ENN-8.01 - Actions For Watershed Health, 2005 Portland Watershed Management Plan

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What follows is the Introduction to the document.  Find the entire 2005 Portland Watershed Management Plan with maps and figures.

Executive Summary

The City of Portland is responsible for managing its urban watersheds. This responsibility requires coordination between City bureaus, community businesses and neighborhood partners. As City budgets tighten and regulations become more demanding, it is important to maximize collaboration with all potential partners.  

The Portland Watershed Management Plan (PWMP) will guide City decisions and projects by providing a comprehensive approach to restoring watershed health. This Plan is a first step toward creating a citywide effort. Urban watershed management is complex and includes a wide range of activities. Implementing this plan is challenging, but at the same time it provides exciting opportunities to make meaningful improvements in watershed health.

There is a role for everyone in the Portland Watershed Management Plan. Changing ‘business as usual’ requires the input and participation of elected officials, City staff, private citizens, businesses, non-profit organizations and school and volunteer groups. With Goals and Objectives in Chapter 3, Strategies and Actions in Chapter 4 and a Management System in Chapter 5, the intent and direction of improving watershed health is laid out to incorporate into work plans and practices.

The watershed management system described in Chapter 5 will guide future versions of the Plan to include more socio-economic analysis with involvement from City Bureaus and community partners. Collaboration among Bureaus on projects like green streets, land acquisition, floodplain restoration and fish and wildlife habitat protection will continue and current efforts will be better coordinated. Community involvement will continue in the form of local watershed councils and will be strengthened by neighborhood and other volunteer interests and activities.

Portland is committed to natural resource protection and sustainable development. The city has made great progress on many fronts, with much work yet to do. Because natural resource management responsibilities are spread across the city, it is critical that a comprehensive, coordinated system provide the structure and context for identifying priority actions and areas where attention should be focused. While this is a first attempt to bring all of the information together in one place, the 2005 Portland Watershed Management Plan proposes to provide that structure with a long-term commitment to adapt and improve over time.

The City’s River Renaissance Initiative set the course for this citywide focus, and the Portland Watershed Management Plan will be instrumental in implementing the River Renaissance “Clean and Healthy River” theme. This Plan focuses on developing partnerships and designing multi-objective projects that incorporate a wide range of City values. With the Plan’s initial structure in place, all Citybureaus can consider watershed health as they design and implement their projects. Over time and with greater inter-bureau involvement, this plan will guide city efforts to improve watershed health.

Portland’s Watershed Approach

This plan lays out Portland ’s comprehensive, strategic and integrated approach to improving watershed health. By identifying goals, objectives, strategies and actions this approach aims to protect the best remaining resources and improve watershed functions and conditions citywide. It includes the development of management tools to track progress and measure results, with a focus on seeking net environmental improvement over time.

Built on a scientifically sound foundation, the watershed approach addresses the sources and causes of environmental problems rather than focusing on symptoms or meeting specific regulatory requirements. This approach seeks efficiencies and greater flexibility to find creative, multi-objective solutions that meet multiple requirements and save money.

The watershed approach relies on integrating the activities of multiple City bureaus, and maximizing limited resources by looking for solutions that meet multiple interests. The approach incorporates City values of improving public safety, economic vitality and community stewardship into decision-making. This approach will guide the activities of each City bureau and program that affects watershed health to improve watershed conditions while addressing a wider range of community priorities.


This plan describes Portland ’s comprehensive approach to improving Portland ’s watershed conditions. This is the first time that all five Portland watersheds (Columbia Slough, Fanno Creek, Johnson Creek, Tryon Creek, and Willamette River) are discussed collectively in one plan. This effort takes into account whole watersheds, addressing upland conditions, and stream and river channels.

This comprehensive perspective presents watershed management issues on a citywide scale as a system plan, comparable to the Office of Transportation’s Transportation System Plan or the Environmental Services Public Facilities Plan. From the analytical perspective of system function, this plan documents the extensive technical foundation Portland has established, including existing and desired future conditions. Based on that foundation, endorsement of this Watershed Plan by the City Council confirms the City’s policy and commitment to improved watershed health.

Organizational Scope

Environmental Services has the lead responsibility for developing this plan and management system, but changing how the City impacts watershed conditions relies on integration of these actions into all City activities. This plan is consistent with and complements other city system planning work, including the City’s Comprehensive Plan (city wide land use plan), the River Plan (a District Plan for land along the Willamette River), the Public Facilities Plan (sanitary and storm infrastructure), the Transportation System Plan (transportation infrastructure) and Parks 2040 Plan (park and recreation needs). This watershed plan provides the overarching system management that connects watershed improvement projects, plans, and documents throughout the City.

Geographic scope

The study area for this plan includes the jurisdictional and urban services boundary of the City of Portland (future Plan updates will integrate urban services land currently not included). Encompassing over 130 square miles, Portland is a small but important part of the larger Willamette River Basin . And while the study area is technically limited to Portland , the City recognizes the importance of coordinating with up and downstream jurisdictions and will continue to work regularly with a wide range of partners to foster broad regional collaboration.

The city is delineated into five watersheds representing its largest urban streams. The Columbia Slough watershed stretches 18 miles from Fairview Lake in Gresham into the Willamette River near Kelley Point Park. Johnson Creek flows west for 25 miles crossing several jurisdictions before entering the Willamette River in Milwaukie. Only a portion of Fanno Creek is in Portland, flowing 15 miles west and south before it enters the Tualatin River (the Tualatin flows into the Willamette just south of West Linn). Tryon Creek flows seven miles through parts of southwest Portland and unincorporated Multnomah County before entering the Willamette in Lake Oswego. For the purposes of this document, Portland’s Willamette River watershed represents only the area of land that drains directly to the last 17 miles of Willamette River through small drainage ways, pipes, and streams before it enters the Columbia River.

Technical Scope

The technical scope of the Portland Watershed Management Plan is driven by goals and objectives identified to create healthy watersheds (see Chapter 3). The goals and objectives are based on the following definition of watershed health established in Portland ’s Framework for Integrated Management of Watershed Health (July 2005):

“A healthy urban watershed has hydrologic, habitat, and water quality conditions suitable to protect human health and maintain viable ecological functions and processes, including self-sustaining populations of native fish and wildlife species whose natural ranges include the Portland area.”

The Portland Watershed Management Plan:

  • Uses a comprehensive approach to respond to state and federal regulatory requirements for water quality and endangered species;
  • Uses the best available science;
  • Integrates the work of several City work groups;
  • Seeks cost-effective solutions;
  • Identifies priority areas for protection and improvement of watershed functions; and
  • Establishes a watershed management system that allows the City to adapt its approach as it learns more.


This plan identifies 20 actions (see Chapter 4), grouped into the following six strategies:

1 Stormwater Management

Reduces impervious area, increases infiltration, and removes pollutants

2 Revegetation

Slows runoff, increases infiltration, traps sediments, and absorbs pollutants

3 Aquatic and Terrestrial Enhancement

Improves stream flow, recharges groundwater, provides flood storage, reduces heat island effects, provides connectivity, protects biodiversity and provides habitat for native fish and wildlife species.

3 Protection and Policy

Preserves remaining natural areas and ensures sustainable development

4 Operations and Maintenance

Increases efficiency, reduces waste, and prevents pollution

5 Education, Involvement, and Stewardship

Enhances public understanding, generates support, and ensures success

Central to the 2005 Plan’s recommendations, maps were developed to show priority implementation areas for each of the strategies. In many cases the maps show more than one strategy for a given area. This indicates that strategies can be complimentary and are not meant to be mutually exclusive. Existing projects, programs and areas of opportunity are also identified in order to incorporate watershed improvement strategies into existing city priorities. From this analysis the Watershed Priority Areas map (Figure 2) highlights key areas of interest for improving watershed conditions over the next 2 to 5 years

What’s in the 2005 Portland Watershed Management Plan?

The Plan summarizes years of extensive technical work of many City work groups and community partners, and provides guidance in implementing citywide watershed improvements (see Figure 3).

The Watershed Management Plan contains:

  • Background information (Chapter 1);
  • Summaries of current watershed conditions (Chapter 2);
  • Watershed improvement goals and objectives (Chapter 3);
  • Strategies, actions and priority areas to improve conditions in Portland ’s watersheds (Chapter 4); and
  • A watershed management system that provides the organizational structure to implement actions and measure progress (Chapter 5).

Improving watershed conditions depends on citywide collaboration. No single effort can restore watershed health. With a firm commitment to work together and to systematically track progress, the Portland Watershed Management Plan will bring clarity, security and connections to the process of improving watershed health in Portland. 

Download the entire document - Portland Watershed Management Plan.


Resolution No. 36384, adopted by City Council March 6, 2006.

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