Arrr: Pirates be roamin’ Columbia Sough

If you encounter city officials talking like pirates, it must be time for the annual ‘Aquifer Adventure’ in the Columbia Slough …

It’s a damp day at the Aquifer Adventure, held in the east edge of the Wilkes neighborhood; but that doesn’t stop some hearty families from participating in the annual swashbuckling adventure.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The topic of the day was “water” – but staffers from the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) and Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) were expecting to be focused on water underground, not coming from the sky during the “Aquifer Adventure” on Saturday, September 17.

Held at a well field, near the outer East Portland boat launch on the Columbia Slough off NE Airport Way, the annual fun was soaked by the clouds that opened up several times during the day.

Standing under cover are PWB Groundwater Protection Program Manager Doug Wise; PWB Public Information Officer Jaymee Cuti; CSWC Events & Outreach Director Karen Carrillo; and PWB Water Efficiency Coordinator Assistant Nick Tiffer – each taking turns teaching about the prudent use of drinking water.

“This is our big annual community pirate-themed festival,” beamed CSWC Events & Outreach Director Karen Carrillo.

“This is a wonderful partnership between the Portland Water Bureau and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council – where we educate the public about the importance of our groundwater,” Carrillo told East Portland News, as she fought off water falling from the clouds overhead.

Helping kids get into the spirit of the event, Central Catholic High School junior Emma Dyer paints faces.

In addition to teaching about the underground aquifers in the area, Carrillo said part of their message is to help “keep it clean”.

“We help people to learn about groundwater protection,” Carrillo explained. “This means, don’t put anything down the storm drain that could be hazardous to our drinking water; and, reduce your pesticide use and make sure that you’re using organic fertilizers.”

While having your recreation in the slough, she added, “Be a good community steward, and don’t leave any debris behind when you’re visiting here.”

Portland Water Bureau Director Mike Stuhr spends a moment with the Bureau’s Education Program Manager Briggy Thomas.

Visitors were encouraged, by educators dressed as pirates, to visit the many booths, mostly under canopies, to learn how groundwater systems work…why to conserve water…and ways to have fun in and along the Columbia Slough.

When kids visited each booth, they earned a Pirate Bead; a sufficient collection of beads entitled them to prizes.

The area, officially called the Columbia South Shore Well Field, is an important source of Portland’s drinking water, reminded PWB Groundwater Protection Program Manager Doug Wise.

“This well field can ‘stand in’ for the Bull Run Reservoir when it is unavailable, such as during hot, dry summers,” Wise said.

PWB Resource Protection Educator Ben Beal teaches visitors about the aquifer.

“And, because Bull Run system is unfiltered, if we get a big storm and a lot of dirt washes into the reservoirs, we have to let the turbidity settle out naturally – and we use these wells to provide water for our city when that occurs,” Wise pointed out.

“They also help us to accommodate population growth, and the reduce the uncertainty that comes along with climate change, in the future,” Wise concluded.

Even in the pouring rain, some hearty visitors take a guided canoe paddle in the Columbia Slough, led by a “real” pirate captain.

Both on land, and while gliding through the slough, visitors learned about Portland’s secondary drinking water supply – and had fun in the process – at this year’s Aquifer Adventure.

Learn more about the Columbia South Shore Well Field at their official webpage: CLICK HERE.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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