City official: Human toll on creek cumulative but restorable

Keizer has seen substantial development come its way over the last two decades.

Unfortunately, the growth of the city has taken a toll on the local environment.

“Keizer does not have a riparian protection ordinance and so development, removal of stream-side trees and shrubs, landscaping practices that involve the use of pesticides and fertilizers, grazing, and waterway modification all impact Claggett Creek,” said Elizabeth Sagmiller, the Environmental and Technical Division Manager for the city of Keizer.

Riparian is the land next to a watercourse. When it is mismanaged, rivers or stream, such as Claggett Creek, become unhealthy and unable to support life.

Though she doesn’t think that these things should be banned, Sagmiller does believe that management of these activities needs to happen in order to balance development and a healthy environment.

“I believe that it’s a common perception that a single activity will not impact the waterway, but we have to remember that those allowed activities are cumulative, and what seems like a harmless act may result in big consequences within that reach of the stream,” she said.

One of those consequences is the inability to support life. 

According to Sagmiller, Claggett Creek does not meet the biological criteria to support aquatic species.

The lack of specie diversity is directly linked to human activities such as the removal of shrubs and trees on the banks and the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

“(Claggett Creek) does not have enough oxygen to support spawning. It exceeds limits for pesticides and it has high levels of E.Coli, meaning it is not safe for water contact recreation,” Sagmiller said.

In addition to landscaping, a dam has been constructed across part of the creek in a residential area downstream of Claggett Creek.

“Whoever constructed this concrete structure was likely looking to make a pond of sorts in the back of their property. I don’t believe they set out to cause damage,” Sagmiller explained.

Along with decreasing the water quality, the dam can also catch debris, which can cause flooding.

However, there is some hope for the damaged waterway.

“There are pockets of the stream throughout Keizer that are in fairly good shape. You’ll find those where building isn’t appropriate due to flooding issues,” Sagmiller said.

Currently, there is no plan to restore the whole stream, but plans are in place to restore specific areas. 

“In Keizer, I think that a useful way to gauge success is to monitor the use of the site by plants and animals that didn’t utilize the area before restoration. This was the case after our restoration work at Ben Miller Family Park,” Sagmiller said.

As time goes on, the city will be able to test the progress of the stream by comparing tests on water quality from before and after restoration projects.

“Claggett Creek was once a healthy waterway that would have been a very scenic little stream. It can be again if we respect the value it brings to the community,” Sagmiller said.