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East Santa Clara Waterway Enhancement and Maintenance Study

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.

Project Goals

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.

In order to understand the water system that is in place today, it is helpful to look at the history of the East Santa Clara area. These two aerial photos show the open fields, orchards and forests of 1936 beside the mix of agricultural and residential properties of 1968.

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.

A closer look at the project’s ¾-mile section of East Santa Clara Waterway shows the system of connected pipes (light blue-green) and open waterway (dark blue) that exists today. Some of the original waterway has been channelized, and some remains in a more natural condition. The light blue overlay is the FEMA-designated 100-year floodplain. Certain City and County code requirements apply in this area.
Beneath Division Avenue, upstream from the pilot project area, a large volume of clean groundwater flows into the stormwater system throughout the year. Most of this water originates from a nearby sump pump. These photos were taken in mid-August, when a lot of water was still flowing even though little to no rain had fallen for months.
The following photos were taken to help people see and understand some of the conditions that currently exist along the waterway.

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.

Blackberries partially obscure the entrance to the three large pipes that carry water to the east.
Stormwater (when flowing) exits the pipes here – into the swale just east of Miles Way.
From the three pipes, water travels east and then cuts north (at the tree line, visible in the distance), ultimately flowing to the Willamette River.

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.

Various utility or drainage easements exist along the waterway, typically granting the City of Eugene or Lane County permission to access the waterway or other public infrastructure as needed to address potential flooding issues. One aspect of the East Santa Clara Waterway pilot project is to review existing easements.

Below is a map of current issues along this section of waterway. Both agencies are hoping that through an open dialogue and engagement, we can all work together to solve any potential problem areas — both on public and private sections of the waterway.
Lane County is in the planning stages for a redevelopment of Hunsaker Avenue, which may include lowering or replacing the current culverts and allowing water to travel to the north of the road. However, there is no timeline for construction as funding has not been secured.
Both the City and County are looking for feedback about the waterway, its impacts, and historical information. The information will be used to help determine next steps.
Created By
Jeffrey Flowers
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Credits:

City of Eugene