Water Quality Improvement Project
The Nooksack River basin is located in northwestern Washington State between
the city of Bellingham and the Canadian border. The basin
covers approximately 825 square miles of diverse geography, mainly in Whatcom County. It
is situated between the northwestern
slopes of the Cascade Mountains, flowing through foothills and lowlands to
Bellingham Bay. The major land use in the lowlands region is agriculture, mainly
dairies and raspberry growers. In the smaller cities of the Nooksack
basin, the major industry is farming and timber management. In the rural
areas, most of the houses rely on septic systems for their sewage treatment.
At the mouth of the Nooksack River is the Lummi Indian Reservation. They, along with the Nooksack tribes, maintain usual and accustomed fishing and shellfishing rights within the basin.
Water quality issues
Water quality studies and sampling showed high levels of fecal coliform
pollution, particularly from human and animal sources.
Why this matters
Fecal coliform pollution, or bacteria for short, can indicate the presence of
such pathogens as e. coli. This bacteria, from human and animal waste, can get
into our waters from untreated or partially treated discharges from wastewater
treatment plants, from improperly functioning septic systems, wildlife and from
unknown sources. It can make people sick and cause the closure of shellfish
harvesting beds. Fecal coliform pollution has been responsible for numerous shellfishing restrictions throughout Puget Sound.
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.
What is being done
Ecology, working with the Department of Health, local governments, and citizens
developed a strategy to clean up the lower Nooksack River. The strategy
encompasses dairy waste management; municipal sewage treatment; rural
residential septic waste; critical areas ordinance enforcement, and other
actions like streamside re-vegetation and other best management practices (BMPs). Monitoring is used to check the progress of these actions to improve water
Status of the project
Shellfish beds in Portage Bay continue to be open for shellfish harvesting,
but recent declines in the water quality of the Nooksack River at Marine Drive,
and failure of several tributaries to the Nooksack to meet water quality
standards have raised concerns about
the future with the
Portage Bay Shellfish Committee. At the June 2009 meeting of the Committee,
setting new implementation targets was discussed for the agencies involved
with implementing the TMDL.
Water Quality Assessment of the Nooksack River between Brennan and North
Cedarville Report (Ecology publication)
Lower Nooksack River Basin Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load Evaluation (Ecology publication)
Nooksack River Watershed Bacteria -- Total Maximum Daily Load Submittal Report (Ecology publication)
Nooksack River Watershed Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load -- Detailed Implementation
Plan (Ecology publication)
Wasteload Allocation (WLA) Clarification Letter (PDF)
Fishtrap Creek Total Maximum Daily Load Study (Ecology Publication)
Focus Sheet: Lower Nooksack River -- Cleaning up water pollution (Ecology publication)
WRIA 01: Nooksack Watershed Information (Environmental Assessment
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