City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services

Portland BES logo

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) serves the Portland community protecting public health, water quality, and the environment by providing sewage and stormwater collection and treatment, as well as conducting activities for watershed health. BES' Sustainable Stormwater Division is charged with promoting and implementing green infrastructure projects to achieve bureau goals.

Portland has integrated green infrastructure to save money and get more out of the public’s investment in sewer and storm systems. Green infrastructure reduces stress on the sewer system and makes it operate more efficiently by keeping stormwater out of sewers. Partnering with other Bureaus and organizations throughout the city, Portland uses green streets, ecoroofs, trees, and other green infrastructure to manage stormwater, protect water quality, mitigate flooding, and improve watershed health.

Portland recognizes that green infrastructure has numerous additional benefits beyond BES' goals. These projects bring nature into the city, which improves both mental and physical health, increases property values, conserves energy, enhances wildlife habitat, contributes to climate resiliency, increases carbon absorbing and holding capability, and saves money on costly pipe infrastructure. In 2008, then-commissioner Sam Adams announced the Grey to Green Initiative, a multi-faceted approach aimed at boosting investment in green infrastructure implementation. Since that time:

  • Over 29,800 new street and yard trees have been planted
  • 793 new green street facilities have been completed
  • 4,500 acres have been managed for invasive plant removal
  • 9 culverts blocking fish passage will have been replaced by 2015
  • 154 ecoroofs covering nearly 9 acres have been completed
  • 390 acres of natural areas have been acquired to protect natural stormwater management functions and clean water sources
  • 516,000 new native tree and shrub seedlings on more than 4,400 acres of stream banks and upland areas have been planted

Highlights of BES' work includes:

Tabor to the River - Resolving the sewer system problems in the Tabor to the River Program area with only pipe solutions would have cost an estimated $144 million. Adding green infrastructure projects reduced the estimated cost to $81 million and multiplied the benefits of the project.

Ecoroof Program - The City of Portland promotes using ecoroofs on public and private property to manage stormwater on-site. The city offers building owners and developers an incentive of up to $5 per square foot for an approved ecoroof project. The city also offers resources and technical assistance to property owners, businesses, and professionals interested in getting involved in the ecoroof industry.

Green Streets Steward Program - Community members asked how they can participate in the care and maintenance of Portland's Green Streets and BES responded with the Green Street Steward program.

Urban Canopy Program – This program supports local nonprofits, such as Friends of Trees and Verde, to help Portland reach its stormwater management, tree canopy cover, and carbon reduction goals. The team also helps property owners, neighborhood associations, schools, and other organizations with tree planting projects.

East Lents Floodplain Project (Video) – As part of the watershed restoration efforts, BES completed the East Lents project to mitigate flooding and improve fish habitat.

BES is part of the Interwine Alliance and partners with Friends of Trees, Depave, and many other Innovation Partners. Follow our work on the City Green Blog, or like us on Facebook.