Water Quality Improvement Project
Wind River Area:


The Wind River watershed covers 582 square kilometers (km2) and supports a stream system that discharges to the Columbia River near the town of Carson in Skamania County. The largest tributaries in the watershed are Trout Creek (88 km2) and Panther Creek (107 km2). Land ownership is a mixture of public and privately owned forest land with some minimal residential use in the lower end of the watershed. Eighty-eight percent of the watershed is owned by the U.S. Forest Service in a portion of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Approximately 9 percent of the watershed is privately owned, including the riparian area of the lower portions of the Wind River, Trout Creek, Panther Creek, and other downstream tributaries. The Washington Department of Natural Resources owns another 2.5 percent of the watershed west of the mainstem of the Wind River.

Water quality issues

Intensive monitoring, conducted at 33 stations in the watershed between 1994 and 2000, indicated water temperatures often exceeded water quality standards. The warmest temperatures in the Wind River watershed were recorded in the lower portion of Trout Creek. Those temperatures were frequently measured near or above the lethal limit for steelhead of about 24 degrees Celsius. The following processes affect water temperatures in the Wind River watershed:

  • Riparian vegetation disturbance that reduces stream surface shading.
  • Channel widening (increased width-to-depth ratios) that increases the amount of stream surface area exposed to sunlight.
  • Reduced summertime baseflows.

Why this matters

Water temperature influences what types of organisms can live in a water body. 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 water body by adding or retaining streamside vegetation.

Status of the project

Ecology staff used existing water quality data to model the amount of shade that would be required in each stream segment to bring the Wind River watershed into compliance with the water quality temperature standard. The modeling results were described in a March 2002 Ecology report. In a June 2002 report 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 2004 Detailed Implementation Plan for the Wind River watershed.

Over the past few years stakeholders, such as Underwood Conservation District and the U.S. Forest Service, have continued water temperature monitoring and initiated riparian restoration in the Wind River watershed. In winter 2007, stakeholders held an adaptive management meeting to discuss accomplishments, ongoing activities, and additional needs in the watershed. In summer 2010, Ecology staff communicated with stakeholders individually to get an update on implementation activities that have occurred since the 2007 meeting.

Technical information

303(d) Listings

Wind River Watershed Temperature Total Maximum Daily Load (Ecology publication)

Wind River Watershed Temperature Total Maximum Daily Load Submittal Report (Ecology publication)

Wind River Watershed Temperature Total Maximum Daily Load: Detailed Implementation Plan (Ecology publication)

Wind River Temperature TMDL: Report on December 4, 2007 Adaptive Management Meeting
WindRvr-120407-AdaptiveMgmtMtgRpt.pdf (PDF)

Wind River Temperature TMDL: July 2010 Updated Implementation Table

Related information

Watershed Information - WRIA 29: Wind-White Salmon Watershed Information (Water web page)

Underwood Conservation District web site

Skamania County Community Development Department - Planning Division web site

Gifford Pinchot National Forest web site

Washington Department of Natural Resources web site

U.S. Geological Survey web site


Back to top of page

Last updated March 2016
  Wind-White Salmon Watershed map, water resource inventory area 29.


WRIA: #29 (Wind-White Salmon)
County: Skamania

Water-body Name:
Wind River


# of TMDLs: 17

Approved by EPA
Has an implementation plan

Contact Info:
Andrew Kolosseus
Phone: 360-407-7543
Email: Andrew.Kolosseus@ecy.wa.gov

Vancouver Field Office
WA Department of Ecology
2108 Grand Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98661-4622