March 21, 2019

Ahead of World Water Day on March 22, Roy Iwai of the Department of Community Services’ Water Quality Program shares his love of streams, the wildlife that inhabit them, and the important work of his division.

Roy Iwai of the County's Water Quality Program

Have you ever seen salmon spawn? It’s magical. I saw my first salmon spawning in 1996, when I was in my 20s. It moved me so much I began a career in water quality to help endangered salmon recover.

In the summer of 2017, Multnomah County built a huge culvert at Stark Street on Beaver Creek in Troutdale. The old culvert had failed, and salmon could hardly pass above it. The new, 40-foot-arch is made of steel with a stream running through a bed of gravel inside. Seeing it brings back the goosebumps I got when I first saw those salmon spawning in the ‘90s. If you watch the Office of Sustainability’s Stark Street time-lapse video, you’ll see why.

That fall, students in Mt. Hood Community College’s Fisheries Program spotted Chinook salmon upstream of Stark Street for the first time in decades.

The County Transportation Division is doing even more.

This summer we will replace the culvert at Cochran Road, which is the next culvert upstream of Stark Street. This one also blocks fish from moving up through it. I’m getting excited again. Beaver Creek is an urban stream, but in a good year, it can produce up to 9 percent of all  juvenile coho salmon in the Sandy River’s major tributaries. Beaver Creek produces as many fish per stream mile as the pristine forested tributaries in the upper Sandy River, according to biologists with the City of Portland’s Water Bureau. Not too shabby!

Every day is a water celebration for me, since I love streams and fish. To celebrate World Water Day, March 22, in Oregon, share your own stories about why water is important to you. Do you have a favorite memory of being on a river or lake? Share your story at