MHCC helping the environment one rain garden at a time
Students coming to Mt. Hood Community College this fall might notice some changes in the main parking lots designed to make the campus healthier for salmon and the environment.
"MHCC's Salmon Safe project and its partners are making a big difference for Beaver Creek and the Sandy River with these retrofits," said Sandy River Watershed Council Executive Director Steve Wise. "A few small steps for the campus lead to a great leap forward for salmon, cleaning millions of gallons of water into the future."
The current project includes the construction of a large rain garden and bioswales to improve water quality.
The college at 26000 S.E. Stark St. is a key component to the well-being of the Sandy River and the area's entire watershed.
About one-and-a-half-miles of Beaver Creek and Kelly Creek run through the 212-acre Mt. Hood college campus and merge there to flow to the Sandy River. Almost one in 10 juvenile fish in the Sandy Basin use Beaver Creek.
Construction will be completed by Sept. 24, the first day of the fall term, with positive impacts lasting well into the future, said Kara Caselas, project manager for the Sandy River Watershed Council.
The plants in the rain garden and bioswales filter runoff from the parking lots, making the water safer for the environment and salmon. The council estimates this first phase of the Salmon Safe retrofit project will clean about 1.6 million gallons of water per year.
The project is estimated to cost $780,000, with this summer's work accounting for about half that cost.
Next summer another similar, second phase of the project will be completed, depending on fundraising success, Caselas said.
Contractors for the project are Britton Excavating and Grow Construction.
In May, more than 130 people volunteered at MHCC, ripping out pavement around big trees in the parking lots.
Volunteers will again help out, this time for a planting party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27. Native plants will be planted in the rain garden and bioswales.
This is part of the college's work to maintain its Salmon Safe certification. MHCC is the first certified Salmon Safe community college in the country.
To maintain certification, the college must stick to best practices in stormwater management, pest control, erosion and sedimentation control, water conservation and irrigation, stream and stream-bank habitat and wetlands management and design guidelines for future development.
The Salmon Safe Clean Water project is a collaborative effort between MHCC, the Sandy River Watershed Council and a range of regional partners including East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Metro regional government, the city of Gresham, Spirit Mountain Community Fund and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Other supporters include Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Resource Legacy Fund and the Environmental Protection Agency.