Water Quality Improvement Project
Salmon Creek Area:


Salmon Creek, located entirely within Clark County, flows from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains west to Lake River, which in turn flows into the Columbia River. The Cascade foothills are generally forested, while the lower drainage is primarily urban. The city of Vancouver lies just south of lower Salmon Creek, and several small towns lie along the tributaries and central plains of the basin. These middle reaches contain a mixture of small towns, large and small-scale farms, pasture, and homes. Six major tributaries flow into Salmon Creek: Rock Creek and Morgan Creek to the east, Weaver Creek (also called Woodin) and Curtin Creek (also called Glenwood) in the middle, and Mill Creek and Cougar Creek to the west. Forestry, agriculture, commercial, and industrial activities are significant uses within the Salmon Creek basin. Urban areas also comprise a considerable proportion of the basin's land area, mostly along its southwest reaches. The basin is highly urbanized near Vancouver, with many small subbasins already heavily developed. These subbasins often experience problems with stormwater runoff, inadequate buffer vegetation, erosion, and sedimentation.. (See Study Area map)

Water quality issues

Rapid and diverse development within the basin has led to water quality degradation of Salmon Creek and its tributaries. Elevated levels of fecal coliform were measured in the basin as early as the 1980s. A study, completed in 1995 by the Department of Ecology, found significant violations of water quality standards in Salmon Creek for fecal coliform, turbidity, temperature and dissolved oxygen. Subsequent monitoring by Clark Public Utilities and Clark County Clean Water Program shows that violations of water quality standards continued.

Status of the project

Fecal coliform and turbidity

Using water quality data collected by local government agencies from 1988 through 1994, Ecology staff conducted modeling to determine the pollution reductions necessary to bring Salmon Creek into compliance with water quality standards for fecal coliform and turbidity. The modeling results were described in a 1995 Ecology report. In the 2001 Bacteria and Turbidity Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) report, approved by EPA, Ecology discussed in general the agencies and activities that would contribute to clean-up efforts. More information on responsible agencies and specific activities was provided in Ecology's 2005 Detailed Implementation Plan for fecal coliform and turbidity in the Salmon Creek watershed. Even before completion of the 2005 Detailed Implementation Plan, stakeholders began implementing clean-up activities in the Salmon Creek watershed including bank stabilization, riparian planting and identification of fecal coliform sources.


In November 2007, stakeholders held an adaptive management meeting to discuss accomplishments, ongoing activities, and additional needs in the watershed. One outcome of the meeting was an agreement to revisit the temperature and dissolved oxygen impairments that had not been addressed in the 2001 cleanup plan.

In May 2009, stakeholders got together for another Salmon Creek meeting. In addition to discussing stakeholder accomplishments since the November 2007 meeting, Ecology staff gave two presentations—one summarizing the results of a project analyzing water quality data collected in the watershed between 1988 and 2008, and the other describing an upcoming pilot project to develop an “innovative” temperature TMDL beginning in fall 2009. The data analysis project results are encouraging, as they show significant improvements in the watershed.

Work was started on the innovative temperature project. Ecology’s shade model was used to determine effective-shade targets and temperature load allocations for Salmon Creek and tributaries. The modeling effort also had the benefit of an extensive data set compiled by Clark Public Utilities and Clark County Clean Water Program, eliminating the need to follow the current time-consuming and expensive process of collecting additional temperature data for a year then conducting site-specific modeling. The temperature modeling analysis was completed by August 2010, and discussions with local stakeholder groups started in March 2011. As a product of these discussions, an implementation plan was developed in mid-April 2011. A draft of the TMDL submittal and implementation plan was available for public review and comment June 6 - July 5, 2011. Once comments received were addressed and the document finalized, Ecology submitted the TMDL to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval. EPA approved it on December 14, 2011.

In September 2013, stakeholders met again to discuss accomplishments, ongoing activities, and additional needs in the watershed. During the meeting Ecology presented the results of the 2011-12 Salmon Creek Watershed Low Dissolved Oxygen and pH Characterization Study. The study recommended:

  • Removing Upper Salmon from 303(d) list for pH; change from Category 5 (impaired) to 1 (unimpaired) due to natural conditions
  • Upgrading other low pH listings on Salmon, Curtin, and Weaver Creeks from Category 5 to 2 (waters of concern).
  • Keeping low DO listings, but downgrade priority for TMDL development. Temperature TMDL should significantly improve DO at all sites, except Curtin and possibly lower Salmon Creek.
  • Water quality modeling to assess the low dissolved oxygen in Curtin Creek. Modeling should be ranked with a low priority, given the complexity and small size of watershed.

Stakeholders updated current activities and discussed next steps needed to solve the remaining listings in the watershed. Bacteria source tracking was suggested and indentified as one way stakeholders could target sources of bacteria and nutrients.

To help track sources of bacteria, Ecology plans to monitor the tributaries in the lower watershed from September 2014 through September 2015. The monitoring data and subsequent report will be used by Ecology and Stakeholders to fine-tune future implementation efforts.

A link to the September 2013 meeting report report and the quality assurance plan for the Lower Salmon Creek Watershed Fecal Coliform Bacteria Monitoring can be found in the Technical information section.

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.

Turbidity is a measure of suspended fine sediments in a body of water. High turbidity in rivers and streams comes from both streambank erosion and sediments washed into drainages during storm events. Pollutants such as fecal coliform bacteria can hitch a ride with suspended sediments. Turbidity can also make a river or stream less transparent, resulting in greater solar absorption and higher stream temperatures.

Stream turbidity can be improved by controlling stormwater runoff and by adding or maintaining vegetation on stream banks.

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.

Technical information

303(d) Listings


Quality Assurance Project Plan: Lower Salmon Creek Watershed Fecal Coliform Bacteria Monitoring (Ecology publication)


Salmon Creek Total Maximum Daily Load: Report on September 12, 2013 Meeting

Letter received from Thom McConathy, Citizen – Friends of Vancouver Lake Lowlands

Ecology letter responding to Thom McConathy, Citizen – Friends of Vancouver Lake Lowlands dated October 28, 2013

Salmon Creek Watershed Low Dissolved Oxygen and pH Characterization Study (Ecology publication)


Salmon Creek Temperature Total Maximum Daily Load: Water Quality Improvement Report and Implementation Plan (Ecology publication)


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

Quality Assurance Project Plan for the Innovative Temperature TMDL Pilot Study (Ecology publication)

Salmon Creek Total Maximum Daily Load: Report on May 21, 2009 Meeting

May 21, 2009 PowerPoint presentation on Salmon Creek watershed water quality data analysis project

May 21, 2009 PowerPoint presentation on the innovative temperature TMDL for the Salmon Creek watershed

Salmon Creek Nonpoint Source Pollution Total Maximum Daily Load: Water Quality Effectiveness Monitoring Report (Ecology Publication)

Report from Clark Conservation District on the Salmon Creek Mile 10.5 Restoration Project

Summary of Clark Public Utilities’ Kunkel Riparian Restoration Project

Cleaning up Salmon Creek: Stakeholder Commitment Makes a Difference (Ecology publication)


Report from Clark Public Utilities on Middle Salmon Creek Restoration II Project



Salmon Creek Watershed Bacteria and Turbidity Total Maximum Daily Load (Water Cleanup Plan): Detailed Implementation Plan (Ecology publication)

Report from Clark Conservation District on the Salmon Creek Clean Water Project


Salmon Creek Watershed Bacteria and Turbidity Total Maximum Daily Load -- Submittal Report (Ecology publication)

Report from Clark Conservation District on the Small Farm Water Quality Improvement Project


Related information


Back to top of page

Last updated July 2016


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

Water-body Name:
Salmon Creek

Fecal Coliform

# of TMDLs:
Fecal Coliform and Turbidity: 6
Temperature: 6

Fecal Coliform and Turbidity:
 - Approved by EPA
 - Has implementation plan

 - Approved by EPA
 - Has 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