Scappoose Bay Watershed Council helps preserve Columbia County's natural wonders
Columbia County is home to some of the most pristine landscapes in Oregon, and the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council is involved year-round in maintaining this natural beauty for visitors to enjoy.
Dana Pricher describes her council as a nonprofit that focuses on watershed health.
"We do a lot of projects for stream restoration, for salmon population, and also restoring native habitat in the Scappoose Bay Watershed," Pricher said.
It has been an active year for the council.
"One project we are working on is a restoration project at the Nob Hill Nature Park in St. Helens. The total project cost will be about $18,000," Pricher said. "That project will help remove some of the invasive plants, like blackberry and English Ivy that are present on the site."
The project, according to Pricher, is specifically focused on the new section of the boardwalk and right-of-way trail that was just installed last year. It connects the Fifth Street right-of-way to the nature park.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) will supply $12,400 of that amount through its small grant program. The rest of the money will come from a match between several different partners.
"The city of St. Helens is going to be providing some in-kind services," she said. "The Friends of Nob Hill Nature Park, a volunteer group who currently maintains the park, is going to be providing volunteers to help with the planting and the maintenance of the plantings. The Scappoose Bay Watershed Council is going to be providing some of the plants for it."
The idea is to replace stubborn forms of invasive vegetation with native plants, such as native oaks, shrubs and camas.
"We're going to be working on that project with the Friends of Nob Hill Nature Park and the city of St. Helens for the next two years," Pricher said.
As 2020 gets close to wrapping up, the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council is involved in other restoration projects.
"We are in the middle of planting season, so we have three big restoration projects that we need to be planting this next month (November)," Pricher said. "They are all invasive species removal projects that resulted from the same small grant program that the Nob Hill project was funded under, but in previous years."
Pricher noted one plan is to place cedars along the banks of Milton Creek.
In addition to the small grants, the council received a technical assistance grant in June from the Watershed Enhancement Board to do some restoration design work on Raymond Creek, just outside Scappoose.
"They are just finishing up with the surveying, and we're going to be meeting with landowners in the next month to look at some different alternatives for their stream restoration project in that whole watershed," Pricher said. "That will be about a mile of stream."
Pricher added, "We are also finishing up the last willow planting on a project we've been working on North Scappoose Creek. We did a large stream restoration project there in 2019. We did some bank stabilization — we installed giant log piles (and) anchored them into the stream bank … screwing them together with rebar. They are sticking out in the stream and that provides habitat for fish and helps keep the bank and the stream stable."
Pricher said that even with these grants and the projects moving along, there have been challenges for her watershed council dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and other disruptions in 2020.
"With everything else, this year has been not without its challenges," she said. "Several of our projects, actually, were extended or moved to 2021 — we rescheduled them out a year because they were supposed to happen in the spring and we didn't have staff or contractors to get projects done. A lot of those will be scheduled to get done in the spring. That's our other big planting time."
The council runs a native plant nursery, which is located behind Scappoose High School.
"At the nursery, we grow native plants that we use in all of these restoration projects," Pricher said. "We also sell native plants to the public as a way of raising funds. We are a nonprofit so we depend on grants, fundraising and donations to keep us going."
The council has two annual plant sales, including one that was held in October.
The nursery will be open Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon through November. In December, the nursery will be open every other Thursday. Volunteers are welcome.
The council has also announced a couple of November events.
One is on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 at Scappoose Veterans Park. Volunteers can help pull weeds and plant trees.
On Nov. 21, at Chief Concomly Park in Scappoose, members of the public can learn about the new stormwater treatment basin and preparing it for winter rain by removing weeds and cutting back vegetation.
Those interested in helping out with the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council can visit its website at scappoosebay-wc.org.
Pricher enjoys helping the environment. She remarked, "The best part of my job is getting to go home at the end of the day and knowing that what I am doing is making a difference and that it will be providing healthy wild places for all of our citizens and, hopefully, for my daughter to play in when she gets older."
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