The East Santa Clara Waterway (in yellow at right) is over three miles long and carries water from an area of over 1,000 acres (yellow dotted line), ending at the Willamette River downstream.
The City of Eugene and Lane County are working on a pilot project for a 3/4-mile section of the East Santa Clara Waterway, starting north of Division Avenue to just east of Miles Way. This waterway section collects runoff from a 420-acre area in north Eugene. The waterway crosses through private property and is, at times, enclosed in pipes and culverts.
The City and County are hoping to engage people living along the waterway. Our goals are to help residents have a better knowledge of potential flooding issues, share current concerns, and develop a strategy for how best to manage the waterway.
Ultimately, the intent is that this project will inspire government agencies and residents to work together to allow water to flow freely through various sections of the waterway and ensure that clean water is returned to the river.
As an area like this is developed, systems are put in place to carry not only existing streamflow but also larger amounts of storm runoff from the many paved surfaces and rooftops. This stormwater system is a combination of underground pipes and open creeks that more or less follow the path of the historic waterway. The natural path of the water flows from south to north, starting near Division Avenue.
Storm runoff from about 220 acres of upstream commercial and residential property flows into the waterway at this point, just north of Division Avenue. Through the blackberries and other plants, you can see a large pipe system that was rebuilt in 2015. A water quality manhole was installed to promote clean water and alleviate maintenance and potential flooding concerns. The work allowed water to flow more freely to the north instead of staying trapped in the pipe.
Photo: Behind Edgewater Furniture store
The water travels under Lone Oak Way, where it passes through a large culvert. Due to the lack of slope and various downstream restrictions, residents have reported year-round ponded water in this area. Much of this area runs through private property and various drainage and utility easements have been established over the years.
There is a lot of brush and growth along parts of the channel. In some locations, people have filled in parts of the waterway to extend the usable portions of their backyard.
Putting dirt, lawn clippings, and other debris inside the waterway limits the amount of space for water, and increases the chances for flooding.
Photo: Hunsaker Road looking south
The waterway looks considerably different north of Hunsaker Road, where little water passes through.
Farther north from this point, the channel passes through a private culvert.
Photo: Hunsaker Road looking north
West of Salty Way, the waterway emerges from the private culvert back into a wide, open swale. Over the years, trees and other plants have started to grow in the bottom of the swale. While not an issue during the dry, summer months, they could pose a problem during wet weather by impeding flow and potentially causing flooding of adjacent properties.
In some cases, people have constructed fences and gardens in the floodplain area. These types of features limit the amount of space that’s available for water to pass through.
Development has recently occurred on both sides of the waterway east of Miles Way. This is a good example of where there may be opportunities along parts of the East Santa Clara Waterway to plant vegetation next to the waterway, improving water quality while ensuring properties are still protected from flooding.