Water Quality Improvement Project
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
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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
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)
Salmon Creek Fecal Coliform and Turbidity Total Maximum Daily Load: Report
on November 7, 2007 Adaptive Management Meeting
Report from Clark Conservation District on the Small Farms for Clean Water Project
www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/tmdl/SalmonCr/Small Farm Final Rpt.pdf
Clark County Clean Water Program Stormwater (website)
Clark County Clean Water Program Stormwater Needs Assessment Program
Reports from Clark County Public Health on the Salmon Creek TMDL
Report from Clark Public Utilities on Salmon Creek Corridor Restoration 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
Salmon Creek Nonpoint Source Pollution TMDL (Ecology publication)
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WRIA: #28 (Salmon-Washougal)
# of TMDLs:
Fecal Coliform and Turbidity: 6
Fecal Coliform and Turbidity:
- Approved by EPA
- Has implementation plan
- Approved by EPA
- Has implementation plan
Vancouver Field Office
WA Department of Ecology
2108 Grand Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98661-4622