Planting on Gee Creek Trail

The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership sponsored a tree and bush planting Saturday for the new section of the Gee Creek Trail between Abrams Park and Heron Ridge Drive. McKenzie Miller, Senior Environmental Educator for the partnership, lead the group of 40 volunteers for planting.   On Friday  the locations of where  the different trees and plants were to go was flagged by   Samantha Dumont the Volunteer Coordinator for the Estuary Partnership.   Some of the volunteers were Cub Scout Pack 303 of Ridgefield.  This is the first all girls group in the scouts now that boy scouts can have girls.  Instead of the usual March rain, it was nice and sunny.    Among the trees and plants  put in the ground were Hooker’s willow, Douglas Fir, Big Leaf Maple, and Red Alder.  Several tall Oregon grape plants were put in the ground as well.

The next planting event with LCEP will be having students from Union Ridge Elementary plant the remaining trees and  plants later this month.  To fully restore this area will take a lot more work and commitment.

Erosion Control Project Continues

The Erosion Control Project for Gee Creek has begun with root wads beginning to be placed in the creek. This is the first erosion control project for the creek.  It’s success or failure could determine how other projects are done since there are several more areas that have problems.  The main questions are:

Will this work? The goal here is to stop the  erosion that been eating several feet of stream bank each year.

How expensive is it?   The cost of this project is important since there are other areas nearby with problems as well.

What will the creek look like and what more can be done here after the project has been finished?  We all want the trail along the creek to look natural and pleasant.  So what can be done when the project is completed to  further enhance the area?

Hazel Nut Trees

If you are driving into town on Pioneer you may  have noticed the bright yellow catkins on the many hazelnut trees at the east end of Abrams Park and in many other areas.  These hazelnuts, also called filberts,  are the wild cousin of the European tree imported for producing hazelnuts.  It is our earliest flowering tree.  These trees and other members of the birch family, such as alders, do not depend on insects for pollination.  They put out so much pollen that some will  reach the female catkins.  There are few insect pollinators in the middle of winter and  these trees not needing insects, can bloom in midwinter. Unfortunately, hazelnut pollen  is a strong allergen.    Those suffering the symptoms of allergies these days can guess that it is because of the hazelnut pollen.


The photo above shows a close-up of a branch.  The elongated catkin produces the pollen.  The female catkin can  be seen as small buds with small red octopus like pollen collecting structures.  The developing hazel nut will grow from these buds.  Hazelnuts and walnuts are the main reason that Ridgefield supports such a large population of squirrels. Late summer and fall is a time of frenetic activity as squirrels are so busy harvesting and  burying nuts.  The relationship between nut bearing trees and squirrels is mutually beneficial.  Squirrels get a good food source and  nut trees get their seeds carried a great distance from the tree and  even buried.  Enough nuts are not recovered by squirrels so that Ridgefield is full of hazel nut and walnut trees.

Salmon Eggs are in the Incubator

On Wednesday, January 10th I went to the Lewis River Hatchery and was given the salmon eggs for this year and  I put them in the incubator below Rieman Road. This is the third year we’ve had this site. The first year was initially a great success with many Juvenile Coho well distributed downstream. Coho fry stay in the area for about a year before heading to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.  In October of 2016 there was a large erosion control failure near South 45th Avenue and Royle Road. Then, there was a series of major storm events. In spring of 2017 there should have been a combination of the fish from the year before and  new fingerlings but fewer were seen.
Last fall and this winter so far there have been a series of erosion control failures on several projects. This year is different in that there has been much less rain and no major storm events. Gee Creek is becoming very turbid with as much as just a half an inch if rain.   In March of this year these fish will begin leaving the incubator and move into Gee Creek.  Having all these projects secured for the winter will be a great help.  Going into next fall, erosion control efforts on projects need to be improved if we are to be successful in restoring runs of Coho and cutthroat.

Stream Bank Erosion by Gee Creek Trail

                         The stream bank has receded in several places and threatens the new trail

The stream bank along sections of the new trail from Division Street to Heron Ridge Drive has areas that are eroding badly.  In mid- October the section in the photo had only one small section that had collapsed next to the silt fence.  Last weekend things began to get much worse, and on Tuesday, many sections of stream bank began to collapse in several places over a distance of 400 feet or so.  Gee Creek has not had high flows yet so that is not the cause of the sudden collapses.  We had a severe drought last summer that dried the soils here, and we’ve had enough rain to finally wet the soil.  This may be making it heavier and softer and is exacerbating the stream bank collapse from the stream undercutting the bank.   Public Works Director Bryan Kast indicated yesterday that a hydrologist consultant is working on getting some stream bank stabilization done here before the end of the year.

We are now getting into the wettest time of the year.  With soils saturated and higher stream flows on Gee Creek, it may be very difficult to get any stabilization done.   It’s mid-November and we have several more months of possible wet weather with  higher stream flows.  In several areas the changes to the stream bed are forcing water into and along the stream bank itself.  The best hope is to get through the  wet season and then look to find a way to make a real fix.  Unfortunately, a real fix over such a great distance could be very expensive

Another area of bank collapse:  Note how flow is undercutting bank

Climate Change, The Columbia River, and Ridgefield

The above graphic shows Columbia river predicted flows in the 2050s.  The time of peak flows from spring snow melt is earlier  and summer flows are much less (source UW)

The Columbia River responds to the Pacific Ocean tides all the way to  the Bonneville Dam.  At Ridgefield at midnight Monday night, the high tide is expected to bring the river to 6.56 feet and at 3 AM the low tide is expected to be 3.84 feet.  Its not a great difference but it is enough to reverse flows of Lake River into Vancouver Lake and even Gee Creek into the pond/wetland complex upstream.  In addition to tides, the Columbia is greatly effected by the flow of water coming down the Columbia River.  Last winter and spring, the flows from the heavy rains brought the Columbia River here to  a peak of about 16 feet (flood stage is 17 feet).

The latest climate assessment released Friday by the Trump Administration showed a sea level rise of 1.6 to as much as 8 feet by 2100. NOAA has an interactive site to show the impact of sea level rises for different areas.  To show how it will impact Ridgefield, Lake River, and the refuge click this:  Columbia river sea rise

The site is interactive and set  for 3 feet but it can be changed from none to six feet.  You can also zoom in and out and change location.  At three feet there is a real change is the level of water in both the Carty and River S Units. The Columbia River will rise to 6 feet and more with time.  The only question  is how soon.  Sea level rise will continue for hundreds of years no matter what.  That is because the carbon dioxide already released will  stay with us a very long time.

The Columbia River reverses flow from the ocean to as much as 53 river  miles upstream  and salt water intrusion  is about 23 river miles upstream.  With sea level rise, the flow reversal will increase  carrying  salt water further upstream as well.   The difference between high and low tides will likely increase.  With the loss of snow and ice in the Columbia Mountains and Rockies, the summer flows are projected to decrease by as much as  50 % by the  2050’s .  With lower flows and higher river levels the resident time for water to travel from Bonneville Dam to the ocean will increase.  This may mean a warmer  slower river and could create serious problems such as having  less oxygen and encouraging invasive species.   Having the peak flows as much as a month or more earlier would put the annual crest into the rainy season and thus an increased risk of flooding.  This would certainly be exacerbated by having this on a river higher from sea level rise. It will likely mean that the height of a 100 or a 500 year flood will have to change.   Building in areas above a flood zone may find those zones rising.

The material for this article was gleaned from many different sources.  The impacts of a river higher from sea level rise with changes in seasonal flows will have profound impacts for both communities and natural areas.   What really seems to be missing is a more comprehensive study that better quantifies and qualifies the predicted changes.







A Fence to Protect Trees Installed


In 2005, Fish First donated 50 cedars for stream restoration of Gee Creek.  In addition, the City of Ridgefield provided $250 for purchase of trees. They were planted along the creek just upstream and downstream from the Heron Ridge Bridge. By 2009 all the trees had been cut down by beavers except for 2 cedars they had somehow missed. Many of the cedars and firs that Tevis Laspa planted were also taken by beavers. Many of the ones I planted  have been taken.  We’ve learned that trees need to be placed in cages or behind fences.

Tevis and I  recently installed 450 feet of fence along Gee creek to protect the trees that are going to be planted.  A few areas north of the Heron Ridge Storm Water Facility have been cleared of blackberries and brush in preparation for planting this winter and spring.  Tevis will provide 50 cedars and 50 firs.  I’ve ordered 50 alders, 50 ash, and 25 nine bark bushes.  Along the fence, we intend to saturate the line with willow and cottonwood posts to help with stream bank stabilization.


Welcome to our New Author

Paul Snoey has been contributing articles to FYI for a long time now, and I’ve now given him direct access to the blog, so he’s now able to post directly without my editing the article.

This will ensure that the pictures he takes go along with the writing portion, as I sometimes goofed up and had an incorrect caption.

His posts will be filed under ‘Paul Snoey Articles’ so they’ll be easy to access if you want to look at them again. If you would like to comment on Paul’s posts, it’s easy to do so, just click on ‘leave a comment.’



These calves eagerly ate several bags of shiny geranium pulled by hand

Shiny geranium was first discovered in Ridgefield last year. It was found on Pioneer Street, in the Post office parking lot, and on six acres in Allen Canyon. A great deal of work and expense was spent to deal with it. Much of the effort was to get it before it went to seed. I did most of the work in Ridgefield and helped Les Greear treat it on his property. The seeds sprout after the first late summer/fall rains. After the first rains in mid September, we were disappointed to see so many new seedlings pop up.  We have begun treating them again.  This weed is spreading rapidly in  north Clark County and will probably become a  pest for Gee Creek and the Refuge in spite of our efforts.


Stream Life

Paul Snoey took the photos above and below in Abrams Park just below the Division Street Bridges. The two photos are of the same spot before and after the sediment was brushed away.

Aquatic insects, mollusks, small fish, and crustaceans need areas free of sediment.

Response to Paul Snoey Article on Storm Water Run Off

I thought this comment was worth publishing because I know not every one reads the comments under posts, and it is worth reading.

Sadly, the silt is not surprising given the poor storm water runoff control by developers and lack of enforcement by our city. As an example, drive along Royle Rd. and look at all the dirt in the ferns along the drainage ditch on the outside of their storm water runoff fencing on the southeast side of road near the HS…this is right above Gee Creek, and just waiting for a rainfall event to wash all that dirt into the creek!!!  This is exactly why we need storm water runoff permits and regulations at construction sites! I hope these folks get fined for their disregard to our environment and storm water drainage systems. Their mitigation tactics are sub-par and they have the means to do better!

Snoey Report on Fish

With the heavy rain this morning flows were restored on Allen Canyon Creek. The nice thing about it is how clean the stream is.  The stranded fish are now free but have chosen to stay in the area and when I dropped some food in the creek they eagerly ate it. If a way could be found to sustain some flow during the summer drought, this stream could maintain a population of salmon.
When I returned to town this afternoon I checked Gee Creek in Abrams Park and found a creek heavily laden with sediment.  This is not good.

Both photos were taken this afternoon on Allen Canyon Creek and Gee Creek.


Fish in Allen Canyon Creek

Paul Snoey took this picture yesterday morning at Allen Canyon Creek.  The remaining pools are lowering quickly but if it rains later this week they will be saved.  These fish are about 3 to 4 inches now and are much too crowded in the shrinking pools.  In an upper pool, which has an unknown fish, he noticed a lot of splashing at the surface and then a head popped up and then disappeared again and then more splashing.

The head popped up again and he saw that it was a garter snake.  It was trying to catch fish.  Fish trapped in pools are vulnerable because they have little room to escape.  In addition to snakes, kingfishers, herons, and even raccoons would make a meal of these fish.

News from Paul Snoey on the Eagle Creek Fire

The fire that started Saturday September 2nd  on Eagle Creek spread west with the east winds on Monday.  On Tuesday afternoon in the Gorge, the air was so full of ash and smoke that cars were driving with their headlights on.  The only view of the sun was on the crest of Cape Horn where the above photo was taken.

This is a photo of Eagle Creek before the fire.

(The photos below were taken Sunday, September 10th.)

Angels Rest is one of the first trails in the Gorge and the trailhead is near the Bridal Veil exit.  The fire spread along the south face of the gorge and burned the summit of Angels Rest.  Devils Rest is the peak in the background and there were many plumes of smoke coming from there as well.   But it is also apparent that there are many areas that did not burn. (Photos taken from Cape Horn trail)

A telephoto view just below the summit of Angel’s Rest shows switchbacks through an area that is burned.  Many trails have sections that are damaged.

Nesmith Point at almost 4,000 feet is part of a boxed canyon that contains several basalt domes. They are named Katanai Rock, Saint Peter’s Dome, Yeon Mountain, and Rock of Ages. All these peaks are burned. (Photos taken from Beacon Rock.)

A telephoto view of St Peter’s Dome shows a burned top.

This fire has been very destructive and disruptive, is not out yet, people are living in shelters, and a major freeway in the area is closed.   The best news is that in a few days we may be having the first significant rainfall in several months.

News from Paul Snoey

Last winter’s storminess and this year’s summer drought have taken a toll on the Coho in both Gee Creek and Allen Canyon Creek.  It has likely taken a toll on the native sea-run cutthroat trout as well.  A series of intense storms may have removed most of the fish released from not only this year’s incubators but last year’s as well.  Abrams Park had many fish all summer long last year, but few  this year. The fish that remain on Gee Creek are in pools below Bertsinger Road just before the Pioneer Street Bridge. Allen Canyon Creek has had no flow for several weeks and the fish are trapped in two small pools. Sprinkling some fish food on the surface lets me know how many are still there and how healthy they are.

Yesterday I sprinkled some food in the pool and a few seconds later, the surface was alive with lots of fish.

When I walked back to my truck a large owl suddenly dropped down and landed  on a branch  over the pool.  It is likely that this Great Grey owl had noticed the commotion on the water and wanted to check it out.  It had an intense look with eyes like black marbles.