Water Quality Improvement Project
Gibbons Creek Area:
Fecal Coliform


Gibbons Creek is located in eastern Clark County and flows into the Columbia River just east of the city of Washougal. Land use consists of small farms in the upper part of the watershed and subdivisions, a school, and a golf course in the lower part of the watershed. Many of the older homes in the Gibbons Creek basin have on-site disposal systems (septic systems). There are no known point sources of water pollution within the watershed. (See Study Area map. Map courtesy of Clark County Clean Water Program.)

Water quality issues

Based on fecal coliform data collected at one location in Gibbons Creek during 1991 and 1992, the creek was included on the 1996 303(d) list, the first comprehensive listing of impaired surface waters in the state. In 1994 and 1995, Ecology collected additional data at six locations on Gibbons Creek, Campen Creek and two unnamed tributaries to Gibbons Creek. Those data also showed fecal coliform impairments. In August 2000 Ecology prepared and submitted a TMDL report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that calculates the amount of pollution reduction necessary to bring Gibbons Creek into compliance with water quality standards. The subsequent August 2005 Detailed Implementation Plan outlines pollution control measures and reduction targets anticipated to improve water quality in the Gibbons Creek watershed. Control measures focus on:

  1. Reducing the amount of animal waste entering the creek.
  2. Locating and eliminating sources of human fecal coliform contamination.

Status of the project

Even before completing the 2005 Detailed Implementation Plan stakeholders, including the city of Washougal, Clark County, and Clark Conservation District, began trying to identify the sources of fecal coliform in the Gibbons Creek watershed. Stakeholders also instituted a 3-year monitoring project to help determine if conditions were improving, getting worse or staying the same over time.

In July 2007 stakeholders held an adaptive management meeting to discuss accomplishments and ongoing activities. Although the agencies focused a lot of time and energy on identifying the source(s) of fecal coliform, the answer is still unclear.

In a second adaptive management meeting, held in April 2008, stakeholders described results of activities completed since the July 2007 meeting. Over the next three years, Clark County’s new septic system inspection and maintenance regulations will help the health department identify septic system contributions to fecal coliform in the watershed. Livestock surveys throughout the watershed and stormwater outfall survey/sampling outside the Washougal city limits found no obvious sources of high fecal coliform contamination. The group recommended, as a next step, completion of the stormwater outfall survey and sampling inside city limits.

In summer 2008, outfall survey and sampling was conducted within the Washougal city limits. The sampling detected high fecal coliform concentrations in a branch of Campen Creek. Extensive stream monitoring and sewer system dye testing during the fall showed that the source of pollution was a raccoon latrine (toilet) beside the creek. In spring 2009, follow-up stream monitoring confirmed that the raccoon latrine was still in use and continuing to create water quality problems. During the April 2009 adaptive management meeting stakeholders discussed implementation activities in the watershed in the past year. They then developed a multi-tiered plan to try to address the raccoon fecal coliform issue. The first step included removing the latrine and enlisting the help of landowners near the creek to discourage raccoons from living in the neighborhood.

City of Washougal Public Works staff removed the raccoon latrine on Campen Creek in December 2009. In January 2010 the city hired a pest management specialist and removed the top 3-4 inches of soil around the tree and latrine. In the summer of 2010, results from follow-up monitoring showed very low bacteria counts.

In April 2011, stakeholders discussed the progress on the pollution control measures identified in the implementation plan. The progress prompted the Department of Ecology’s Environmental Assessment Program to monitor the creek monthly from October 2011 through September 2012 to see if Water Quality Standards were being met.

In 2013, Ecology published the results of the Gibbons Creek Fecal Coliform Post-TMDL Water Quality Monitoring Report. Reductions in FC concentrations were observed at all monitoring stations in the watershed. Despite these reductions, Gibbons and Campen Creeks continue to exceed (not meet) one or both of the water quality criteria for FC, although substantial progress has been made.

Ecology and stakeholders will use the results of the 2013 study to fine tune future implementation efforts.

Why this matters

Fecal coliform bacteria from human and animal waste can make people sick. Bacteria can get into our waters from untreated or partially treated discharges from wastewater treatment plants, from improperly functioning septic systems, and from livestock, pets and wildlife.

People can help keep bacteria out of the water. Bag and trash dog poop. Check your on-site sewage system to make sure it is maintained and working properly. Fence livestock out of streams and use manure management practices that protect water quality.

Technical information

Unless otherwise specified the following documents are Ecology publications.

303(d) Listings (website)

Gibbons Creek Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load Assessment

Gibbons Creek Watershed Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load Submittal Report

Gibbons Creek Watershed Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load (Water Cleanup Plan) Detailed Implementation Plan

Report on July 2007 Adaptive Management Meeting

Report on April 2008 Adaptive Management Meeting

Reports from Clark County Clean Water Program Volunteer Monitoring

Reports from Clark County Public Health on Gibbons Creek TMDL Implementation Project

Report from Clark Conservation District on the Clark County Regional Livestock Inventory

Report on April 2009 Adaptive Management Meeting

Report on May 2011 Adaptive Management Meeting

Gibbons Creek Fecal Coliform Post-TMDL Water Quality Monitoring Report

Related information


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Last updated May 2016
  Map for water resource inventory area (WRIA) 28, Washington State.


WRIA: 28 - Salmon-Washougal
County: Clark

Water-body Name:
Gibbons Creek

Fecal Coliform

# of TMDLs: 1

TMDL approved by EPA
Has an implementation plan

Contact Info:
Brett Raunig
Phone: 360-690-4660
Email: Brett.Raunig@ecy.wa.gov

Vancouver Field Office
WA Department of Ecology
2108 Grand Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98661-4622