Water Quality Improvement Project
Little Bear Creek Area:
Fecal Coliform

Little Bear Creek, Washington State.  Photo courtesy of Chris Coffin, WA Department of Ecology.


Little Bear Creek originates in Snohomish County and flows southward for approximately 7.7 miles, where it empties into the Sammamish River.

Little Bear Creek and its tributaries support runs of Chinook, sockeye, kokanee, and coho salmon, and coastal cutthroat trout (Kerwin 2001), as well as other resident fish species such as coast range sculpins and western brook lampreys. Land use varies throughout the watershed, with many rural residential properties in the upper and middle parts of the watershed. The lower portion of the Little Bear watershed runs through the commercial portion of downtown Woodinville. The water that leaves Little Bear Creek and other tributaries to the Sammamish River is also very important to the health of Lake Washington. (See Study Area map)

Water quality issues

Fish Crossing sign at Little Bear Creek, Washington State.  Photo courtesy of Chris Coffin, WA Department of Ecology.

Little Bear Creek has too much fecal coliform bacteria. Stream samples from the creek show bacteria levels beyond what Washington State allows in our fresh waters.

Little Bear Creek is not unique. Fecal coliform bacteria are a common water quality problem in our state. They belong to a mostly harmless group of bacteria commonly found in large numbers in the feces of people and other warm-blooded animals such as pets and wildlife. However, they indicate that more serious disease-causing organisms, called pathogens, may be present in the water. Stormwater runoff and other discharges can carry these small organisms into the creeks where they pollute the water and can infect humans through skin contact or ingestion of water.

What is being done

In 2007, Ecology produced a Water Cleanup Report detailing the bacterial pollution problem in Little Bear Creek. The report identified specifies how much pollution needs to be reduced to achieve clean water. This report can be found at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/0510034.html.

As a follow-up to the Water Cleanup Report, Ecology will work with the local community to prepare a Water Quality Implementation Plan (WQIP). The Implementation Plan will detail the specific actions needed to reduce fecal coliform bacteria levels in Little Bear Creek.

Snohomish County, the Snohomish Conservation District, the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, and the city of Woodinville were active partners in developing the Water Cleanup Report and are already working to improve water quality in Little Bear Creek. Our efforts from this point will build upon their accomplishments. Following are our TMDL updates, which show what others are doing. Contact us to find out how you might get involved.

Status of the project

Water Quality Improvement Project (TMDL) Timeline:

April 2005: Ecology submits Little Bear Creek Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL Report to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
July 2005: U.S. EPA approves the Little Bear Creek Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL Report.
July 2005 - Present: Ecology works with local partners to support water cleanup activities prior to development of the water Quality implementation plan.

Technical information

Little Bear Creek Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL/Water Quality Improvement Report (Ecology Publication)

Related information

Focus on Bacteria in Little Bear Creek (Ecology Publication)

Curiosity Killed the Bacteria (Ecology water quality story)

WRIA 8: Cedar-Sammamish-Lake Washington Watershed Information (Environmental Assessment Program website)

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Last updated October 2012
  Water resource inventory area (WRIA) 8 map, Washington State.


WRIA: #8 (Cedar-Sammamish)

Water-body Name:
Little Bear Creek

Fecal Coliform

# of TMDLs:
Fecal Coliform - 3

TMDL approved by EPA

Contact Info:
Ralph Svrjcek
Phone: 425-649-7036
Email: Ralph.Svrjcek@ecy.wa.gov

Northwest Region
Department of Ecology
3190 160th Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98008-5452