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 sub-watersheds map)

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 Study Area map)

Lacamas Creek, Washington State.  Photographer unknown.

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 water quality.

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 includes:

  • 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 during the fall of 2010 and through the fall 2011. The assessment included intensive water-quality monitoring of Lacamas Creek and its tributaries, and included surface water, ground water, and stormwater. 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.

Technical information

Lacamas Creek Fecal Coliform, Temperature, Dissolved Oxygen, and pH Total Maximum Daily Load: Water Quality Study Design (Quality Assurance Project Plan)

303(d) listings for Lacamas River (Water Quality Assessment simple query tool)

Related information

Clark County Clean Water Program (website)

City of Camas Public Works Department (website)

City of Vancouver Public Works Department (website)

WRIA 28: Salmon-Washougal Watershed Information (Water website)


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Last updated August 2015
  Salmon-Washougal watershed map for water resource inventory area 28.


WRIA: #28 (Salmon-Washougal)
County: Clark

Water-body Name:
Lacamas Creek

Dissolved oxygen
Fecal coliform

# of TMDLs: ---

Under development

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

Southwest Region
Department of Ecology
Water Quality Program
PO Box 47775
Olympia, WA 98504-7775