World Water Week
It’s World Water Week! The annual conference in Stockholm, Sweden began in 1991 to “develop solutions to the planet’s greatest water-related challenges, such as poverty, the climate crisis, and biodiversity loss.” Since last year, and the overwhelming impact of covid on the online community, it has become a truly worldwide event, with virtual events happening all week.
Everything we do here at Winterbrook Planning is framed within the overarching context of integrating with and conserving our natural resources. That is why we became an environmental and land use planning company. Our unique experience with both environmental and land use issues positions us to be able to take into account the needs of both the natural and built environments, crafting locally tailored solutions that help to preserve and protect natural resources.
While dealing with long-range planning and urban growth boundaries, we pioneered an approach using Oregon’s land use planning Goal 5, which inventories and proposes resource protection and mitigation measures early in the UGB evaluation process. We did extensive work in McMinnville that identified not only riparian corridors, and proposed measures to protect them, but other resources like tree groves.
McMinnville Riparian Cooridor and Tree Grove work
Winterbrook has some of the best wetland scientists in the state, and integrates wetland assessment, delineation, and protection to land use site and design solutions as part of our package of services. We even helped write the Oregon Wetland Planning guidebook, which lays out the importance of this work for healthy water systems:
Wetlands perform important functions in urban areas and are valued for the services they provide. Wetlands act as natural water purifiers by absorbing excess nutrients, bacteria, sediments, and other pollutants from water. Many wetlands can reduce the damages caused by flooding by absorbing and storing floodwater, and releasing it slowly after a storm. Some wetlands provide food or resting areas important to fish.
—Oregon Wetland Guidebook
Winterbrook Planning takes great pride in the work we do in our neck of the woods, around the Pacific Northwest, to preserve and protect water resources. Most of our environmental and land use planning work has had positive impacts on water resources. Below, we’ve put together a summary of some of projects that have had the most direct impact on our waterways:
Willamette River Combined Sewage Overflow projects: One of the most ambitious and impactful projects we’ve taken on is the CSO project in Portland. Like more than 800 cities across the country, Portland was developed with combined sewers that resulted in sewage overflows into local rivers and streams. In Portland, there were more than 50 overflows a year into the Willamette River. As part of the City’s Willamette River CSO Program spanning 20 years, the City disconnected combined sewers and dramatically improved the water quality and overall health of the river. Winterbrook provided land use and environmental planning services for most of these projects, including the Big Pipe Project, one of the largest public works projects in Oregon. Two large tunnels, one on each side of the river, intercept discharge from the combined system before it enters the river (pictured below). Winterbrook provided environmental documentation and obtained local, state and federal permits for each of the projects. Portland has been enjoying a clean and healthy river for more than a decade now.
McMinnville Natural Features Inventory, Goal 5 ESEE Analysis, Policy Recommendations, and Implementation Measures: The recommended program recognized that natural resources (riparian corridors, tree groves, scenic areas) are protected by measures designed to limit development in mapped natural hazard areas (floodplains, geological, and wildfire). The program also relied on Goal 5 safe harbor provisions to inventory and protect riparian corridors. Through this process, Winterbrook was able to identify natural resource areas outside of protected natural hazard areas and riparian corridors that require a more detailed Goal 5 ESEE (economic, social, environmental and energy) consequences analysis. Notably, the management program encourages residential density transfer from protected natural features to building land, and the replacement and construction of public facilities in areas with protected natural features.
Portland Water Bureau projects: Winterbrook has provided land use and environmental planning services for the Portland Water Bureau on major public facility projects, supporting clean and abundant drinking water for nearly 1 million local residents. These projects include Powell Butte, Kelly Butte, and Washington Park Reservoirs, Lusted Hill Corrosion Control, Sandy River Station, and Willamette River Crossing.
Winterbrook has assisted the Portland Water Bureau with updating its water infrastructure and meeting goals for clean and safe drinking water for more than 20 years. In one recent example, Winterbrook prepared the land use and environmental documentation and obtained Portland Landmarks Commission and City Council approvals for a new reservoir and the historic redevelopment of open water features in the Washington Park Reservoirs Historic District. The reservoir, now under construction, will replace reservoirs that have served the city since 1894 with a new 12.4-million gallon, seismically reinforced underground reservoir, a bioswale, lowland wildlife habitat area, and reflection pool. For the first time since the 1970s, John Charles Olmsted’s vision of publicly-accessible, open water features as a contemplative and relaxing counterpoint to the bustle of urban life will again become a reality.
Washington Park Reservoirs rendering
Smith and Bybee Wetlands: As one of its wetland conservation planning projects, Winterbrook prepared a Comprehensive Natural Resources Plan for the 2,100-acre Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area in North Portland. The plan was commissioned by Metro, the Portland-area regional government, and included a range of wetland and waterway restoration projects and public access improvements. Winterbrook assisted with the planning and design of these projects and obtained all local land use approvals.
The Dalles Periodic Review Programs: Winterbrook managed a comprehensive evaluation of scenic, cultural and natural resources in a 7,000 acre study area to determine and mitigate potential impacts from urban growth boundary expansion into the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.