PMLR Promoting Sustainability

The project not only provides environmental mitigation along the alignment, but also is actively working with partners to include sustainable elements and improve habitat.

Crystal Springs Creek and Westmoreland Park Wetlands Restoration

Crystal Springs and Westmoreland Park Wetlands Restoration The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project is helping restore over an acre of Crystal Springs Creek wetlands in Westmoreland Park by collaborating with the City of Portland and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project is helping restore over an acre of Crystal Springs Creek wetlands in Westmoreland Park by collaborating with the City of Portland and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is in addition to working with the City and Union Pacific Railroad in 2012 to replace an undersized culvert with one that is considered fish friendly.

Crystal Springs Creek is 2.3 mile long tributary of Johnson Creek in Southeast Portland that offers significant habitat for salmon, birds and other wildlife. It begins on the Reed College campus and winds its way through Eastmoreland Golf Course, underneath the Union Pacific and light rail tracks, through Westmoreland Park, and to adjacent residential neighborhoods.

The “duck pond” in Westmoreland Park provided the ideal opportunity for directing project funds toward wetland restoration because of its proximity to the light rail project and because the funds could be used to dramatically improve a dire situation for Crystal Springs Creek. The previously shallow, concrete-lined pond resulted in potentially lethal high water temperatures for native fish, elevated nutrient and bacteria levels that starved the water of dissolved oxygen, and extensive sedimentation that degraded salmonid habitat.

“The naturally cool and steady year-round flow of Crystal Springs provides important rearing and refuge areas for juvenile salmon,” explained Kaitlin Lovell, Senior Program Manager Bureau of Environmental Services, City of Portland. “Restoration of habitat in Westmoreland Park and replacing culverts that impede juvenile fish passage will bring healthy and thriving populations of endangered salmon back to Crystal Springs Creek.

The end result will be a stream channel that’s more salmon friendly, emphasizes biodiversity, and supportive of native plant and fish communities than before the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project came through.

Michelle Helms, Portland District, Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, agreed. “Healthy water resources and sustainable communities are vital to our nation. Restoring ecosystems and improving watershed health is an important facet of the Corps mission. It’s exciting to have this opportunity to bring salmon back into the city, in a way that is good for the fish and the neighborhood.”

The mitigation project has several goals:

  • Restore 1.1 acres of wetlands adjacent to Crystal Springs Creek.
  • Restore a reach of the Crystal Springs Creek stream channel and associated riparian habitat.
  • Restore species diversity and habitat structure in existing open water habitat and in adjacent non-wetland areas.
  • Create an interspersion of wetland habitats consisting of emergent, shrub and tree plant communities.
  • Provide buffers around the mitigation site to prevent impacts to water quality or wetland habitat from adjacent recreation activities and to limit invasive vegetative cover.
  • Provide public viewing and access to discrete areas via defined trails to promote human/nature interactions and provide educational opportunities.

The Union Pacific Railroad culvert was replaced during summer 2012 and the Westmoreland Park wetland site will be completed by the end of 2013. Upon project completion, both sites will be monitored and maintained by the City of Portland for a period of two to seven years to ensure longevity and long-term success.


Restoring Shallow Water Habitat

Restoring Shallow Water Habitat With support from the light rail project, the City of Portland is restoring shallow water habitat in the Willamette River off Portland’s South Waterfront district.

Aided by $1 million in construction mitigation funds from the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project, shallow water habitat along the west bank of the Willamette River at South Waterfront is on the verge of a comeback. Designed and implemented by the City of Portland, the South Waterfront Greenway Central District Improvement Project will clean and replant more than an acre of riverbank to create 25,500 square feet of riparian habitat.

Situated in front of South Waterfront condominiums between SW Gibbs and Lane streets and across the river from Ross Island, the area became home to industry after World War II and was dramatically altered.

“Originally, the riverbank was 150 feet west of its current location, and ultimately industrial fill up to 20 to 30 feet deep was placed on the site,” explained Allison Rouse, project manager, Portland Parks & Recreation. “The project cuts back the bank and removes about 27,000 tons of concrete, contaminated soil and debris.”

Modeled after similar undisturbed riverbanks nearby, the riverbank restoration recreates the shallow sloping gravel bar that likely existed in the area before development.  An innovative retaining wall design includes protected riparian planting pockets for native vegetation and ensures future erosion will not impact the public spaces above the habitat restoration area.

The shallow sloping beach is covered with natural river gravel and rounded rock to provide a refuge for juvenile salmon from predatory fish such as bass. The shallow beach area also provides a lower velocity zone that accumulates natural woody material, also key to salmon restoration efforts. 

The existing concrete rubble covered bank will be transformed into a densely planted healthy riparian buffer that slows and cleans water runoff, provides shade, and encourages insects, which are food for salmon. Native plants appropriate to this section of the Willamette such as willow, alder, big leaf maple, native rose, spirea and dogwood will be added, with some derived from cuttings of nearby plants to reproduce the surrounding nature as closely as possible.

“To balance habitat with recreational use of the riverbank, the project leaves filtered views of the river and there are view corridors at the end of every street,” said Rouse. The shallow water habitat restoration should be complete in November 2013 and, during the project’s second phase, an urban park and pedestrian and bike paths will be built on a cap of clean soil at the western edge of the greenway.


Encouraging Sustainability with Public Art

Velosaurus Velosaurus includes recycled and new bicycle parts arranged to resemble skeletal remains of dinosaurs. This public art will be embedded in the retaining walls of the SE 17th Avenue overpass above Powell Boulevard in southeast Portland.

Encouraging sustainability is one of the goals of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project Public Art Program. To this end, there are a number of art works that conserve resources either by using recycled materials or pre-existing construction materials. Other art work highlights natural phenomenon or otherwise draws on the environment for its subject matter or theme.

  • For the Orange Lining project, Buster Simpson uses standard silt fencing placed by contractors to control erosion at construction sites as a canvas for poetic phrases solicited from area writers. A selection of these phrases will also be stamped into the concrete sidewalks built as part of the PMLR project.
  • Rebar Art & Design Group, led by Matthew Passmore, plans to create a monumental sculpture for the Clinton/SE 12th Ave Station from decommissioned freight rail removed to make way for the new alignment. The repurposed rail is bent into curves that recall the vocabulary of transit maps and railroad trackways.
  • Horatio Law arranged recycled and new bicycle parts to resemble skeletal remains of dinosaurs for Velosaurus, a series of eight concrete bas relief panels. Embedded in the retaining walls of the Powell overpass, the artwork is a tribute to Portland’s outstanding bike culture.
  • Six sculptures, ranging in style from traditional to abstract, will be made out of wood from trees removed from the Trolley Trail area. The sculptures by Patrick Gracewood, Lee Imonen, Toby Johnson, Kula Design, Chris Papa and Hilary Pfeifer will be sited along the new portion of the trail built by TriMet as part of the light rail project.
  • Anna Valentina Murch and Doug Hollis will highlight the movement of the river in their dynamic lighting project for the new Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge. Connected directly to sensors in the river, the programmable lights will slowly move across the bridge cables and piers echoing the rhythms of the water below.


Eco-track at the Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave Station

Lincoln Station A vegetated trackway will provide a colorful carpet of low-growing plants along 200 feet of light rail line at the Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave Station.

In step with Portland’s reputation as one of the nation’s greenest cities, the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project is taking sustainable transit further with “eco-track” on SW Lincoln Street downtown. This vegetated trackway will provide a colorful carpet of low-growing plants along 200 feet of light rail line at the Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave Station.

Although “green” or “grass” trackways exist in Europe, this stretch will be a Portland first by providing a vegetated trackway area pervious to stormwater, thus reducing runoff.

To sprout interesting colors and textures, SW Lincoln’s eco-track will blend evergreen sedum types such as red carpet, green ice, orange ice and Murale, a sedum that changes from green in summer to red-orange in winter. Sedums are commonly used on eco-roofs thanks to their ease of maintenance, durability and shallow roots.

Custom grown in one-inch-thick mats, the sedums will be rolled out in rows between the rails and within the trackway. “They grow about three inches high so they won’t interfere with the vehicles," the light rail project’s West Segment Urban Design Lead Elizabeth Higgins explained. “Sedums are generally drought tolerant, but we will have a permanent drip irrigation system for plant establishment and in case they need water during the hottest summer months.”

Higgins pointed out that the innovative design is part of a larger plan to enrich the urban experience along the light rail alignment. “We wanted to establish a new type of green street to contribute to a neighborhood known for its parks and greenery,” she noted. “In addition to the eco-track, we are returning a canopy of trees on SW Lincoln as well as incorporating sidewalk stormwater planters.”


Recycling and reusing building materials

Konell Construction Konell Construction and Demolition sorts brick, concrete, asphalt, wood, metal and more for recycling and reuse.

At Konell Construction and Demolition’s eight-acre site in Sandy concrete crushers, wood grinders and equipment-mounted breakers ready a wide range of materials that would normally end up in the landfill for recycling and reuse instead. This includes structures the company has removed as part of Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project construction.

Konell Project Manager Khara Hillis says her company recycles everything they can. “We break off pieces of the building and keep the piles of material sorted and clean. We rig wood timbers so we can lower them without damage and we pull up concrete and asphalt from the slab,” describes Hillis.

Each material finds new life in varying ways:

  • Concrete and asphalt are crushed into gravel.
  • Sheetrock and roofing materials go to a recycling center. Sheetrock may become cover to cap landfills.
  • Once cleaned, bare metal and iron go to a metal recycler.
  • Sizeable lumber becomes re-milled and saved for sale. Non-millable wood is ground and sold to manufacturers as a fuel source for steam power.
  • Bricks are cleaned by hand for resale.

Konell has provided general contracting and demolition services since 1984 and has recycled materials since day one. “It’s actually cheaper to recycle than haul to the landfill,” says Hillis. Konell also accepts construction materials, boulders and topsoil from the general public and sells recycled materials to other professional contractors and the community at its site.

Work for the light rail project has provided a boost for Konell’s business. “We have 60 employees with two superintendents that specialize in demolition, so this job has kept them consistently busy and helped us avoid letting people go,” asserts Hillis. But she sees value beyond profit too. “TriMet is great because it mandates recycling in all their requests for bids, which keeps our environment cleaner.”


Installing a fish-friendly culvert on Crystal Springs Creek

Crystal Springs Creek Culvert Replacement The project is helping replace this old culvert at Crystal Springs Creek with one more conducive to natural water flows and healthy habitat.

The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project is playing a role in the restoration of Crystal Springs Creek by replacing a key 122-foot-long culvert in the creek. The new culvert will help turn the tide on a disturbing trend—13 different native species of federally protected fish in our region’s waterways are threatened and may go extinct in our lifetime.

Crystal Springs Creek’s cold water and consistent flow rate make for ideal habitat for chinook, steelhead, coho and chum. However, culverts at public roads and railroad crossings constrict flows, causing localized flooding and heat sources, and send juvenile salmon into warmer waters before they are ready. These young offspring sent downstream prematurely go into shock, cannot protect themselves from predators and therefore don’t return to spawn.

Culvert replacements designed for fish passage is the primary goal of the city’s Grey to Green initiative. The initiative will also improve water quality, wildlife habitat and neighborhood livability. Nine culverts over the approximate three-mile length of Crystal Springs Creek between SE 28th Avenue and its confluence with Johnson Creek limit fish passage, but the city originally planned to replace eight of them.

“In order to successfully bring habitat back, all nine culverts must be replaced,” explained Kaitlin Lovell, senior program manager of the Bureau of Environmental Services’ Science, Fish and Wildlife Program. Thanks to the partnership between TriMet and Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) on the light rail project, the elusive ninth culvert will be replaced. The railroad culvert will carry both UPRR trains and light rail trains over the creek.

“The Crystal Springs Creek project allows us to restore an entire watershed from the mouth to the headwaters in one coordinated effort. TriMet and Union Pacific Railroad had a great role to play by facilitating the railroad culvert replacement so we could connect the system. It’s a testament to the amazing partnerships on this project,” said Lovell.

The railroad culvert will be replaced during summer 2012 and all the fish barriers in Crystal Springs Creek will be replaced by the end of 2014.


Enhancing riparian habitat on Kellogg Creek

Milwaukie Presbyterian Church Creek A portion of the Kellogg Creek bank which the project is helping Milwaukie Presbyterian Church improve.

The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project is helping to restore native habitat to a stretch of the Kellogg Creek shoreline. The project designated $6,000 to help Milwaukie Presbyterian Church (MPC) restore 3,000 square feet of creek wetlands and mitigate impacts of the project bridge set to be constructed over Kellogg Creek.

The riparian enhancement is guided by MPC, which aligns with the North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council’s area goals and complements the City of Milwaukie’s Kellogg-for-Coho Initiative to remove Kellogg dam and provide fish renewed waterway access. Shirley Stageberg, MPC volunteer project manager for the church’s Wetlands Restoration Mitigation Project, said they picked the most difficult area along the creek for the enhancement work.

“It was the first time we’ve been able to hire a professional crew and it made a world of difference,” said Stageberg. “They cut back overgrown weedy trees and pulled out hard-to-reach ivy that was mixed in with the native snowberries where we could not spray. This terrific work will make it much easier for our older volunteers to maintain the area.”

Located at 2416 SE Lake Road, MPC sits on five acres near Kellogg Creek. Several years ago, the church undertook a major effort to improve its 3.5 acres of natural habitat with the support of small grants and generous community spirit. Volunteers from MPC, the Portland Waldorf School and the Boy Scouts have pulled invasive species such as ivy, clematis, and Himalayan blackberry, which were choking out native plants. Milwaukie High School students are studying the wetlands.

After crews cleared the TriMet-funded section of the bank, the snowberries thrived. MPC plans to plant native species such as white oak, cottonwoods, maples and red osier dogwood, but they will wait to see which species naturally return in the next growing season now that site conditions are prime.

MPC wants to restore the site to the way it was 200 years ago and provide favorable habitat for an array of birds, attract beaver and ensure non-contaminated water flows into the river when the salmon runs are restored in Kellogg Creek. “My dream is that we’ll create a wave with these improvements,” says Stageberg. “Once people see what we’ve done and how beautiful it turns out, that they’ll be inspired to do the same.”


Removing derelict piling from the Willamette River

Derelict Piling Removal from the Willamette River Thirty-three tons of derelict, contaminated pilings were removed from the Willamette River as part of project environmental mitigation work.

In conjunction with Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge construction, TriMet is conducting environmental mitigation projects to improve Willamette River habitat. One of these projects was the removal of derelict pilings along the the east bank of the river just south of the St. Johns Bridge. Although they once supported structures related to river use, the pilings had deteriorated from decades of abandonment in public waterway and compromised essential native fish habitat.

Since being abandoned, the pilings had served as perches for fish-eating birds in a popular spot for out-migrating juvenile fish. The pilings also leached contaminants into the Willamette and inhibited the natural reclamation of shallow water habitats critical to a variety of native fish.

In total, this mitigation work removed 300 wooden piles from over 20,000 square feet of shallow water, equaling approximately 33 tons and 140 cubic yards of materials.

Portland-based Advanced American Construction (AAC) performed the work in the summer of 2011. The condition of the pilings and the rocky river bottom required deployment of divers to cut the pilings at or below the mud line and cap them with clean sand material where possible. AAC used a turbidity curtain and an absorbent boom around the work area to contain debris and protect the river.

The cut pilings were sent by barge to SP Newsprint in Newberg where they were incinerated for energy recovery. In addition to the piling removal, TriMet is a partner with the City of Portland’s habitat restoration project along the western bank of the Willamette River adjacent to South Waterfront. That project will provide approximately 25,500 square feet of shall-water beach habitat and 17,400 square feet of re-naturalized riverbank.


Protecting birds

Matt Alex U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Specialist Matt Alex works to protect birds from construction activity.

March 1 to September 1 is bird nesting season in the Pacific Northwest. During this time, it’s common to see Matt Alex surveying trees with binoculars or raising extension poles with reverse mirrors to peek inside newly formed nests along the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project alignment.

Alex is a wildlife specialist at U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services—he works with the project to ensure compliance with federal law protecting birds. With the exception of invasive species like pigeons, starlings and house sparrows, all wild birds, chicks and eggs in Oregon are protected.

Tasked with avoiding impacts to active nests where the project must remove trees and shrubs, Alex’s work requires a lot of walking and careful observation. “I cover the entire project to watch bird behavior and look for contrasting colors and textures in the trees,” he remarked. “My goal is to catch and remove nests during the early building stages before any eggs are there.” Alex monitors the sites at least once a week but in places where he detects a lot of bird activity he may return every other day to disrupt nests in process.

Alex’s work actually begins in February, when he clears out old nests to assess the level of bird activity in a given area. With so many different types of vegetation along the alignment, Alex finds that some areas are more prone to bird nesting than others. In the larger sections of low vegetation, Alex walks through the site in 50-foot intervals to cover everything thoroughly.

Alex works directly with TriMet and project construction contractors to specifically identify the clearing limits so he knows exactly where he needs to go and which areas to monitor.