Down the River Clean Up on the Clackamas River is just around the corner! You can count on yet another fun day of paddling and stewardship activities in conjunction with the Clackamas River Basin Council.
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   Travis Williams- Riverkeeper & Executive Director
Gerry St. Pierre- Restoration Manager
Kate Ross- Outreach & Education Coordinator
Amy Baur- Development Coordinator
Julia DeGagne- Water Quality Program Coordinator