Energy Adviser: Digging in to create healthy waterways



The Clark Public Utilities StreamTeam, is celebrating 25 years of work to bring salmon back to Salmon Creek. And for the past 11 years, community member Sonya Norton has volunteered time as a Stream Steward, tree-planting leader and volunteer educator. “Because of my background in social work, I often headed up groups of kids planting trees,” Norton said. “They always had a lot of fun and were proud of their work. And now I spend a lot of time at events doing education and outreach to support StreamTeam because people of all ages can do volunteer work that really matters.”

StreamTeam started as a Clark Public Utilities volunteer endeavor in 1992, removing invasive non-native weeds such as blackberry, and planting trees to help restore the salmon habitat and water quality in the Salmon Creek Watershed. Today StreamTeam works with six AmeriCorps volunteers each year and hundreds of community volunteers.

Ashley King, who is the StreamTeam program coordinator for Clark Public Utilities, started in 2011 as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Every year, the StreamTeam and its volunteers plant about 50,000 trees native to the northwest in the areas surrounding Salmon Creek.

Norton calls her tree-planting efforts a “boots-in-the-mud and hands-on-the-shovel” job. That’s something far different than her past volunteer work on environmental policy.

This month Norton and other volunteer planters will grab shovels, dig holes, and plant nearly 1,000 trees, mainly in the north county area. On Oct. 28, hundreds of volunteers will join a national celebration of “Make a Difference Day” with a large-scale tree planting. It’s also the kick-off for StreamTeam’s 25th anniversary.

“We’ve made it fun with live music, giveaways, free food, and a volunteer of the year award,” King said. “Plus, starting with this event through Earth Day 2018, any volunteer who attends five planting events will receive a 25 Trees for 25 Years gift!”

After the kick-off event, volunteers will go on to plant an equal number during three November plantings. Earlier this month, King said her group trained leaders to help teach volunteers how to plant trees for the fall season. She expects about 20 or 30 people to show up on each Saturday to plant about 1,000 trees.

For Norton, her work with StreamTeam is a way to give back to the community and do volunteer work that’s meaningful and lasting. Besides planting trees, her StreamTeam resume includes marking invasive plants for removal, monitoring water quality, and potting and repotting willow slips. She’s also prepared educational displays for events, judged the annual “watersheds reflections” student art competition, and represented StreamTeam at the Clark County Fair and other community events.

“For many years, I also taught the water component for Clark Public Utilities’ student tours,” she said. “It’s a good fit — and easier on my knees than planting trees.” Norton enjoys working with the kids, especially as they crowd the stream simulation table working together on a problem, like creating habits with trees and rocks for salmon to hide in a stream. With hands-on activities, they learn the value of the work StreamTeam does year-round to help bring salmon back to Salmon Creek.

StreamTeam events are open to the public and volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome. Volunteers for the Make a Difference Day planting event Oct. 28 in Battle Ground are provided lunch and all tools and trees needed — but space is limited and registration is required. Information and ways to sign up can be found at

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.