Water Quality Improvement Project
Lacamas Creek Area:
The Lacamas Creek watershed is about 67 square miles of forest, farm,
residential, commercial, and industrial land. Located in southeastern
Clark County, the watershed extends from the community of Hockinson on
the north to the city of Camas on the south. The Elkhorn and Livingston
Mountains form its eastern boundary. Most of the watershed is in
unincorporated Clark County, but portions are in the city of Camas and
the city of Vancouver. Lacamas Creek has five major tributaries: Matney
Creek, Shanghai Creek, Fifth Plain Creek, China Ditch, and Dwyer Creek.
There are also many smaller streams. Lacamas Creek flows about 12.5
miles from relatively undisturbed forest headwaters, through rural,
agricultural, and residential areas, into Lacamas and Round Lakes. (see
Beginning in the 1890s, several manmade channels were built in the area to
drain wetlands for farmland and to increase the volume of water available to
Camas mills. While considered an improvement when built, the unintended
consequences of these channels are now apparent. With significantly fewer
wetland areas to store runoff from rainstorms, higher volumes of stormwater are
funneled more quickly into streams, eroding stream banks and causing increased
flooding in low-lying lands. Stream health is best in the upland areas of
relatively undisturbed forest, but declines markedly as streams flow through
agricultural, suburban, and urban areas.
Water quality issues
Water quality has been monitored in the Lacamas Creek watershed since
1991. Based on data collected in 1991 and 1992 Lacamas, Dwyer, Fifth
Plain, Matney and Shanghai Creeks, and China Ditch and China Lateral
were included on the 1998 303(d) list, the listing of impaired surface
waters in the state. Subsequent data collected by Clark County and
Ecology show continued exceedances of water quality standards, and these
creeks are included on the 2008 303(d) list. (See
Why this matters
Dissolved oxygen - oxygen dissolved in healthy water - is
vital for fish and aquatic life to “breathe” to survive. It is more
difficult to transfer oxygen from water to blood than it is to transfer
oxygen from air to blood. Therefore, it is critical that an adequate
amount of oxygen is maintained in the water for this transfer to take
place efficiently and sustain aquatic life. Oxygen is also necessary to
help decompose organic matter in the water and bottom sediments as well
as for other biological and chemical processes.
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
The pH value of a waterbody is an indication of how acidic or alkaline
it is. Fish and other aquatic species thrive in water with pH values between 6.5
and 8.5 (7 is considered neutral). When pH values are outside this range, other
contaminants in the water may become more harmful to aquatic life.
Problems with pH are often related to excess algae or plant growth in the creek.
Water temperature influences what types of organisms can live in a
waterbody. Cooler water can hold more dissolved oxygen that fish and other
aquatic life need to breathe. Warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen.
Threatened and endangered salmon need cold, clean water to survive.
One way to cool water temperature is to shade the waterbody by adding or
retaining streamside vegetation.
Status of the project
The Lacamas Creek watershed was selected for a water quality improvement
plan, also known as a total maximum daily load (TMDL), in summer 2009. A TMDL
- An assessment of the water quality problems.
- A technical analysis to determine how much pollution must be reduced
from all sources to meet water quality standards.
- The selection and implementation of appropriate control measures.
- Follow-up monitoring to determine the success of the effort.
The water quality assessment will begin in fall 2010 and continue through
fall 2011. The assessment includes intensive water-quality monitoring of Lacamas
Creek and its tributaries, which includes surface water, ground water, and
stormwater. In the next step of the process, the monitoring data will be used to
model current watershed conditions and various management scenarios. After the
modeling is complete, Ecology will form a Lacamas Creek TMDL Advisory Committee
comprised of city, county, and state governments, local citizens, and other
stakeholders. The Advisory Committee will help Ecology develop a clean-up plan
which explains the roles and authorities of clean-up partners, along with the
programs or other means through which the water-quality issues will be
addressed. Typically, it takes four to five years to conduct the monitoring,
determine required pollution reductions, and develop a detailed clean-up plan.
Lacamas Creek Fecal Coliform, Temperature, Dissolved Oxygen, and pH
Total Maximum Daily Load: Water Quality Study Design (Quality Assurance
303(d) listings for Lacamas River (Water Quality Assessment simple query tool)
Clark County Clean Water Program (website)
City of Camas Public Works Department (website)
City of Vancouver Public Works Department (website)
Salmon-Washougal Watershed Information (Environmental Assessment
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WRIA: #28 (Salmon-Washougal)
# of TMDLs: ---
Department of Ecology
Water Quality Program
PO Box 47775
Olympia, WA 98504-7775