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2021 marks the end of Sandy River Watershed Council posted on 01/01/2022

The Sandy River Watershed Council (SRWC) – an independent nonprofit organization working to preserve and protect the Sandy River watershed since 1997 – ceased its operations last month as the board of directors announced its dissolution.

“It’s a tremendous loss and it's been very painful,” Gerald Murphy, a 46-year Mountain resident who was the vice chair of the SRWC board, told The Mountain Times. “We did everything we could, but it's just down to economics.”

In an email dated Friday, Dec. 17, the SRWC noted that staffing losses, limited funding and restricted conditions from the pandemic lead to financial difficulty. Murphy noted the organization dropped from six full time positions to 1.5 in that time, adding that they paid back grant funding and were ceasing operations as responsibly as possible.

“We’re going to just disappear by the end of the year (2021),” he said. “It’s been a real struggle.”

The SRWC has partnered with various other organizations through its history in a number of projects throughout the Sandy River watershed, including annual litter cleanup events, “Weed Smackdowns” to remove invasive species, stream restoration projects, floodplain reconnection projects and many more.

Murphy got involved with the SRWC after the 2011 flood, joining the board in 2013, and his participation with the organization lead to getting involved with other committees, including the Clackamas County Planning Commission.

“My awareness and everything I could learn about channel migration has led to my community involvement,” he said.

Murphy noted that the loss for the watershed efforts is huge and fears for when the next high-water event similar to 2011 or 1996 happens.

He did add that there are grant opportunities for other organizations to help pick up the slack, citing the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, The Freshwater Trust and the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District as a few of the groups who could fill the void.

“This is way too valuable a watershed to just let go and ignore,” Murphy said, adding another way that the SRWC contributed was that it also offered help to the City of Sandy during the process of trying to improve the city’s wastewater system.

In an email to The Mountain Times, Heather Ibsen, Public Affairs Officer for the Mount Hood National Forest, wrote, “The Sandy River and its watershed is important in sustaining populations of salmon, steelhead and other aquatic species - as well as supplying hundreds of thousands of Oregonians with clean drinking water. With about 70% of the Sandy River basin on Mt. Hood National Forest land, we’re dedicated to working with all partners interested in its restoration.”

The December email cited more than 16,000 volunteers with the organization since 2013 that made a difference to the watershed, while Murphy offered his appreciation to those involved.

“The dedication from the staff and board members has been incredible,” he said. “It hurt so much to see this go down.

"We did everything we could. We were just as shocked we had to go this direction. We thought it was the most responsible thing we could do.”

By Garth Guibord/MT

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