Protecting and Restoring Our Urban Rivers

The Portland Metro Region sits at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. These rivers play a primary role in defining the ecology, culture, recreation, and economy of our region. Bald Eagles, Osprey, Peregrine Falcons and many other avian species nest along our rivers and many more avian species utilize them as migratory corridors. Every federally listed salmon and steelhead on the Willamette River System and on the Columbia River System East of Portland must pass through Portland on their journeys to and from the sea.

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Work to Protect and Restore Our Rivers

Our urban rivers suffer from more than a century of neglect and degradation. They were used to dispose of raw sewage, polluted by industrial activity, and dredged and developed with little concern for the environmental impacts. Nearly eleven miles of the Willamette River covering more than 2,000 acres in Portland are listed as a federal Superfund Site, signifying that it is among the most complex and contaminated pollution sites in the country.

Significant efforts have been made to clean up and restore our rivers over the past several decades including the $1.4 billion Portland Combined Sewer Overflow (Big Pipe) Project which significantly reduced incidents of raw sewage entering the river as well as multiple restoration efforts to create habitat for fish, birds and wildlife. However, we still have a long way to go.

One of Bird Alliance of Oregon’s top priorities is the protection and restoration of our urban rivers. We focus in several areas to accomplish this goal:

  • Cleanup of the nearly 11-mile long, 2,000-acre Portland Harbor Superfund Site
  • Protection and restoration of key natural areas along the river such as West Hayden Island, Government Island, Sauvie Island, Ross Island, Oaks Bottom, Elk Rock island and others.
  • Restoration of riverbanks and shallow water habitat for migrating fish and birds
  • Expansion of the Willamette River Greenway which  provides habitat, access and recreation along the Willamette River
  • Working to protect floodplains that provide habitat, protect water quality, and provide landscape resilience to prevent flooding
  • Long-term Planning such as the Portland Comprehensive Plan, North, Central and South Reach River Plans, Industrial Land Planning, and other processes to ensure that protecting and restoring our river is alway integrated and prioritized with other regional goals.

How You Can Help

  • Become a Bird Alliance of Oregon Activist
  • Become a river trip (canoe, bike and walking) leader