December 2, 2015 — Today, the Willamette River Report Card was released by the Meyer Memorial Trust’s Willamette River Initiative, who gave the river an overall passing grade of B- and section grades of B for the upper Willamette (Eugene to Albany), B for the middle Willamette (Albany to Newberg), and C+ for the lower Willamette (Newberg to the Columbia River). The report card was created to establish a baseline for Willamette River health by which progress could be measured in the future and to explain how community actions and individual choices impact river health.
The health of the Willamette River first came to public attention 50 years ago, when cities and factories were dumping untreated waste and industrial pollution into the river. In the 1960s, former Governor Tom McCall championed a series of initiatives to clean up the Willamette River from municipal and industrial pollution. Landowners, business, and communities have also done amazing work to restore floodplains and reduce other sources of pollution in the last 50 years, but as more people come, more work is needed to improve the “grade”.
The river was evaluated on of river health:
- Water quality, which includes river water temperature and the level and health risk of toxics;
- Fish and wildlife, based on the status of bald eagles, juvenile Chinook salmon and other native fish species;
- Habitat, based on two important river features: intact floodplain forest and complex and changing river channels;
- Flow, the measure of how much water is flowing through the river compared to historical flows; and
- People and the river, including fish consumption advisories, the health of Tribal fisheries, the presence of fecal bacteria and the occurrence of harmful algal blooms.
Now is the time for action to address today’s challenges and secure a healthy future for the river.
The Willamette River Initiative invites you to join in the effort to make the river an even safer, cleaner place by volunteering and encouraging your family, friends and neighbors to join us. You can also lessen your impact on the Willamette River with a few simple behaviors, including reducing the amount of chemicals used at home, choosing non-toxic lawn and garden care products, disposing of hazardous products properly, planting gardens to capture rainwater, and ensuring that pet waste is picked up and thrown away.