• Salmon Safe Partners Tour Project at MHCC

    On Wednesday, Sept. 5, officials from conservation-focused organizations throughout East Multnomah County visited several sustainable stormwater management projects currently under construction at Mt. Hood Community College. The series of engineered rain gardens, swales, drywells and planters will capture and clean rainfall from the Gresham campus’s west parking lots. The projects were planned and constructed in collaboration with local partners and funded by regional grants and donations.

    Steve Wise (right) points out several stormwater
    management features to the group.

    Construction on the retrofits began in May and will finish the week of Sept. 17. The green infrastructure features, which use natural drainage to reduce unfiltered runoff into nearby creeks, cover just 4 percent of the parking lots’ impervious area, but will cleanse almost all the stormwater runoff from those lots. Additionally, the stormwater features will help the college fulfill a commitment as the first Salmon-Safe certified community college in the country.

    MHCC achieved the Salmon-Safe designation in 2016. The five-year Salmon Safe plan identified a range of improvements to buildings, parking lots and other structures on campus and prioritized strategies to intercept the stormwater and to engage the public and campus community in efforts to improve water quality and habitat.

    “The Salmon-Safe program gave the college provisional certification with a five-year plan for continuous improvements, of which these retrofits are a part,” said Sandy River Watershed Council Executive Director Steve Wise. “The projects that we’re working on in the front of the college will catch and clean about two million gallons of annual stormwater runoff from the campus and remove roughly 1,600 pounds of pollutants each year.”

    MHCC’s partners on the project include the Sandy River Watershed Council, the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD), the City of Gresham, Metro, Salmon-Safe nonprofit, and the Spirit Mountain Community Fund (SMCF), a grant-making organization of The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. More than $1 million in grants and in-kind contributions support the project and include funds from EMSWCD, Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods capital grant program, the City of Gresham, SMCF, and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

    “We were really excited when the opportunity came up to help fund this project,” said Mary Rose Navarro, manager of Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods grant program. “Metro has been a channel for investment through our voter-supported bond measures and it continues to support projects in this area.”

    “We are not simply investing in nature, but are investing in vibrant communities through investments in nature," Navarro added. “We are investing in this campus and this college and your commitment to its students and cities. We are here not just as funders, but as cheerleaders to help this campus succeed.”

    MHCC’s staff, faculty and students have participated in the retrofits in a number of ways. Earlier this year, during an asphalt removal event organized by the non-profit Depave, members from the college and local community helped kick off the project by pulling up and removing asphalt. Students from the college’s Integrated Media program designed informational signs located at sections of the project where passers-by can learn more. And members of the Sandy River Watershed Council spoke with students 26 classes across the college about the project and how it will impact local salmon and wildlife populations.

    “MHCC is the institution of higher learning in East County – this is the spot where the majority of students in the area come to college,” said Torrey Lindbo, water sciences program manager for the City of Gresham. “So a major component of this project has and will be educating our local students about water conservation and watershed science.”

    You can learn more about the project by visiting http://sandyriver.org/projects/mhcc-salmon-safe-projects

    Torrey Lindbo (second from left) discusses how project components support MHCC educational opportunities