222 - Danielsen - Pollinator habitat on water pipelines?


Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] Pollinator habitat is often put in the most visible places where the public can see it, think at the gates of a municipal park or, right in, my department or department of horticulture at Oregon state university, Al Shay has made these beautiful pollinator gardens. Right outside the door of the department.

And I always use these for outreach education and demonstration, but, pollinators largely live in areas where there's not a lot of people. And so that's why I was so excited about an initiative funded by the natural resource conservation innovation grant headed by Alix Danielsen with the hood river watershed group.

Now. The hood river watershed group works with irrigation districts that provide irrigation throughout the Hood River Watershed, feeding the sweet cherry and P production and hood river. The Watershed Group has been working with these districts to convert their open canal infrastructure to underground pipelines to save water that is lost to seepage, evaporation, and end spills.

But what this has done is left bare ground where invasive [00:01:00] weeds can move in. And that's where this project comes in to try and see if we can take this area and convert it to pollinator habitat. So without further ado, let's actually go to that pipeline with Alex this week on pollination.

All right. Hi, Alex. Welcome to pollination. Thanks for having me. Where on earth are we?

Alix Danielsen: great question. We're cruising down a pipeline corridor in the farmer's irrigation district in hood river county in the west Hills. What on earth

Andony Melathopoulos: is a pipeline corridor.

Alix Danielsen: Another good question. Oregon has hundreds and hundreds of miles of open canal infrastructure that irrigation districts use to move water.

That's diverted from a river stream into an irrigation system. [00:02:00] Yeah, that keeps our agricultural areas fed with water. But I don't

Andony Melathopoulos: see no

Alix Danielsen: water here. What's going. So our a hundred year old irrigation open canal infrastructure yeah. Is failing. Yeah. It has an enormous amount of water loss by way of evaporation cracks in the open canals.

And because they're not pressurized systems, there's overflows and end spills, ah, that lose an enormous amount of water. During the irrigation system. So irrigation districts throughout the state are modernizing this infrastructure by piping the canals, basically putting the water into pipes in the footprint of the canals, closing off the system and pressurizing it.

Oh, so the water's underneath us. So the water's underneath us in a big, huge pipe. That originated from the west for code river and it's running through the system so that farmer's irrigation district can send it out [00:03:00] to their patrons in their district. Okay. So

Andony Melathopoulos: we've gotten, so there's this road left and I remember coming here a couple years ago.

Talk about this the project that you're involved in , but. Once you covered it over and you have this bare ground, then all sorts of weeds move

Alix Danielsen: in, yeah. We've disturbed all this ground. And particularly here in hood river, we have a really thriving population of weeds, like nap, weed, and thistles and things that like to take over and colonize these freshly disturbed sites.

Okay. But. If you think about the 800 miles of irrigation corridors like this one throughout Oregon that are getting piped in time. It's a really great opportunity for pollinator habitat. And so if we can, as we pipe these canals, seed them with specialty mixes that are ideal [00:04:00] for pollinator populations, native pollinator populations within a certain area.

Yeah. Then think about all of that. Long stretches of uninterrupted little ribbons going through the landscape.

Andony Melathopoulos: Exactly. I love it. Okay. I get so te so how did this project get funded? How did it get started? Because right now it does not look like it looked like a couple years ago. There's there was like, It was like shoulder height with like invasive wheat.

And they're not here. I just see these nice little Sproutlets. Yeah.

Alix Danielsen: And we, both of us came out of that first time with about 70 ticks each. So this is a little different, but so this. Project is grant funded by the national resource conservation service. And we it's a conservation innovation grant, so they gave us money to basically develop a pilot project, doing exactly this using pollinator or using pipeline corridors to develop pollinator habitat.

[00:05:00] And over the three years of the project. We will learn a lot of lessons, figure out what works, what doesn't put together, a best management practice manual, and some communication materials. Yep. And try to get other infrastructure managers, irrigation districts, even of way managers. So on and so forth.

To copy this project and wow. Get more and more pollinator habitat across the state of Oregon. And then, Hey, maybe even beyond I love it.

Andony Melathopoulos: So we're at the start of the project and it's taken the thing is I guess, most people who are thinking about pollinator projects and pollinator habitat, they're like, okay, I'm just.

Take the weeds down. I wanna seed into it away. I go, you took two years to get to this really nice clean

Alix Danielsen: state. So these project take time and in a perfect world, as you were transitioning from [00:06:00] an open canal to a pipeline, as soon as you were done with that construction, you would seed.

Right away with right away. Yeah. Yeah. And so we've done that with another irrigation district here in the valley, and slowly hoping that they'll adopt beyond this site here. But yeah, if you have a weed community fully established, like it was here, you've gotta do some pre-work and that takes time.

And it's not just to manage the weeds here, but it's also meant to make sure that. What you plant here is gonna survive and doesn't have so much competition from weeds. What are the

Andony Melathopoulos: good points if for, here in the mid Columbia region for doing weed management?

Alix Danielsen: Oh, it depends on your scale.

It depends on what methods you're comfortable using. It depends on what we do have established and how, what the best practices are for managing it. Gotcha. This pipeline runs through a lot of open clear cut logging areas. Yeah. And so the weed [00:07:00] input, the seed bank just outside of this pipeline area is heavy and strong.

And we have to think of it in the long game. Try to get our native plants here established so they can outcompete the weeds that are waiting in the wings right. Nearby.

Andony Melathopoulos: Okay. What. Sorry, we're looking forward to, we're looking forward to catching up with you in the future. I guess it next year this year you're out.

Oh, I forgot to ask you. How are you? I forgot to ask you is I know the answer. how are you figuring out whether this restoration will have an impact on pollinator

Alix Danielsen: communities? Yeah. The great thing about this project is that we have. Several really great partners. This type of project we couldn't do on our own.

And so we've asked experts like you and from OSU to help us with developing and monitoring program, to understand who was here before we did the project and how they're using the space. And then after we have planted and implemented [00:08:00] everything over time, how the. Abundance and diversity of pollinators change.

And if our plantings here have made a difference and this is 2.7 miles worth of pipeline and about six and a half acres. And so we'll see over time, if we. Have made an impact by nest traps and netting surveys like we were doing today. And with your help, figuring out who those bees are and how many of them are

Andony Melathopoulos: that's right.

I will say with the nest blocks, I think we've been doing this also with Columbia land trust that their rainbow farm location. And it just seems for us that we really know the bees well, that nest in nest blocks, we've got a nicely, a nice Reference collection at OSU and we have a system for getting them emerging them.

And so it's worked out really well for us. It's a nice constrained group of bees. I know some people use. These passive traps, but you often have so [00:09:00] many bees and it's hard to keep up with the numbers. So this seems, this comes off, we've got a nice, affordable way to do yeah. Evaluate restoration.


Alix Danielsen: And amazingly, even novices like myself can install those traps. if I do it the right way. And and send them back to you for

Andony Melathopoulos: analyzing I guess the last thing maybe just to quickly mention here is that you have been working like. Seed mixture. I think xeri society was had a lot of suggestions on plant cuz this is, this was seeded.

I. Broadcast

Alix Danielsen: seated. Yeah. So the main footprint of the pipeline was broadcast seated. We got input from Xerces from a native seed company in Washington called BFI, and then we have a local nursery nearby called humble roots and oh, oh yeah. They helped put together the plant list. We planted some Forbes here and they grew out.

Andony Melathopoulos: I've been mean a bunch of fors interview them. They're really good and they do a lot of it's so good. Yeah. Okay. So they, I see some Forbes along the side

Alix Danielsen: here. Yeah. So these are [00:10:00] grown just over the hill in Moser, by Kirs and drew at humble roots. And they helped put together the plant list. They came out and walked the pipeline with us, got a sense for the space and what plant communities would do well here.

And so they grew these out for us over the course of a. and then BFI ended up putting together a seed mix based on input, an experience that they had and input from Z season. It's a pretty extensive list. It's heavy on grass species because That tends to be what establishes well, and even if other things make it in the first year, the grass will usually crowd out the other flowering Forbes.

Andony Melathopoulos: Yeah. Help keep everything at bay. Yeah. Huh. But, and so the Forbes, the more expensive Forbes are cuz I guess vehicles maybe driving down this, so the Forbes are on the edges.

Alix Danielsen: Yeah, where there's a bump out in the pipeline footprint here we planted, there's 1500 Forbes altogether up and down in these patches here.

And so far they're looking pretty [00:11:00] great. Look. Awesome. Thankfully for this really wet spring, we have, they've got a

Andony Melathopoulos: wa is it wild buck weed over

Alix Danielsen: there and buck weeds and desert parsleys there's pennins in here. There's oh yeah,

Andony Melathopoulos: we saw. First flowering pennins from plant. These were planted in November and they're flowering right now.

Yeah. Which is

Alix Danielsen: way too exciting for people like us. But they made it this far. And yeah, this time next year, we'll probably be a lot more colorful.

Andony Melathopoulos: I'm looking forward to catching up with you next year and thanks. I guess we've come. We've walked the length of it during the interview, so the pipeline thanks so much and keep up the great work.

Alix Danielsen: Thank you.

As water pipelines are buried to conserve water, this leaves a lot of land that could be converted to pollinator habitat. In this episode we learn of an initiative from Hood River County in Oregon.

Alix Danielsen has worked in the environmental field for over 14 years, including stints in agricultural conservation management, environmental social marketing, non-profit management, and river restoration. At the Hood River Watershed Group, Alix works with private landowners, irrigation districts, tribes, farmers, foresters, community members, and agencies on projects including stream and riparian habitat restoration, irrigation modernization, water quality monitoring, and fish passage barrier removal.

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