Tag Archives: NaturalAreas

What Kinds of Frogs & Amphibians do You Have in Your Local Pond or Wetland?

20150211scp Have You Seen This Frog, MolallaPioneer article by Peggy SavageIn a project coordinated by Molalla River Watch and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), volunteers are surveying amphibian egg mass surveys in Clackamas County. So, if you have a pond or wetlands on your property, or know of a place and want to find out what lives there, help the experts know where to look.

You may even have Western Pond Turtles. Yet another reason to protect our streams, and manage our wastewater.

Details and contacts in this Molalla Pioneer article by Peggy Savage. See also this Press Release from Molalla River Watch, Inc.

February 4: Planning Commission to Consider Proposal to Increase Density for a 5-acre Parcel (P44-2014, at 1118 Toliver Rd.)

20150201cpy.. 1118 Toliver cropped taxmapThe Molalla Planning Commission meets at 6:30PM, on Wednesday February 4th, at City Hall. At this meeting, they will again hear a proposal that was tabled in early January, on a proposal to rezone a parcel in northwest Molalla, to allow high-density residential development.

The site is a single-family residential property measuring nearly six acres total. The property is roughly triangular. A long curve of the abandoned Molalla Forest Road is to the southwest, the Elementary School is to the east, and Toliver Road is to the north.

The development proposal is being handled by Frank Walker, for the Donald Itschner family estate. The site is relatively level, with a small yard and garden area near the house and shop building. Roughly half of the property is in mature deciduous forest. It is adjacent to a school, a ballfield, and an abandoned corridor (the historic Molalla Forest Road). There is a small creek running through the center of the property. As is typical of the area, there are wetlands with soils that are seasonally saturated with water.20150201scp.. 1118 Toliver Molalla, Google Map with outline of entire propertyAs shown on the Google satellite image below, the property (orange ellipse) is one of the only natural and forested areas within walking distance of hundreds of densely packed homes to the north (large area outlined in red). There are no parks serving this large subdivision area.20150201scp.. Google Map with markups for 1118 Toliver, large area view Here are three close-up satellite views, from Google Maps. The first shows the home/garden in the northern portion of the property. The second shows most of the southern portion of the property. The third shows the western half of the apartment complex to the north, in the middle of the large Molalla subdivision area; this is what high density development would look like, if the City approves the zoning change.:20150201scp.. 1118 Toliver Molalla, Google Map of northern portion of property20150201scp.. 1118 Toliver Molalla, Google Map of middle portion of property20150201scp.. Meadow Drive Apts Molalla, Google Map of western portion of property

A Better Plan

The location and natural qualities of this property make it an absolute no-brainer for the City of Molalla. We need to develop this property as a valuable asset for this area: a corridor trail to serve the community with parks, recreation, and wildlife habitat. City of Molalla should work toward acquiring most or all of this property. Generous grants are available (from both state and federal sources), but the City needs to provide the see money for those grants. Thus, the City should NOT be granting property tax emptions, as the City Council did on January 28th for ‘Pacific Fibre Products, Inc.’.

The City’s goals should be to:

  1. preserve the forest area as a refreshing wildlife habitat and nature-viewing area;
  2. develop picnic and play facilities on the non-forested southern portion of the parcel;
  3. make minimal improvements to the Molalla Forest Road between Highway 213 and Highway 211, as a bicycle and pedestrian corridor, to accommodate the recreational needs of area residents;
  4. over time, pursue expansion of this bicycle and pedestrian corridor, using the historic Molalla Forest Road, all the way to the Molalla River Recreation Area.

See also:

January 2015: A ‘Letter to Editor’ to Molalla Pioneer, regarding MPC Hearing & Wetlands Near Toliver Road

…the following is Susan Hansen’s Letter to the Editor, sent to the Molalla Pioneer…

Molalla’s usual haphazard planning, putting developers’ demands above sound and orderly planning and zoning, is on display with the proposal to re-zone a Toliver Road parcel from single family to multi-family.

City Manager Huff claims that Molalla needs more multi-family. If that is true, why did Huff advocate to re-zone a big chunk of land in Big Meadow from multi-family to single family this summer? In sound urban planning, multi-family is integrated into residential areas so traffic filters out onto multiple neighborhood feeder roads. The property on Toliver would dump multi-family traffic onto already busy Toliver, right next to the Grade School.

The Toliver property hosts wetlands outlined on Molalla’s official Wetland Inventory (BC-6A). Before any development can occur, a property owner must hire wetlands experts to produce a wetland delineation report and submit it to the Division of State Lands. How can Molalla’s Planning Commission make an informed decision about re-zoning to multi-family before that required study is submitted and approved? No one knows how much of the subject property could actually be developed and what constrictions will be imposed because of the wetlands.

The subject property’s wetlands are part of a 10 acre Toliver Road to Main Street wetlands complex that feed Bear Creek. The Inventory notes the wetlands have high enhancement potential, provide wildlife habitat and have potential for educational use and recreational activities. The wetlands feature a mature forest of Oregon white oak and ash. A segment of the Forest Road runs though these wetlands and the area would make a fantastic park for the woefully underserved west side of Molalla.

Molalla’s Comp Plan Goal 5 (pages 16-17 “Water Resources”) states: “Maintain natural wildlife corridors along protected creeks and drainage ways; Give priority to preservation of contiguous parts of that network which will serve as natural corridors throughout the city for the protection of watersheds and wildlife; Conserve significant trees and vegetation within protected water resource areas…”

Will Molalla respect the value of the wetlands by following its Water Resources mandate and step up to provide quality of life enhancing parks? Or will Molalla’s unthinking, greedy march to stuff in ill planned development continue unabated?

A hearing on Feb. 4 will consider what path to take; citizen input is critical.

Thank you, Molalla Pioneer, for printing this letter in the 1/28/2015 print edition.

A Bear Creek Photograph: Low Water, Early Fall

Less than ten years ago, the wastewater produced in Molalla was pumped straight into Bear Creek, near Highway 213. It then flowed west past Dryland Road, Highway 170, Barlow Road and eventually joined the Pudding River south of Aurora.  Nobody knows what toxins and other hazards were deposited in Bear Creek during the sewage decades. Here is a picture from downstream, in one area where Nature appears to be doing well. This picture is looking east, just upstream from Dryland Road.

Bear Creek, just E of Dryland Road, view upstream

If you have a Bear Creek photograph for us to post at this website, please attach it with an email to: Admin@bearcreekrecovery.org

E. coli Risk Reported Downstream of the Silverton Sewage Treatment Plant

…this news story indicates that the risk of E. coli is becoming common in many places in Oregon, not just in Creamery Creek…


20140916.. Silverton map showing E.coli impact area downstream from STPAnother Oregon incidence of elevated E.coli readings, this time just west of Silverton. The readings were in Silver Creek,  which flows from east to west.

Here is a copy of a Statesman Journal article by Joce DeWitt:

High levels of E. coli discovered near Silverton wastewater treatment plant

Silverton city officials advised people to avoid contact with a portion of Silver Creek due to a high concentration of E. Coli discovered downstream from a wastewater treatment plant.

Fishing and swimming in the creek should be avoided until bacteria levels return to normal, the city said in a press release.

The presence of E. coli bacteria indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal waste. Contact with the waste could cause symptoms like diarrhea, cramps, nausea and headaches. It could be particularly risky for infants, children and some elderly people, as well as those with compromised immune symptoms.

The wastewater treatment plant is at 400 Schemmel Lane to the south of Silverton High School’s Pine Street campus.

Swimming areas north of the treatment plant are not affected.

January 24, 2014: Letter to the Editor

The following is Bear Creek Recovery’s Letter to the Editor, as published in the Molalla Pioneer…


Molalla and the Clean Water Act: Why We Care

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. “ – Loran Eisely, The Immense Journey

As you travel around the Molalla countryside, have you noticed all the “magic waters” that gather and flow? Our hills and dales are filled with springs, vernal pools, wetlands, creeks and one amazing wild and scenic river. Some of our watersheds feed the Molalla River; many others flow west to join the Pudding River. Some water emerges and then seeps below ground to recharge our wells. All our gathering waters finally join the Willamette and the Columbia. Along the way – from the tiniest springs and seasonal pools to the mighty Columbia – wildlife, domestic animals and humans depend on clean water to survive.

Last spring, a group of local people gathered to discuss concerns about Molalla area watersheds. A non-profit called Bear Creek Recovery (BCR) was formed. Bear Creek was chosen as a symbol of a local watershed in need of mitigation and protection. BCR’s goals include working to educate the public about Bear Creek and its adjoining watersheds and wetlands.

BCR has learned a great deal about the functions of local watersheds and identified threats to our fragile wetland environments. We have focused on Molalla’s wastewater treatment plant, because the City discharges treated effluent into the Molalla River while it also, during the dry months, applies tens of millions of gallons of wastewater to areas of the Bear Creek Watershed. What we learned is that the City is falling behind on the most basic upkeep and maintenance causing major problems for our watersheds. For years, the City has been using illegal disposal sites. For its part, DEQ has looked the other way and has never once enforced the permit against the City.

Molalla’s violations revolve around inflow and infiltration of groundwater into the old sewers (I&I), lack of adequate recycled water application sites, sewage sludge accumulation and ponding, run-off and creek re-charge from over-irrigating with recycled water

A recent report from DEQ indicates that an estimated 500,000 gallons per day of groundwater and stormwater are entering its sewage system, which overwhelms the treatment plant. The City’s I&I problems has been known for years, yet DEQ continues to allow the City to delay taking significant steps to fix the failing sewer pipes. DEQ now proposes to amend the City’s permit without requiring the most basic maintenance of the City’s system.

Here is what Molalla’s former Director of Public Works, Dean Madison, stated in a memo to DEQ in 1997: “Molalla has major I&I problems…flows up to 100 times normally acceptable levels…the entire older system has high I&I throughout.” Seventeen years later, no aggressive action has been taken to solve the I&I problems. DEQ should ensure that the City actually begins resolving the I&I issue under its new permit, but, based on the draft permit, this is not likely to happen.

What is DEQ’s answer? It proposes to rubber stamp the illegal disposal sites that Molalla has been using for years. That’s like punishing your child by patting him on the back and saying, “nice job, son.” Even with multiple unpermitted sites in use in the past, Molalla caused overspray, ponding, run-off and re-charge of Bear Creek; at times the city disposed of recycled water in the Molalla River during summer and fall. With DEQ unwilling to police the City, violations will likely continue.

Another major problem is that once water is separated and processed to be recycled, the City is left with sewer sludge (biosolids), which fills up its lagoons. This build-up of sludge has contributed to the City’s need to violate its permit in the past to avoid lagoon overflow and failure. The City needs to clean out its system, dispose of the sludge properly, and get back on track.

Water may seem “magic” but there is no alchemy that can solve the many water quality problems we observe in Molalla. It will take education, cooperation and, ultimately, major changes to Molalla’s practices to meet compliance with the Clean Water Act. BCR’s 60 day notice is an invitation for all local stakeholders – urban and rural – to work together immediately to find solutions for Molalla’s recycled water, I&I and biosolids violations. This is the least that we should expect from the City as a good neighbor in our small community.

Ignoring water quality problems for decades causes them to be more difficult and expensive to solve. Molalla’s ability to thrive and grow will depend on its willingness to finally meet these challenges head on. Bear Creek Recovery encourages everyone to help with our mission to honor, protect and enhance the fantastic water resources we share in this amazing place we all call home.

June 2013: A News Article about ‘Shorty’s Pond’

A good place to explore the upper reaches of Bear Creek is at City of Molalla’s Ivor Davies Nature Park. It’s basically a large flat area with a high water table, with a few trails and some added plants. Nothing awe-inspiring, but nonetheless a good place to get outside and walk the dog or take a jog or stroll.

(click on image to view area at Google maps)

(click on image to view area at Google maps)

Perhaps the most prominent feature of this park is a large and somewhat muddy feature that dries up in the hottest summers, called ‘Shorty’s Pond’ (orange circle, above). Here is a copy of a news article done by Henry Miller at the Statesman Journal:20130605.. Shorty's Pond article, by H.Miller at StatesmanJournal, p120130605.. Shorty's Pond article, by H.Miller at StatesmanJournal, p2


See also:

April 2007: Signed Consent Decree resolving Molalla Irrigation v. City of Molalla

The image below is page one of the 19-page Final Consent Decree, in which City of Molalla paid fines and agreed to comply with specific monitoring requirements. The city also agreed to be transparent with data for a two year period, by regularly posting data online. Click on this [LINK] to open or download a PDF copy of the complete document….
20070411.. Consent Decree settling Molalla Irrigation et al v. CIty of Molalla (pg.1 pic)