From Knotweed to Trees

 

One of the goals of stream restoration of Gee Creek is to rid the creek of weed species such as Japanese knotweed and blackberries and replace them with native species of trees and other plants.  This photo was taken in June of 2009.  It was  a dense tangle of Japanese knotweed, blackberries, and nettles.  The tops are about 13 feet above ground and many were bound together by morning glory vines. Getting rid of the knotweed and other weeds in the watershed was difficult.

The photo above is the same view after the knotweed ,blackberries, and nettles were removed.  The first trees planted here were willows and a few cottonwoods.  Later, Tevis planted cedars.  However, the fence along the creek was not a good one and eventually beavers took most of the cedars and many of the willows.  It was distressing to see the hard work lost.

The last photo was taken earlier this week.  Last fall, a good fence was built from here to the heron ridge bridge.  It has been successful, at least so far, in keeping out beavers.  There’s lots of new trees put in this spring  from here into the city’s storm water facility.  In time, the hope is to see a dense stand of trees all along Gee Creek from the east end of Abrams Park to the refuge.  There is a great deal more work to do that and many problems to overcome.  The photos are from Tevis Laspa’s property.

Contributed by Paul Snoey

 

 

 

Mosquitos Are Here

There were some biting mosquitoes in my yard this morning and a few got in the house. Later, working near Gee Creek, there were many more, swarming  and biting through a thick t-shirt.  I had swatted one earlier and took a photograph to ID it later.   Every few years, in the weeks before July Fourth, Ridgefield is plagued with mosquitos.  This could be one of those years.

 

From an article in Wikipedia, a drawing of a flood mosquito was a good match,  Flood mosquitoes lay their eggs on moist ground that is likely to flood later.  It has been very dry in Ridgefield from mid-April until today’s rain.  However, since the Columbia River has been high this spring, much of the refuge has been under water until a few days ago.  This could be the source of our mosquitos. In checking with the county mosquito control board, it was noted that the county does not spray for mosquitos.  Rather, they go after the larva by treating wet areas.  With much of the refuge being flooded  this spring, that would have been unlikely.

County mosquito control  states that there is no current threat of Zika Virus or West Nile Virus for Clark County residents.  So they are just annoying.  Vexans is derived from the Latin word meaning to annoy.    It’s early in the season but we will know soon just how annoying they are going to be.

Contributed by Paul Snoey

Coho in Abrams Park

The photo above was taken Monday from the footbridge going into Abrams Park.  If you are on the bridge and go to the right side on the upstream side you can see them.  Look under a dead blackberry stem hanging out over the water. This small school has been there for several weeks.  The incubator is below Reimann Road.  We were given 10,000 eggs in January and 50,000 in February. So, that is the most we’ve  ever been given. The fish have distributed themselves from below the incubator down to the refuge.  The first year or so these small fish remain in this part of the creek.  Then, next year, they will begin their Journey to the Pacific ocean.  Conditions in Gee Creek are good.  However, we  have only  had three inches of rain in April and stream flows are much lower than last year.  It would not be good to have another hot and dry summer.

contributed by Paul Snoey

A Killdeer Nest

I went down to the Port Waterfront area to find and photograph some trilliums in the woods near the Port. I did not find them but came across a killdeer along the Railroad tracks on the way back. As soon as I saw the bird I looked down and saw the four eggs in the nest.  I pulled out my camera a took a picture standing over the nest.

The killdeer walked towards me and when only  a few feet away began its wounded bird routine

Instead of the broken wing routine, it spread it’s wings and tail feathers.  It’s a behavior they use to draw predators away from their nest.  When  a predator leaves the nest area and approaches the bird, it suddenly flies away.

When I walked away from the nest and was about 10 feet or so away,  it calmly sat  back on its nest as if nothing was wrong.  Male and female killdeers look alike, take turns incubating the eggs, and the incubation takes about 4 weeks. The chicks are precocious, born with their eyes open, and can feed themselves within a few hours after hatching.  The parents stay with the chicks for about one month until they are fledged and  can take care of themselves.  There are many nests now along the tracks, around the port area, and  the marina too.  Its best to try not to disturb them during the nesting season. If you get near the nest they usually get up and walk quickly away. The eggs are very hard to see as they are well camouflaged.

~contributed by Paul Snoey

Voluneers Plant Trees on Gee Creek

Raul Moreno, Tevis Laspa, and I led a volunteer effort to plant trees to enhance Gee Creek last week-end. The  other volunteers were Bob Wallis and Jane Vail of Wallis Engineering, Randy Wray, Dustin and Blake DeMars,  and John Schiessl. We put approximately 180 trees in the ground.  They are  a mixture of Douglas fir, western red cedar, Oregon ash, and red alder.  These are all native trees.  In addition, a few giant sequoias were  added to the Dan Robinson Memorial in the park.  Twenty five of the most vulnerable trees were placed in cages in areas where beavers are most active.  Trees were planted in Abrams Park along the trail just north of the entrance, along the creek just south of the Heron Ridge Bridge,in the Heron Ridge Storm water facility, and on three properties downstream from the facility.  The trees were provided by Raul, Tevis, and  I.  The fencing for the cages was donated by Carol Witek and Tevis provided the posts for the cages.

The effort is to replace weeds and brush with native trees and other vegetation.  The value of trees is to prevent erosion, provide shade, and increased humidity on the creek itself.  Other values would be to make the trail along Gee Creek more pleasing and long lived trees act as sinks to remove carbon dioxide from the air.  If the trees being planted now are cared for they will play an important role in restoring the Gee Creek and  its’ floodplain.  The critical thing is to get them past the first year or two when they are the most vulnerable.

Contributed by Paul Snoey

First Day of Spring Sunset

    Yesterday, everywhere on our planet, the sun set was due west.  If you were standing on the equator yesterday the sun would have been directly overhead at noon and then gone straight down in the west.  In Ridgefield yesterday, the sun at noon would have been about 45 degrees above the horizon in the south and it would have gone down at a 45 degree angle and set due west.  On the first day of summer the sun here will be at 68 degrees above the horizon at noon(45 + 23 degrees) and would set at 23 degrees to the north of due west.   At the equator on the first day of summer, you would see the sun at 67 degrees above the horizon but in the north(90 – 23).  Sunset at the equator would be 23 degrees to the north of west.  Even though the earth turns once a day and half the earth is in sun and half in shadow, the tilt of the earth makes for a 16 hour day in summer instead of just a 12 hour day.  In the summer the northern hemisphere is very productive for growth of plants because of the long day and  the tilt of the earth give us.  Can you dig it?

~ Contributed by Paul Snoey

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.’

 

SHINY GERANIUM A TREAT

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.