Residents that grew up in Milwaukie remember Kellogg Lake as a place they used to swim in in the summer and ice skate on in the winter, but much like our Willamette River over the years it has been used as a dumping ground for crap.
The decline of Kellogg Lake began in the 1940’s and was the result of several inter-related factors. Firstly, as the Lake’s long-time neighbors and admirers grew into adults, got jobs in Portland, became married and had children of their own, they were slowly drawn away from the Lake.
Additionally, World War II spurred a shift in the physical and cultural shape of Milwaukie. Wartime housing, like Kellogg Park, sprang up at unprecedented rates, bringing new residents and significantly altering local land-use. OR 99 E, otherwise known as the “Super Highway” was built in the late 30’s, which moved traffic by Kellogg Lake more quickly than ever before. As these activities changed the character of Milwaukie, their effects were in turn, reflected in Kellogg Lake. -taken from Oral History
Kellogg Lake starts as Mt. Scott creek (which winds around Clackamas Town Center, through Three Creeks and North Clackamas Park) and Kellogg Creek (springing from wetlands, flowing through I-205, and through Johnson City.) 27 miles of creeks go into the ‘lake.’ 160 years ago a dam was put up for the Mill that existed there, built by one of our city founders, Joseph Kellogg. (Kellogg Lake has transitioned through many phases. Documented accounts of the early settlement of Milwaukie outline its contribution to industry. Specifically, the power it provided to the Standard Mill led to the invention of pure white flour which helped feed the California Gold Rush, while the space at Kellogg’s confluence with the Willamette acted as a staging ground for the logging industry.) It was named Cold Creek by the Indians, and after buying the land and renaming it he proceeded to build a flour mill on the property. In 1903 it collapsed into the Willamette River. The dam was replaced several times (at the time it provided power to the mill, but now has no functional use) as the residents of Milwaukie enjoyed having a lake in town. Unfortunately, salmon can’t actually use the ladder the accompanies the dam, it only becomes functional for them IF it is flooding AND the salmon are running.
For far too long the run-off from the surrounding farms landed in the lake, which now has caused DDT to settle at the bottom.
“Technically speaking, Kellogg Lake is a man-made “impoundment” with a surface area of about 14 acres. Originally, Kellogg Creek was dammed to power the Standard Mill in 1858 and it served as a mill pond for about three decades. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers (2002), the original stream channel has become masked deep within the lakebed by about 17,500 cubic yards of sediment that is contaminated above legal standards set by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for both DDT and Chlordane. It has experienced frequent sewer overflows and is the recipient of a significant amount of stormwater runoff from surrounding residential properties, Lake Rd, and McLoughlin Blvd. These factors contribute to its placement on the DEQ’s “d” list (DEQ, 2004/2006), which is the lowest categorization for water quality, due to e coli violations.” -taken from Oral History
In the 2011 City of Milwaukie Water Quality Report it states that; “Our monitoring of water quality reaches far beyond our own wells. The industrial areas of Milwaukie have been the scene of historically poor disposal methods of industrial wastes. Several sites are under investigation by Oregon DEQ and are being cleaned up or monitoring wells that are actively sampled and all information about the types and levels of contaminants are compiled by independent contractors.”
Sound familiar? Recently the Willamette Week reported on the disgusting-ness of the bottom of the Willamette River, stating, “Its sediments are stained with decades of toxic pollution, coating the river bottom with chemicals, metals and tar so potent the U.S. government is demanding it be cleaned up.” As well as who is to blame and on the hook to pay for the clean-up. Our Kellogg dam creates a wall causing sediment to build. The lake is 2″-2′ deep, a majority of it being silt that holds toxic chemicals.
Local filmmaker Gregory Bowman has teamed up with local photographer Mark Gamba to draw more attention to the cause having started work on a documentary about the dam. “Think about it, we have light rail that is coming right through here, who wouldn’t want to take the light rail out here from North Portland, walk across the pedestrian bridge over Kellogg Lake and watch the salmon run and then grab a beer in Milwaukie?”
Three creeks uses trees as straws to draw toxins out of the river. The light rail project is putting a 6 inch layer of rock in the Willamette to tamp down the silt. There currently are a lot of unproven and experimental ways to remove DDT – the most common would be to drain the lake, then de-dam it.
The city has money to set aside from a grant to remove the dam, but navigating the said grant is tricky, it having some strings attached, and it doesn’t necessarily account for the clean-up cost of the silt. It’s also a tough sell to residents that would prefer sidewalks over dam removal. “It’s a quality of life issue” says Gregory Baartz-Bowman. “We drink Kellogg Creek in the sense that we have 11 wells in Milwaukie – that water comes from the Kellogg Creek watershed. The Troutdale aquaphor runs 200 feet below us, running from the Gorge to the Willamette, Milwaukie residents being on the southern edge. “Milwaukie has a terribly impacted watershed.”
Then you have the plastic. The breakdown of plastics are getting smaller and smaller, and are getting ingested by fish. “Every human has about a pound of plastic in their body – mostly from fish and animals.”
The ten years of work spent on Three Creeks has been in preparation for the dam to come down. Big trees offer protection. Unfortunately, the Mt. Scott creek next to Sunnybrook has no trees to slow the water down. Trees prevent run-off and a shield for pesticides and garbage. Salmon are a indicator of a good watershed, and salmon will not survive in a degradated watershed. Salmon need clean, cold water to flourish and creekside habitat to survive. If you have abundent salmon in your watershed, you’ve got clean, cold water at the tap. No salmon means something is horribly wrong. (According to hydraulic analysis conduced by the US Army Corps of Engineers in February, 2002, fish passage through the Kellogg Dam is characterized as “good” only 3% of the time during winter months and less than 2% of the time during summer months.) Want to nerd out on this? Click for more info here:
“You don’t have to be a genius – if you are willing to engage you can change the world.” -Mark Gamba
For more information on the dam removal visit the city’s website at: http://www.ci.milwaukie.or.us/communitydevelopment/kellogg-coho-initiative
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