Portland environmental groups and Hillsboro residents are alarmed about the threat to native fish and wildlife from a new regional water works project that would bulldoze through Orenco Woods Nature Park in Hillsboro. Portland Audubon and Urban Greenspaces are urging Metro to ensure that all damage will be offset to protect wildlife in the nature park, a vital part of the Rock Creek wetlands habitat and Tualatin River watershed.
The proposed construction would require the removal of trees and underbrush in the park, in addition to temporarily diverting Rock Creek. “We call on Metro to require compensatory mitigation that reflects the significance of the sensitive natural resources impacted by this construction,” said Mike Houck of Urban Greenspaces Institute. Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon agreed with that assessment.
Houck added, “We feel strongly that a greater than 1:1 mitigation is warranted.” That means if one acre is destroyed, for example, 1.5 or 2 more acres would be restored or added to the park. The trees and plants removed would be offset by planting even more after construction is complete.
Residents also are urging Metro to require a temporary wildlife corridor during construction so that animals can move safely. “This construction could destroy the protective measures Metro put in place when developing the park,” said long-time Hillsboro resident Catherine Allan. “The deer regularly use that pass-through into the park to travel through the fields and undeveloped land north of the park. We must protect the sensitive wildlife habitat of the Rock Creek wetlands.”
The cities of Hillsboro and Beaverton are partnering with the Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD) to build the $1.3 billion Willamette Water Supply System (WWSS) to meet future water needs for the fast growing Hillsboro and Beaverton areas. Water will be drawn from the Willamette River and delivered through more than 30 miles of large-diameter pipeline traveling north from Wilsonville through Beaverton and into Hillsboro.
Metro plays a key role in region-wide planning to manage growth and infrastructure development while protecting forests and wildlife habitat. The agency oversees 17,000 acres of parks, trails and natural areas across the Portland metro area, including Orenco Woods Nature Park. It leverages river and creek watersheds to establish an interconnected system of trails, greenways and wildlife corridors.
“As habitat shrinks, animals have trouble getting from place to place,” said Hillsboro resident Sheila Christensen. “No wonder one-sixth of the region’s wildlife species are considered sensitive or declining. This pipeline would endanger the wildlife that uses Rock Creek as a crossing within the park. It’s critical that wildlife not be harmed, trapped, or unable to cross Rock Creek as they seek food, water and shelter.”
Located at 7100 NE Birch St in Hillsboro, Orenco Woods Nature Park is a diverse 42-acre parcel that includes part of the Rock Creek Trail. The seasonal wetlands and upland forests host a rich variety of native plants and attract deer, coyote, and raccoons, as well as many woodland and meadow birds.