Energy Adviser: StreamTeam celebrates Earth Day

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Get ready to dig in and get your hands dirty! This Saturday the Clark Public Utilities’ StreamTeam hosts the county’s largest and longest-running Earth Day event.

In addition to bringing hundreds of volunteers together to plant trees, the StreamTeam is hosting a free family EcoFair that’s open to the public. Produced in partnership with Clark County, the EcoFair features local environmental groups, entertainment for kids with OMSI, Radio Disney Team Green and Portland Audubon, nature walks, plant give-aways and wildlife shows, all to celebrate Earth Day. The EcoFair is near Klineline Pond from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 19, and all are welcome.

For more information

To find out more about the program, to become a StreamTeam volunteer or to find out about Stream Steward classes, call Ashley King, StreamTeam coordinator, at 360-992-8585 or visit its website. Participants from all StreamTeam programs will also be available at the EcoFair on Saturday and again next weekend at the Clark Public Utilities Home & Garden Idea Fair to answer questions.

Earth Day is a great time to get started on giving back, but the work continues year-round. The utility’s StreamTeam plants tens of thousands of tree seedlings along waterways primarily in the Salmon Creek watershed every year, roughly 40,000 to 70,000 trees.

Working in the Salmon Creek watershed since 1992, StreamTeam was started when utility commissioners approved efforts to restore salmon habitat and improve water quality along Salmon Creek and its tributaries. It’s part of the utility’s ongoing efforts to protect natural resources and give back to the community it serves.

Today, the StreamTeam organizes hundreds of volunteers who together donate more than 3,000 hours of service annually to plant trees, maintain and monitor restoration projects, and identify and eradicate invasive non-native plants like Japanese knotweed. The program often works with private landowners in the Salmon Creek watershed to restore habitat on their property, usually at no cost, said Jeff Wittler, environmental services manager for Clark Public Utilities.

He explained that “people sometimes don’t believe that we can do this without charging them. Our view is that when landowners volunteer their property for projects to improve water quality it is also a benefit to the general public. The state of Washington supports that through grants that fund the program.”

Partners include AmeriCorps, the state Department of Natural Resources and Department of Ecology, the Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group, Washington Service Corps, Salmon Creek Watershed Council, NW Wild Fish Rescue, Clark County Vegetation Management, and Clark County Environmental Services.

In the spring, StreamTeam volunteers pot small tree seedlings and live stakes at the utility’s native plant nursery in Orchards — the largest native plant nursery in the county. The potted plants are then used in the program’s stream restoration plantings the following winter.

To help foster leadership in the community, the utility also provides a Stream Stewards educational program designed to teach the fundamentals of local ecology and natural history to interested volunteers. Education topics include Pacific salmon, birds and mammals, macro invertebrates, hydrology, wetland and riparian habitat and plants and water quality. Graduates then donate 45 volunteer hours, helping with local salmon preservation efforts. Classes are offered once a year in the fall and participation is limited. Applications for this year are due in early September and classes begin at the end of that month.

Energy Adviseris written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.