Rain Garden Training Opportunity for North Coast

New rain garden at work in front of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park Visitor Center. Photo by Will George, NPS.

The rain brings many benefits for North Coast watersheds, business owners, cities and residents. But it can also be a bane if–as stormwater runoff–it carries pollutants or causes floods in local streams. Capturing, controlling and filtering some of this stormwater runoff in rain gardens is one way to help beautify landscapes while improving the health of watersheds.

The purpose of the training is to help residential gardeners, landscape contractors, planners, public works employees and others learn the skills needed to design, build and maintain rain gardens and serve as local resources to other community members interested in building them.

Trainers: Robert Emanuel, Oregon State University Extension Service and Oregon Sea Grant, and Colby Weathers, Native Landscape Design, LLC.

How to prepare: This is a hands-on train-the-trainers course. Dress for both indoor and outdoor training components.

When: Saturday, April 23rd, 8:30AM – 5:00 PM Please register on-line by Monday, April 18th*

Where: Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Ft. Clatsop Visitor Center, Netul Room 92343 Fort Clatsop Road, Astoria, Oregon 97103

Cost: $30.00; cost includes lunch, Oregon Rain Garden Guide and additional materials. Oregon State Landscape Contractors Board Certification of Continuing Education Hours available.

To register: extension.oregonstate.edu/watershed/rain-gardens

For more information, call me at: 503-842-5708 x 210.

Coastal Cutthroat Trout: up close and personal

From stormwater to fish, video is taking over the world of social media. Another remarkable find in video is below–this time a intimate look at coastal cutthroat trout in the Mt. Hood National Forest. The videographer caught and has skillfully edited some stunning shots of these amazing fish as they prepare redds (nests for eggs), spawn and move about in cold, clear Cascade streams. This is some of the most stunning footage of freshwater fish that I’ve seen yet!

Behind the bubble curtain: The Underwater World of Coastal Cutthroat Trout from David Saiget on Vimeo.

Water, Disasters, and Preparedness

This blog does not generally cover topics related to natural or coastal hazards. But disasters are very much in the news, and water–the overabundance of it in the case of tsunamis or preparing for having clean water in the event of a disaster are obviously very germane.  Below is a list of some excellent resources for both issues and much more.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — As the devastation of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami become more evident, those of us who live along the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” wonder if we’ll be prepared for an equally destructive quake and its tsunami that could come to our doorsteps at any time.

To help prepare, the Extension and Experiment Station Communications (EESC) office has just completed an update of its webpage “It Could Happen to You: Be Prepared for Natural Disasters” at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/tough_times/emergency/natural-disasters

Other resources are:

  • Also, learn about your community’s disaster plan and create a plan for your family, home and office with It Could Happen to You” publications developed by the OSU Extension Service.

Stormwater: not out of sight nor out of mind…

Oregon does not have the same level of interest in diving as the calmer “inside coast” or Puget Sound region of Washington. But on both coasts, stormwater outfalls are common features off of communities.

So it is no surprise that a Seattle-based diver named Laura James and a couple of buddies took video cameras down to where one West Seattle storm drain empties into Elliot Bay. With that camera, they captured some sobering footage that was highlighted on the local NPR station’s (KPLU) blog.

Even as a somewhat jaded watershed professional–I found this a sobering reminder of why it’s important to move away from the typical approach of “piping and dumping” the stormwater somewhere else. Instead, we need to move towards techniques that emphasize infiltration and processing of stormwater by natural systems such as those embodied by the phrase Low Impact Development.

Invasive Species in the PNW Blogosphere!

Gorse. Photo by Lynn Ketchum, OSU EESC

I’ve not gotten around to it but as they say, there’s no time like the present–kudos to Dan Hilburn for publishing the Oregon Invasive Species Blog! Dan has been publishing this semi-weekly since last April and I’ve been remiss in my attention to spreading the word (not the weeds) about it. So apologies to Dan and some big blue stars for the excellent work.

While it may be cold and wet outside, the green (plant) invaders are just waiting for the right time to return to our attention. The snails, insects, turtles, nutria, and tunicates are still very much alive and well.  So don’t forget about them.  Learn more and head over to Dan’s useful blog.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” –Yogi Berra

Secret Lives of Steelhead and Rainbow Trout

Steelhead trout swimming. Photo by Oregons State University

Steelhead trout. Photo by Oregon State University

When I was about 7 years old I had the thrill of catching my first fish. It wasn’t in a cold wild stream, nor a calm mountain lake.  Rather, it was after putting a rented fishing line into a stocked trout pond filled with rainbow trout. The fish probably weighed about 5 lbs. and was pretty tame by any standards.  Nonetheless, it was still thrilling to me to see the beautiful bright animal on the end of my line.  I’ll never forget it.

Pacific Northwest rainbow trout are even more special.  Like their larger cousins–the wild salmon–some of these beauties slip downstream and enter the Pacific Ocean, returning as massive, 30 lb. steelhead trout. And for many years, it was assumed that these ocean-running fish were their own species, separate from their more diminutive freshwater bound cousins.  But now we know better.

These cousins are actually a lot closer than we thought! Researchers at OSU have concluded that around 40% of a steelhead trout’s genes come from wild rainbow trout. This means that both populations are interbreeding. It also means that the populations are genetically fluid–or mixing at different points in their evolution. So a steelhead enters a stream, breeds with a local rainbow trout. Some of those offspring are returning to the sea as steelhead, while others may stay local. And the rainbow trout then act as a “fail-safe” for steelhead when the ocean conditions are poor (and hence the returning adults are fewer). This is not the same case with salmon, who must have success in fresh and saltwater environments throughout their life-cycles.

Furthermore, hatchery raised trout are only contributing a very small amount of genes to steelhead–its mostly a wild fish thing.

So consider that lowly rainbow trout as a contributor to its larger, perhaps more amazing  ocean-going cousins.  Evolution is in action in these fish.  Check out more on this topic at ScienceBlog.

Happy New Year: Snowpack and Water

Record snows this fall and winter are looking good for spring and summer stream flows. Even the northern Coast Range has been relatively wet and cold this year. A good snowy winter means our ability to predict how much water will be in streams in the spring is better.

What does all of this fluffy white stuff this mean besides good skiing? It means good sources of cool water that slowly infiltrates into subsurface aquifers, recharges streams by slow trickle instead of flood. It also means a longer period of flow into the spring and summer months. All of this is good for we humans and salmon stocks who prefer cold water. Deep snowpack is good reservoirs, springs and groundwater supplies we depend upon at lower elevations too.

Check out the National Snow Analysis page by the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center–a product of the NOAA National Weather Service. Below is our Snow Water Equivalent from the fall through today (1/3/11).  This means that if you melted the snow from our mountains instantly, it would result in a predetermined amount of liquid water (e.g. 36″ of snow = 3.6″ of water).

So as you chain up to drive over the passes this winter, praise that snow for its spring and summertime benefits.

Geography and Freshwater Awareness

National Geographic was always a favorite magazine of mine as a kid and as an adult. As a self-professed geography geek, I am indebted to those folks for doing a us all great service by promoting awareness of our world, it’s resources, places, and people.  It seems they’ve taken the largely forgotten “National Geography Awareness Week” (proclaimed by President H.W. Bush in the late 1980s)  and brought it into the digital world.  And more thrilling to a water-focused geography-geek, here is their slick web page, resources, and short video highlighting the importance of freshwater resources to ourselves and our globe. Check it out by going here. Enjoy!