Audit flags problems with Portland’s environmental agency

December 4, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A new audit finds problems with how the City of Portland is managing environmental restoration projects and “green streets” designed to control stormwater.

OPB reports that the Bureau of Environmental Services is spending millions on projects aimed at improving water quality, restoring wildlife habitat and preventing flooding, but auditors with the City of Portland found the bureau often can’t prove those projects are meeting their goals.

This year, the bureau invested $13 million in restoration projects and green streets. Auditors say the agency needs a better system for measuring the benefits of those investments.

“The Bureau cannot report on overall progress because there is no inventory of restoration projects on which to base reporting, none of the projects we reviewed had quantifiable goals, and there are no protocols for consistent monitoring or data collection,” the audit states.

Kaitlin Lovell, science integration division manager for the Bureau of Environmental Services, said the bureau has plenty of evidence that its restoration projects have been successful.

“We know they have been effective by having salmon swimming in urban streams and by having a swimmable Willamette River,” she said.“What they’re asking us to do is to be more quantifiable - to really demonstrate we are getting a return on our investment in a much more tangible way, and we think we can do that.”

Lovell said the bureau agrees with the audit’s conclusions and plans to collect more data at the beginning of its restoration projects to help measure the benefits over time.

The city’s “green streets” use plants alongside roads to absorb stormwater and prevent sewer backups and overflows. But auditors found the bureau doesn’t have a way of determining where they’re most needed or how well they’re working. Plus, it’s failing to inspect and maintain them.

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