Homeless camps harming Green River and its habitat

Last Saturday, my youngest granddaughter and I packed a lunch and went to the Green River to watch Salmon. We stopped at several locations, beginning at the Highway 18 bridge and worked our way down river to the soccer fields on River Road.

Each fall the returning salmon put on their aerial show with spectacular jumps and racing up and down the river. I could have spent all day watching my 4-year-old granddaughter trying to lure salmon into the shallows with a peanut butter sandwich. We had a very memorable day.

As enjoyable as the day was, I was alarmed to see the damage caused by current and past homeless camps in several areas.

In several areas, the vegetation has been trampled and the soil is very compacted and the stench of urine is very strong. When the soil is compacted, the rain runs along the surface instead of being absorbed into the soil and released into the river. When water runs across the surface, it picks up surface pollutants, such as the urine and feces associated with the encampments, and deposits them directly into the river.

Another major issue is the lack of woody debris on the ground. Fallen trees and branches are habitat and are key components for new top soil. Judging by the number of fire rings along the river, the woody debris have been used for camp fires.

Almost every night on the news there is a story about the dwindling number of salmon and degradation of the water quality of our rivers. We, as a city, need to be good stewards of the Green River, and I feel the city needs to immediately address this environmental and health hazard.

Encampments along the river need to be eliminated. We have a shelter and other programs in place, now all we need is for our city leaders to lead.

– Mike Kahler

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