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Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver’

Storm Water

I live in an area that gets anywhere from 35 to 50 inches of rain per year. Perfect conditions for a rain forest … but not so good when 70% (I think) of the area is roofed or paved over with parking lots, freeways and roads.

Storm water goes DIRECTLY into the streams — streams that are home to wild salmon, no less! My Watershed Stewards classmates and I toured a few storm water treatment / catchment basins last weekend. (Click here for map of county-wide projects and here for a cool video.)

It takes a long time to recreate a natural environment. Here we have some “live stakes” (3 ft. length of bare branches) stuck in a bog.

It turns out the rabbits are the most damaging predator. They nibble away the outer cambium layer — essentially “girdling” young trees and killing them. Caged plants can be seen all over the county.

In the picture above you can see the white irrigation pipes. These young plants need to be watered during our dry summers for the first few years.

These mitigation sites are pretty unsightly. The contractors that do the work don’t always have an eye for beauty. These are large scale mucky jobs.

But wildlife isn’t picky. Birds, frogs and newts show up immediately. The Thomas Wetland project was completed in 2003 and looks like a natural lake now.

I pass by it on my neighborhood walks. It is rife with ducks and frogs. It’s fenced to protect nesting habitat, but the frog calls alone are obvious evidence of its recovery.

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Birds a-plenty

The Forever Young hike along the Lewis River and wetland was replete, a-flutter and a-honk with Canadian Geese. Listening to them, it’s easy to understand where the word “gaggle” came from.

The third stop on yesterday’s Forever Young wuss-hike was a drive through the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge – a vast wetland of over 5,000 acres along Lake River — the channel that flows north out of Lake Vancouver to the Columbia River.

Here a gaggle of geese swarm over a pond.

Here they skid into the water.

We spied Nutria (a fast-breeding and destructive pest), ducks, swans and Great Blue Herons along the roadway. We watched one Blue Heron catch and swallow a snake! This fellow stayed right where he was as we drove by.

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False spring

Early February is a lovely interlude in the Pacific NW winter. We get a few weeks of warm blushing weather that fools you into the false belief that winter’s over. It’s as brief as it is pleasant. Who knows? Maybe this year with El Nino … anything’s possible.

“Silhouetted limbs” against the sky …

And swelling (lilac) buds …

This weeping willow is opening leaves already …

The days are longer now. Here’s a view over Lake Vancouver at about 6:30PM.

The steam is from a plant in Portland just past Kelly Point. The lights to the right are from the Port of Portland.

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My “shed”

I’m training to be a watershed steward. It is SO fascinating! I’ve only taken one night’s class and I learned so much already. So here’s the big picture for Clark County, WA:

… and here’s the smaller picture of Burnt Bridge Creek:

Now of course these are both ‘small’ pictures. They’re both part of the Columbia River basin — which flows through seven states and two countries. It’s the size of France!

Watersheds are always named for the body of water they flow into. Their perimeter is defined by the uppermost points — which aren’t always obvious, I must point out. There are no less than 5 aquifers underneath Vancouver and Portland. My tap water comes from wells as deep as 1,000 feet.

In Clark county the water moves at a rate of about one mile per year in a SW direction. Whatever goes in the ground comes out in the tap. Even washing your car in the street (or driveway) is a no-no. (I had no idea!) Any commercial car wash has to treat all the runoff before it goes into the storm drains! Needless to say, we don’t have a lot of car washes in town.

Every neighborhood in town has what I’ve called a “bio-swale”. The correct term is a “depression pond”. They’re the size of a family home lot and seem to be depressed about 6-10 feet. The idea is for the storm water to percolate through the earth rather than run into the storm drains and treatment plants.

We also have several water treatment facilities. They’re good as far as they go. Hormonal and pharmaceutical waste remains to be resolved.

Here’s a terrific link to a web tour of the hydrological cycle (and much more). Image below courtesy of NOAA.

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Port of Call

Hello again! It’s taken me a while to get back in the saddle after being away for 2 weeks in the SF Bay Area and a 10 day trip to La Paz, Baja California. Came home sick as a dog. Yeah, yeah … life is rough.

OK, my latest venture was a tour of the Port of Vancouver. First off it’s “public” — that’s right state owned. Folks in Washington stateĀ  had their fill of “corporatocracy” (from the railroads) back in the 1911 and passed the Port District Act. That’s their logo … I thought it was so neat (doubles as bow of ship or mountain).

No photos were allowed on the tour … what with homeland security. The photo above was on the web so I suppose it’s legal to reproduce.

A few Vancouver port factoids (as I remember them):

  1. exclusive West coast port of entry for Subaru
  2. niche market for wind-energy turbines (they’re big and heavy!)
  3. 6 different types of wheat … mixed by formula at the port!

Wind energy is the biggie. It’s keeping the port afloat in this down economy. Just one blade is 160 feet long — but a mere 10 mph breeze will turn them. These will be shipped by rail throughout the mid-west.

This market was made possible by a pair of very large cranes — at one time the largest in the country. Ours are blue.

Do you have a port in your area? All I can say is, go visit it!

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