City of Cannon Beach

Watershed & Wetlands

What is a Watershed?

The rain that falls to the earth either runs directly into a stream or soaks into the ground. Surface and ground water flow from higher elevations to lower springs, streams, wetlands and lakes. As streams become larger on their way to the ocean, they contain more and more surface and associated ground water. The entire land area that is drained by a specific network of streams is considered a watershed. In Cannon Beach, the most significant watershed is Ecola Creek. The City also has many smaller watersheds that drain directly into the Pacific Ocean.

Our Watershed's Health Starts with You

What we do in our daily lives -- from washing a car to fertilizing the lawn to watering the garden -- can affect the health of our watershed. Water runs off our driveways and yards and flows to the nearest wetland or stream. The contaminants that the water picks up along the way affect water quality. Maybe it's a leaky oil pan in your car or a pesticide applied to a garden; if it enters a stream or wetland, it can adversely affect an entire ecosystem. Our everyday decisions about water usage also directly impact the local watershed because the City obtains our water from spring water associated with Ecola Creek, and, during the summer, from the creek itself. Understanding how our activities affect our watershed is an important start in protecting the integrity of the watershed. The quality of our watershed depends on us.

Why Should We Care about Protecting Our Streams and Wetlands?

In Cannon Beach, healthy streams are important to our quality of life. Wetlands, streams, and riparian areas (the edges of streams and rivers) play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Maintaining the health of the Ecola Creek watershed is particularly important since Ecola Creek and its main tributary, Logan Creek, support coastal coho salmon, which is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The City has developed a Response Plan to comply with ESA requirements. For information regarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Program - click here. Here are several reasons why wetlands, streams, and riparian areas are important:

Fish Habitat: Riparian vegetation is critical in regulating water temperature, which is very important to salmon because they are susceptible to elevated water temperatures. Riparian vegetation also provides food, cover from predators, and are spawning and rearing areas for salmon.

Wildlife Habitat: Wetlands, streams and riparian areas provide a diversity of habitat for many wildlife species. These areas provide wildlife with water, food and cover.

Water quality: The cleansing capabilities of wetlands are important in filtering out chemicals, such as nitrogen and phosphorus associated with fertilizers, and other water-borne pollutants. Wetlands also trap sediments from waters that pass through them. An excessive amount of sediment can damage the aquatic ecosystem and the fish habitat associated with it.

Flood control: Wetlands function as natural water storage areas during periods of flooding. This stored flood water is then released slowly downstream, minimizing the impact of the flood water on the structure of the stream.

What you can do... On the Construction Site Plan

• New construction away from streams and wetlands. Minimize paved areas.
• Keep walkways and driveways as small as possible.
• Leave as wide a vegetation buffer as possible between building and riparian areas.
• Protect and save as many native plants as possible, especially near streams and wetlands.
• Prevent sediment from entering streams and wetlands by using straw bales, bio-filter bags, silt fences and other erosion control devices.
• Keep heavy equipment away from streambanks and out of streams and wetlands.
• Communicate your intent to protect streams, wetlands and riparian areas to construction workers.

The City has regulations concerning construction activities in and adjacent to stream and wetland areas. When planning a construction project, contact the City of Cannon Beach for details so that your project is in compliance with these regulations.

What you can do Around the Home and in the Yard

• Reduce water consumption, particularly in the summer.
• Minimize the use of toxic chemicals in your home and yard.
• Sweep driveways, decks and patios instead of pressure washing or hosing them down.
• Replace your gas lawn mower with a push or electric mower.
• Drive your vehicle less to reduce automotive fluid leaks.
• Tune up your vehicle regularly to prevent leaks.
• When washing your vehicle, park it on grass instead of the street or driveway.
• Use minimal amounts of biodegradable soap and water.
• Do not remove water from a stream, or change its flow.
• Leave naturally-occurring logs, branches and rocks in streams.
• Pick up pet waste and dispose of in garbage cans.
• Keep dogs out of streams and wetlands.
• Mulch bare soil to prevent erosion; use wood chips, straw, grass clippings or leaves.
• Use ground covers to prevent erosion.
• Keep yard debris- grass clippings, leaves and compost- away from streams and wetlands.
• Do not mow the edge of a stream or wetland.
• Teach your children to be stewards of their stream.
• Teach them not to remove wildlife from nature.

What you can do... In the Garden

Gardening is generally viewed as enhancing our environment. However, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and soil erosion from gardens and landscaped areas can contaminate streams, wetlands, and groundwater. Since water quality is an important element of healthy habitat for salmon and other wildlife, it is important that our gardening practices do not contribute to water contamination. Water used in gardening is an important contributor to the overall use of water during the summer months. In the summer, the city obtains some of its water directly from Ecola Creek. Lower water levels in Ecola Creek can negatively impact stream and ecosystem health and adversely affect salmon. Limiting the amount of water used in gardening helps reduce the amount of water that the City must remove from Ecola Creek. Help keep your watershed healthy by following these tips:

• Avoid using chemical pesticides and herbicides. If you use chemical herbicides or pesticides, use sparingly and correctly.
• Ensure that the chemical is the correct choice for the problem. Call the Master Gardener Hotline with questions about weeds and pests at (503)325-8573.
• Avoid overapplication of fertilizers or manure. Established, healthy plants do not need to be fertilized every year.
• Follow product instructions carefully.
• Preserve established trees and shrubs in your yard, especially native species.
• Leave natural streamside and wetland vegetation alone.
• Plant trees, shrubs and ground covers to reduce erosion, runoff and filter pollutants.
• Plant native and other drought-tolerant plants.
• Remove non-native, invasive plants such as Himalayan Blackberries and English Ivy.
• Consider reducing the size of your lawn for reduced runoff and chemical use, particularly adjacent to streams.
• Avoid overwatering. Soaker hoses are the most efficient watering devices. A healthy lawn needs only 1 inch of water per week. Established trees and shrubs should not need watering more than once or twice per month July-September.

Native Plants

There are many native plants available that can be used to establish a beautiful, low-maintenance garden. The following are some examples that do well in our area.

Low Ground Covers Shrubs
Kinnikinnick Red Flowering Currant
Bunchberry Nootka Rose
Creeping Oregon Grape Ocean Spray
Oxalis Oregon Grape
Sweet Woodruff Salal
  Spirea
Trees Pacific Ninebark
Sitka Salmonberry
Spruce Thimbleberry
Western Red Cedar Snowberry
Vine Maple Red Elderberry
Willows Huckleberries
Oregon Ash Red Osier Dogwood
Red Alder  

For more information on the Web:

Natural Gardening
Oregon Master Gardeners
Washington Master Gardeners

Haystack Rock