Drainage Inventory starts September 20th

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On September 20th, the technical contractor, ESA, will have a field team in the area working on a drainage inventory. Work will continue through September 28th. This work is expected to help the agricultural community and Drainage District 10 in a number of ways, including:

  • Providing a more comprehensive understanding of how the drainage system (not just the parts owned by the drainage district) works;
  • Providing information that can help with planning of future maintenance activities and that could help fill out permits (though we will not provide permit-level survey data);
  • Will make recommendations for needed maintenance activities; and
  • Will provide a baseline for existing conditions so that the County’s proposed project and other future planning and project efforts can be appropriately evaluated for their impacts or improvements to drainage.

We will be reaching out to landowners in advance of this work to discuss any questions you might have and in some cases, request your permission to access the drainage ditches adjacent to your property.

A preliminary report will be made available in late Fall.

For more information, see: Drainage Inventory Information Sheet

Some of the information collected includes:

  • Channel locations (tracked with GPS)
  • Locations of road crossings, culverts, junctions of ditches, etc (tracked with GPS)
  • Channel size (width, depth, depth of water, depth of sediment)
  • Channel condition
  • Channel substrate
  • Type and density of vegetation (both in the channel and adjacent to the channel)
  • Culvert size and condition
  • Photographs of channels at each measuring point

Drainage work begins on Clear Creek

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August 11 visit 2

This week, the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crew members and local volunteers have begun work on Clear Creek along Pioneer Way, starting at 52nd street near Chief Leschi school. They will be working for approximately 12 days (Mondays-Thursdays) in August, including the weeks of August 8th and 15th. Their work is focusing on reed canarygrass removal to improve the flow and capacity of the creek/drainage ditch. Drainage District 10 Commissioners are coordinating with the crew to plan for longer term maintenance of the creek and are considering multiple options for long term solutions for invasive reed canarygrass.

The Farming in the Floodplain Project is able to provide funding for the WCC work through the Puyallup Floodplain Reconnections grant through the Department of Ecology’s Floodplains by Design program. We are excited to be able to support on-the-ground work towards the ongoing agricultural viability of this area. We continue to seek ways to work collaboratively with other stakeholders and interests to ensure that the importance of the agricultural community is recognized and supported, and welcome input on our work.

Loren Paschich standing near one pile of removed reed canarygrass
Loren Paschich, community volunteer, standing on the trail he cleared. The pile behind him is reed canarygrass the WCC crew cleared from about a 3 x 5 foot section of ditch.

Loren Paschich has been an incredibly valuable leader in these efforts- he has assembled a team of volunteers and cleared an access path through blackberries and thick reed canarygcass along the ditch from Chief Leschi school northwest for over 1/4 mile. The volunteer team has been removing reed canary grass from the ditch from the northwest while the WCC crews work from 52nd street towards Loren’s team. Without Loren’s efforts, this work would take weeks longer and would not be nearly as effective. Please get in touch with him if you would like to help out for a day or two! 

Below are some pictures showing the ongoing work.

Comparison of conditions for Before
This picture was taken looking southwest down the creek and is a visual comparison of the work before clearing reed canarygrass began.
Looking northwest from 52nd two days work
This was taken at the culvert at 52nd, looking northwest. The cleared area took two full days of work.
The perpendicular cleared swath was their test site and represents one days work
The perpendicular cleared swath was the initial WCC test site and represents one day of work- it is approximately 30′ x 5 ‘.
Before clearing began.
two WCC crew members removing RCG
Two WCC crew members removing RCG. They estimate the channel is 3-5 feet deep.
Looking southeast
Looking southeast towards the culvert at 52nd. Two crew members removing RCG.
August 11 visit showing how thick the RCG root mass is
Indicates how thick and dense the RCG root mass is. This will be an access point for RCG removal when the crews get to this section.
Cleared by Loren and the volunteer team
Loren and his volunteer team removed reed canarygrass northwest of this section. It is less dense in this section due to shading from the trees along the creek.
Jacob Pedersen from the Executives Office removing RCG
Jacob Pedersen from the Pierce County Executive’s Office tries his hand at reed canarygrass removal.
Jordan Jobe from PCC Farmland Trust tries out the RCG rake
Jordan Jobe from PCC Farmland Trust tries out the reed canarygrass rake.

Existing Conditions Report

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We are pleased to share the first milestone in the Farming in the Floodplain Project- the Existing Conditions Report.

This report examines the current conditions that affect agriculture in the Clear Creek area and uses the context of “risk” to discuss what future actions might increase or decrease the risks that impact long-term agricultural viability.

This report is the result of many months of technical research, three Technical Advisory Group meetings (including local farmers and growers), and conversations with farmers and residents in the area. The report informs the workplan for Phase 2 (August 2016-June 2017) of the Farming in the Floodplain Project, which will explore specific risk factors in depth in order to inform recommendations on addressing risk and benefit to agriculture for projects in the area.

Download the report: Existing Conditions Report

A cover letter providing context for the ECR in relationship to the grant that funded it: Cover Letter

New web map of Clear Creek area

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Interactive web map of the Clear Creek area showing currently and recently farmed properties as well as water levels from 2009 flooding.
Interactive web map of the Clear Creek area showing currently and recently farmed properties as well as water levels from 2009 flooding.

ESA (our technical contractor) has been hard at work on a lot of research related to agricultural viability in the Clear Creek area. As we all dig into understanding what information is available, and what information we need, we’ve unearthed a ton of data.  ESA has compiled an interactive web map of relevant data from the Existing Conditions Report, allowing the user to view different layers and easily compare where current agricultural land is in relation to elevation, for example. This map will continue to be updated, and we hope it is a helpful resource for comparing the many maps that exist for the area.

Let us know if you have any ideas for additional data to add, or ways to make this map more helpful for you.

Drainage work in Clear Creek

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Invasive Species remediation and channel improvements

 Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) Crew members will be performing drainage ditch maintenance in the Clear Creek area during the month of August. They will be focusing their efforts on reed canarygrass removal in the ditch along Clear Creek on the north side of Pioneer Way.

WCC crew after their first day of work on July 28th, 2016.
WCC crew after their first day of work on July 28th, 2016.

The WCC Crew (pictured above) will be working with Drainage District 10 and community members on these efforts. This work is being funded in part by the Farming in the Floodplain Project under the Puyallup River Floodplain Reconnection grant funded by Department of Ecology’s Floodplains by Design program. This work is the result of ongoing collaborative efforts between the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Pierce County’s Surface Water Management, Pierce County’s Executive Office, PCC Farmland Trust, Drainage District 10, and the Clear Creek Farmer’s Collective.

Based on a trial on Thursday July 28, the crew estimates that this effort will take several weeks, and hopes to start work the week of August 8. Drainage District 10 will host a public meeting regarding this work later in the month, and may be seeking volunteer labor to support the WCC efforts.

For more information contact: drainage.district.10@gmail.com

Third TAG meeting report

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The third meeting of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the Farming in the Floodplain Project (FFP) was held on July 12th, 2016 at the Puyallup Library. Attendees discussed the public draft of the Existing Conditions Report and the plan for Phase 2 Scope of Work and heard an update on the Floodplains by Design 3 Grant Application. A full report of the meeting can be found here: TAG 3 Report

ESA staff presented key findings from the public draft of the Existing Conditions Report (ECR), and discussed plans for the work plan for August 2016-June 2017. Additionally, they briefly presented a fantastic web map showing much of the data relevant to agriculture in Clear Creek.

Our next TAG meeting will be in late fall/early winter and will focus on sediment issues in the Clear Creek basin.

More information about the Existing Conditions Report.

More information about the Farming in the Floodplain Project work plan for August 2016-June 2017.

More information about the web map.


Second TAG meeting Report

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The second meeting of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the Farming in the Floodplain Project (FFP) was held on June 6, 2016 at the Puyallup Library.  About 25 people participated, including Clear Creek area farmers and residents, a Drainage District 10 commissioner, Pierce County staff, Farming in the Floodplain Project staff, and regional technical experts.

Topics discussed at the meeting included flood modeling done for the proposed Clear Creek Floodplain Reconnection Project; the definition of agricultural viability; and potential work plan elements for future phases of technical work on the FFP.

Northwest Hydraulics Consultants (NHC) presented information on the Clear Creek floodplain reconnection modeling NHC performed for Pierce County Surface Water Management in 2014.  NHC’s role was to investigate the flooding impacts of the proposed Clear Creek Floodplain Reconnection Project at a feasibility level, focusing on large flood events.  Following NHC’s presentation, TAG members discussed and asked questions about the model. See our Meeting Report for a description of the presentation, model, and discussion.

Video of NHC’s presentation is available here, with the Q&A available here.

ESA staff presented a draft definition of agricultural viability.  Agricultural viability can be defined as the ability of a farmer or group of farmers to:

  • productively farm on a given piece of land or in a specific area,
  • maintain an economically viable farm business,
  • keep the land in agriculture long-term, and
  • steward the land so it will remain productive into the future.

TAG members commented that regulations, access to farmland, and affordability of farmland are important factors of agricultural viability.

ESA staff presented a list of potential future work plan elements for the FFP.  This work could be done in Phase 2 of the FFP or in the future.  The potential future work plan elements can be found in the Second TAG Meeting Report. For several meeting participants, technical work that would help Drainage District 10 was the highest priority.

Full notes from the meeting are available here: Second TAG Meeting Report

Hydraulic Model Presentation

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At our June 6th Technical Advisory Group meeting, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants presented on the model they developed for Pierce County’s Surface Water Management in 2014. Our group wanted a better understanding of how this model was developed, and wanted to know what the parameters were, and what the model can and can’t tell us about flooding and hydrology in Clear Creek. We recorded this presentation, including a lengthy Q&A for those who were not able to attend.

What to expect in July 2016

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1921 Gay Road - Clear Creek Bridge.
1921 Gay Road – Clear Creek Bridge.

The first 6 months of the Farming in the Floodplain project are all about understanding the current situation in the Clear Creek area. The project team has been diving into the available reports, maps and GIS data, and asked hundreds of questions of Pierce County, Clear Creek agricultural landowners, and other project partners. We’ve done quite a few formal and informal tours and visits in the area and are gathering information about what the agricultural community in Clear Creek looks like.  This includes understanding what agricultural activities are currently taking place, learning how flooding, regulations, drainage and the River Road levee affect agricultural landowners, and starting to get an idea of what the community needs to thrive and ensure ongoing agriculture in the area.

By the end of July, we will have finished the first phase of work, which was focused around information gathering and making sure that as many agricultural landowners were contacted and included in the conversation as was possible. We held a Technical Advisory Group meeting with area experts in agriculture, geology, fisheries, hydrology and policy, and will host another next month, and a third in early July. Our technical contractors will produce two documents towards the end of summer, and these, combined with input from the community, will shape the more intensive, focused research that takes place from August 2016-July 2017.

The first report is the Existing Conditions Report, and will describe current conditions in the area, and include an assortment of custom-made maps. The second is a Phase 2 Recommendations document, which will help the project determine what direction the research will take in the next Phase. More information about these reports is available here. Sarah Wilcox, our Landowner Engagement Consultant, will be taking these reports to the community to ensure that we get input from those who are farming in the Clear Creek area.

To learn more about the Phase 1 reports, see this write-up from Environmental Science Associates, our technical consultant.

Report from the Farm Forum: Water Rights and Irrigation

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On April 28th, the Pierce County Agricultural Program sponsored a Farm Forum on Water Rights and Irrigation. Although there was no immediate solution to water rights issues in Clear Creek, there were definitely some interesting ideas that we will be following up on. There were four speakers at the Farm Forum who each gave a presentation followed by a brief Q&A. A copy of each presentation is available on our Resources page, under Presentations.

Part of the drainage system known locally as "Nancy's Ditch".
Part of the drainage system known locally as “Nancy’s Ditch”.

Our main takeaways were that, according to the Department of Ecology, it is extremely difficult and expensive (and highly unlikely) that landowners are able to successfully obtain a new water right. The presenter, Mike Gallagher, suggests that the best option for small farmers is to either buy land with existing water rights, or, obtain a small amount of acreage, dig an exempt well, use rainwater harvesting methods, and/or use the Industrial Groundwater Exemption to irrigate. Michelle Harris, from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department informed the audience about the steps involved in drilling a new, exempt well.

Jason Hatch, from Washington Water Trust (WWT), presented on some alternatives for water resources that have worked in other areas, including Water Trusts, Water Banking, using recycled water, and establishing a special Watershed Improvement District.

Irrigation Scheduler App
Irrigation Scheduler App

The Farming in the Floodplain Project team is planning a follow-up meeting with WWT to learn more about potential options for Clear Creek. We will share anything relevant that we learn from them!

Finally, Dr. Troy Peters from WSU spoke about the science behind their Irrigation Scheduler app (for iPhone or Android, and available online). This app helps farmers and growers plan the best way to use the water that is available to them. A manual for the Irrigation Scheduler app is available here.

More complete notes are available HERE.