Managing the Willamette
The care of the Willamette and Portland’s celebrated quality of life is a responsibility exercised by virtue of law and custom through an intricate web of agencies and organizations. Each oversees important efforts to manage water resources or river operations, or provide for citizen education and engagement. A number of these are highlighted, below.
City of Portland — River Bureaus and Programs
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Planning oversees long-range planning, including the City’s River Plan, Harbor Reinvestment Strategy and Natural Resource Inventory. BPS also integrates efforts related to energy efficiency, renewable resources, waste reduction and recycling, global warming, green building and sustainable food systems
Bureau of Environmental Services
Environmental Services is Portland’s sewer and stormwater management utility. The bureau works for clean rivers by collecting and treating sewage, expanding and maintaining Portland’s green stormwater management infrastructure, enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, and participating in the study and cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund site.
Parks & Recreation
Parks is responsible for the Portland’s renowned Park system (including its holdings along the Willamette River), urban forests, natural areas, pest management and environmental education.
Bureau of Transportation
“PBOT” manages the City’s transportation system, including designing automobile, pedestrian, and bicycle access to the waterfront.
Bureau of Development Services
Development Services promotes safety, livability and economic vitality through efficient and collaborative application of building and development codes, including those that maintain community connection to the River.
Portland Development Commission
“PDC” brings together resources to achieve Portland’s vision of a diverse, sustainable community and focuses on small business loans, affordable housing, new retail opportunities, transit-oriented development, and waterfront revitalization.
Organizations With A Special Focus on the Willamette
Regional Agencies and Organizations
Metro protects open space and parks, plans for land use and transportation, and manages garbage disposal and recycling for the three counties and 25 cities in the greater Portland region. Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods program has inventoried natural areas and has acquired lands for open space, recreation, and natural habitat along many of the region’s streams, including the Willamette.
Urban Greenspaces Institute
The Urban Greenspaces Institute works to create great cities-cities where the built and natural environments are interwoven, not set apart. We promote the integration of urban green infrastructure-parks, trails, streams and wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, urban forest canopy, and greenspaces-with the built environment.
Clean Water Services
This agency is a wastewater and stormwater public utility committed to protecting water resources in Oregon's Tualatin River Watershed.
Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership
The Partnership works to protect and restore the nationally significant lower Columbia River estuary with on-the-ground improvements and education and information programs. Its area of interest includes the Lower Willamette basin.
Port of Portland
The mission of the Port of Portland is to enhance the region's economy and quality of life by providing efficient cargo and air passenger access to national and global markets.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts
“SWCD’s” are local units of government established under state law to carry out natural resource management programs at the local level. They partner with private and public landowners to improve watershed health and land productivity.
Watershed Councils in and near Portland
Watershed councils are locally organized, voluntary, non-regulatory groups established to improve the condition of watersheds in their local area.
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
DEQ's mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon's air, land and water. The agency is overseeing the clean-up of riverside lands in the Willamette Superfund site in Portland. It also issues discharge permits for sewers and stormwater for cities up and down the Willamette, including Portland. DEQ also identifies pollution problems in the Willamette Basin and has set pollution reduction targets for multiple jurisdictions.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
ODFW’s mission is to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations. The agency tracks the populations of fish in the Portland reach of the Willamette and beyond, sets fishing regulations, monitors fish and wildlife habitat in the Portland area, and oversees the State’s Endangered Species Act.
Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development
DLCD guides land use policy to: foster livable, sustainable development; protect farm and forest lands and other natural resources; conserve coastal and ocean resources; and, improve the well-being and prosperity of Oregon. It oversees the implementation of statewide land use planning Goal 15: the Willamette Greenway.
Oregon Department of State Lands
The mission of the Department of State Lands is to ensure a legacy for Oregonians and their public schools through sound stewardship of lands, wetlands, waterways, unclaimed property, estates and the Common School Fund. DSL owns the beds and banks of most rivers in Oregon, including the Willamette, and manages activities such as gravel mining, dock construction and leasing, and wetlands protection.
Oregon Department of Transportation
ODOT is committed to the protection and preservation of Oregon’s unique environment and to the safety of its highway system. The agency coordinates environmental regulatory compliance for all transportation improvement programs in the state which use federal funds.
Oregon Economic and Community Development Department
The Economic and Community Development Department provides economic and community development and cultural enhancement throughout the state, and administers programs that assist businesses, communities and people.
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
Provides and protects outstanding natural, scenic, cultural, historic and recreational sites for the enjoyment and education of present and future generations. OPRD cares for the Willamette River Water Trail and the Willamette River Greenway.
Oregon Water Resources Department
OWRD issues and administers the rights to use water from all Oregon streams and aquifers. It acts as the State’s lead agency in formulating the annual plan for how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the system of flood control dams in the Willamette River Basin.
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
OWEB’s mission is to help create and maintain healthy watersheds and natural habitats that support thriving communities and strong economies. This agency grants funds each year to many applicants who want to improve watershed health and increase citizen understanding of watershed values.
Northwest Power Conservation Council
The Council develops and maintains a regional power plan and a fish and wildlife program to balance the Northwest's environment and energy needs. It manages a grant program that invests substantial amounts of funding in projects to improve fish and wildlife habitat.
The National Marine Fisheries Service
NMFS is dedicated to protecting and preserving the nation's living marine resources through scientific research, fisheries management, enforcement and habitat conservation. This agency is responsible for implementing the federal Endangered Species Act in regard to salmon and steelhead, including those that migrate through and live in Portland.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The United States Army Corps of Engineers provides water resource planning and engineering services, including maintaining navigation channels, building levees, and operating flood control dams. The Corps operates the 13 dam Willamette River Flood Control Project which not only limits flooding in many communities (including Portland), but also provides flows through the summer critical for managing pollution loads. It also has a program for dredging the Willamette River from its mouth to about the Broadway Bridge to maintain the federal navigation channel.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission is to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. USFWS is responsible for implementing the federal Endangered Species Act with regard to fish and wildlife other than migratory salmon, including threatened trout species, native minnows (such as the Willamette-dwelling Oregon chub), wolves, Columbian white-tailed deer, and spotted owls.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA is a federal agency to protect human health and the environment. It is responsible for managing the Willamette Superfund site process overall, including a focus on the clean-up of in-water contamination.
Other Communities Along the Willamette River
Communities up and down the length of the Willamette are redoubling their efforts to reconnect with the River. These efforts not only involve exciting economic revitalization, but also improved protection of water quality which can only benefit Portland—the most downstream of all Willamette communities. (The following are listed in rough downstream-to-upstream order.)