The newsletter for spring 2013 (2 MB PDF) for Sumner Association of Neighbors (SAN) in NE Portland, Oregon, is now available online!

Sumner newsletter for winter 2013 This issue was delivered over the last two weekends. Thanks to Patricia for another georgeous design and layout.

Thanks also to our many neighborhood volunteers to deliver the newsletter to your very door handle: Marcy, Janet, Cyril, Henry, Karen, Katherine, Colin, Tish, Molly, Erica, Heather, Katana, Jay, Emily, Cindy, Ronda, Jacob and Joan (the newsletter delivery ringleader)!

Items in this issue include:

  • Annual neighborhood cleanup at Helensview School on Saturday, May 11
  • SAN board elections on May 21 (and the deadline for filing by Wed, May 8
  • Top five reasons to sign up for the annual neighborhood garage sale on Saturday, June 1 (sign up free online)
  • An earthquake map as a preview for our guest speaker from the Red Cross Oregon Trail chapter about disaster preparedness at our May 21 meeting
  • Calendar of events through June, including litter patrols
  • Notes from February and March meetings
  • And much more!

But wait, there’s more! An insert (1 MB PDF) includes the following:

  • Flyer with details about the May 11 neighborhood cleanup
  • Application form to run for the SAN board, file by May 8
  • Application form to join our neighborhood garage sale on Saturday, June 1

The Oregon state geology department, formally known as DOGAMI, stocks earthquake maps for many parts of the state. The earthquake hazard map of the Mount Tabor Quadrangle includes Sumner neighborhood in NE Portland & its surrounding area.

Though the map is dated 1995, it does not include I-205, which was opened in 1976. And so this earthquake hazard map offers a glimpse into what our neighborhood looked like 35+ years ago.

Sumner neighborhood earthquake hazard map in NE Portland

Caption: Detail of a 1995 earthquake hazard map from the Oregon Dept of Geology

First the hazard details, then the historical details.

Hazard color code:
There are four shades in the map from pale yellow to deep red. They indicate relatively low hazard risk (pale yellow) to relatively high hazard risk (deep red). Most of the residential area of Sumner neighborhood is in the lowest hazard area, but some is in the next shade up. The industrial area and the north face of Rocky Butte are shown as the highest risk areas.

We’ll have another item about earthquake and neighborhood preparedness soon. In the meantime, here are a couple resources:

Historical items:
Because the map does not include I-205, it instead shows what used to be in that space. Besides the missing freeway, another important item should be noted: This area — pretty much anything east of NE 82nd Ave — was unincorporated Multnomah County until the 1980s or 1990s. With those two important changes in mind, here’s an short list of items on the map but no more:

  • Sandy Boulevard Drive In. This is shown on the north side of Sandy Blvd, where the SAN lot is now. The map even shows the placement of the screen in the NW corner of the property. A search of the Oregonian database shows that the drive-in held sunrise Easter Sunday services for about 25 years.
  • Parkrose School. The current Helensview School, located on NE 87th at NE Sumner, operated as Sumner Elementary for many years, but is shown on this map as “Parkrose School.” (Prescott Elementary, at the intersection of Prescott and 105th, retains the same name today, but the Parkrose Junior High School is shown nearby as a collection of small buildings.)
  • Sand and Gravel Pit. West of NE 82nd, the current Thomas Cully Park property is shown as a gravel pit. Local urban legend says that property was a landfill back in the day.

For comparison, here is the same area on a 1963 Texaco map. It shows Maywood Park — but not a tiny town surrounded by Portland. No. It was an actual park on the east side of NE 92nd between Sandy and Prescott. It’s now a fenced-off mound of grass owned by ODOT within the boundaries of the City of Maywood Park.

Sumner neighborhood - Retro Gas Station Map

Sumner neighborhood - Retro Gas Station Ad

Update (25 Aug 2011): Added the “Next Steps at Johnson Lake” section below. With Portland Parks, we have set a tentative date of Saturday, Oct 15, for an event at Johnson Lake for trail improvement, litter cleanup and invasives plant removal.

An hour-long discussion about Johnson Lake revealed that phase two of a cleanup is about to begin next month, after many years of research, planning and preparation.

As described in this prior post, three guest speakers were slated to attend the August 16, 2011, meeting of Sumner Association of Neighbors (SAN) in NE Portland. The guest speakers were Bob Dolphin of Owens-Illinois, Jennifer Sutter from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and Lynn Barlow of Portland Parks.

screencap of DEQ/I-O slide deck on Johnson Lake

Bob and Jennifer jointly presented a slide show (19 MB Powerpoint file) about the lake. Here is a summary of key points:

  • The glass plant opened in 1956. In 1994, DEQ began working with the city on improving the entire Columbia Slough, and Johnson Lake was found to be a particular hotspot for PCBs. PCBs, or , are carcinogens that are not soluble and do not degrade. They also accumulate in the food chain. High levels of PCBs were found in the fish in the lake.
  • Testing revealed that much of the pollution at the lake was due to an electrical substation on the Owens-Illinois glass plant property. Bob explained how oil in electrical transformers is toxic but widely used at the time (1950s until 1970s). Prior to 1976, there was no sewer. Outflow went to three settling ponds, and then overflow went into the lake.
  • An initial record of decision was reached in 2007 that would have dredged the lake, but was amended in 2009 after further testing of the lake bed revealed lower intensity but wider disbursal of PCBs.
  • In fall 2009, phase one of mitigation plan was completed. About 3,000 tons of soil was removed to build a stormwater swale to divert glass plant outflow from settling ponds. Now they have a problem with beavers chewing up the young trees in the bioswale.
  • Phase two begins in late September when a barge spreader will gently lay down a six-inch ‘thin cap’ layer of clean sand on about 90% of the lake bed. The remainder will not be capped due to concern over a specific type of mussel at the outflow point of the lake, where it meets Whitaker Slough.
  • To replace the capacity in the lake lost by thin capping, a new slough will be dug out on Owens-Illinois property near NE 92nd Drive.
  • The capping phase will take 3 months to complete. The lake is surprisingly shallow — 6 feet at its deepest. In five years, DEQ will come back to test the fish again.

Bob estimated the cost for both phases to be about $2 million, paid for entirely by Owens-Illinois.

Next Steps at Johnson Lake

With the history and cleanup status explained, talk turned to what Sumner neighborhood residents could do at Johnson Lake and the future of the park land.

Lynn Barlow explained that Parks maintain the 8.76-acre Johnson Lake property as a natural area, which means less maintainance and upkeep than a regular park. She said their eastside stewardship coordinator, Susan Hawes, schedules cleanup and invasive plan removal ‘work parties’ at other natural areas, such as Powell Butte.

SAN chair Scott Somohano expressed interest in holding stewardship events twice yearly — fall and spring — and cited the potential of partnering with O-I, Columbia Slough Watershed Council and other groups to muster funding and volunteers.

The question was raised about a possible lake loop walking trail. The entire south bank of the lake is Owens-Illinois property, as is the west half of the north bank. Unless the city somehow acquired that property (unlikely in the short or medium range), it remains private property and off limits. Bob noted, however, that O-I does not have much use for the long narrow portion of property on the north side of the lake.

Updates on other neighborhood events and projects

The SAN board had updates on a few other topics to share:

  • Sandy Blvd sidewalk project: Paul Smith of PBOT provided an update on Thursday, Aug 11. He said some research remains — presumably on right-of-way or engineering issues — but we are on track to have sidewalk for both sides of Sandy Blvd, from NE 85th to the I-205 overpass, approved and installed within the current fiscal year.
  • Halloween party: We have a new sponsor for this event, slated for Friday, October 28, at Helensview High School. Mountain Coin Machine has generously agreed to bring and set up 4 or 5 arcade games at the school for a free game room!
  • Sumner Pride litter patrol: Patrollers have collected 1,150 pounds of litter to date. SAN purchased about 100 litter pickup tools from Parkrose Hardware to give out free of charge to neighborhood residents and businesses. Our next litter patrol is Saturday, August 27, and Portland city commissioner Amanda Fritz will be joining us as a guest litter patroller. We’ll meet at the CNN office, 4415 NE 87th, at 10 AM before spreading out.

(Editor’s note: Lynn Barlow of Portland Parks and Bob Dolphin of Owens-Illinois — both members of the Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) board — plus Jennifer Sutter from DEQ, will attend our neighborhood meeting on Tuesday, August 16 to discuss Johnson Lake.)

Ever heard of Johnson Lake? A lot of newer Sumner neighborhood residents in NE Portland have not. But as the only natural area in our parkless neighborhood, it poses a real opportunity.

Arial view of Johnson Lake
Caption: Arial view of Johnson Lake (source: DEQ)

It’s easy to miss Johnson Lake. It sits directly behind the Owens-Illinois (O-I) glass factory at the northwest corner of NE Killingsworth Ave and I-205. About 3/4 of its shoreline is O-I property. The northeast lake shoreline is a Portland Parks Dept natural area, which includes a walking path.

How to get there: The easiest access point by car is at the east end of NE Colfax St in the Airport Business Park.

Ground level view of Johnson Lake
Caption: Ground level view of Johnson Lake (source: BES)

A brief overview and history
Johnson Lake is part of the Columbia Slough watershed. It feeds Whitaker Slough, which feeds into the Columbia Slough, and from there into the Columbia River.

According to its Portland Parks and Recreation page, Johnson Lake used to be a very popular place. Specifically, in the 1930s and 1940s, the lake had boat rentals, a beach house and a dance hall.

More recently, the lake has been designated as an environmental cleanup site by the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). They’ve been working with Owens-illinois, and others, to improve the lake. Sediment sampling has indicated the presence of PCBs, metals, petroleum, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the lake. PCBs have also been detected in the tissue of fish collected from the lake.

Whitaker Slough
Caption: Whitaker Slough just north of Johnson Lake (source: BES)

The lake cleanup order
A consent judgment and record of decision were reached in 2007. They amounted to a plan of action to dredge part of the lake and to confine the dredged sediment away from the lake on the O-I property.

The decision of record was amended in 2009. The new plan was based on new testing done by O-I in preparation to implement the previous consent judgment. The new tests found that hot spots of contaminants were less intense and more dispersed than shown by earlier testing. So, instead, the new plan calls for a “thin layer cap” of six inches of sand to be placed on most of the lake bed.

Some work was done by O-I with DEQ oversight last summer, but more is expected to be done late this summer and fall.

Johnson Lake natural area trail head
Caption: Johnson Lake natural area trail head at NE Colfax St (source: BES)

What Sumner neighbors can do
The June 2011 meeting of the Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) was held at the O-I ‘clubhouse’ on Johnson Lake. After the meeting. attendees strolled part of the lake and talked about its restoration. Despite the contamination — fishing and swimming are not allowed — wildlife can be seen at the lake, including beavers, hawks and herons.

In the past, Portland Parks partnered with nearby neighbors (see the Mid-County Memo article below) to make some improvements to the natural area. Trees were planted, garbage picked up, and even a few benches were sited.

Most of the property around the lake is private O-I land, so we need to partner with them, if we want to perform an ongoing role in helping to mind Johnson Lake. For example, homeless camps stacked with debris have been an intermittent issue, and cleanup might be easier for O-I with our help.

Likewise, we could do twice yearly cleanups around the lake with grant funding from the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District and the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES). CSWC, SOLV and other groups could be ready partners if we want to step up.

More background

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