Water Quality Improvement Project
Burnt Bridge Creek Area:


The 27-square-mile Burnt Bridge Creek watershed is located in Clark County in southwest Washington. The creek's headwaters begin in agricultural fields on the eastern edge of Vancouver. After flowing approximately 13 miles through the heart of the city, Burnt Bridge Creek drains into the eastern end of Vancouver Lake. Two minor tributaries, Peterson Channel and Burton Channel, flow into Burnt Bridge Creek in eastern Vancouver. An additional tributary, Cold Creek, flows through unincorporated Clark County and joins Burnt Bridge Creek approximately 2 miles upstream of Vancouver Lake. Most of the eastern two-thirds of the creek consists of a channelized ditch constructed in the 1800s to drain land for farming. Approximately 80 percent of the entire length of the creek now flows through a highly urbanized landscape. (See Study Area map)

Water quality issues

Water quality has been monitored extensively in Burnt Bridge Creek since 1972. Based on data collected in 1991 through 1993, the creek was included on the 1996 303(d) list, the first comprehensive listing of impaired surface waters in the state. Subsequent data collected by the city of Vancouver and Ecology show continued exceedances of water quality standards.

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.

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.

The pH value of a water body is an indication of how acidic or alkaline it is. Fish and other aquatic species thrive in water with pH values between 6.5 and 8.5 (7 is considered neutral). When pH values are outside this range, other contaminants in the water may become more harmful to aquatic life.

Problems with pH are often related to excess algae or plant growth in the creek.

Status of the project

Burnt Bridge Creek was selected for a Water Quality Improvement Plan, also known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), in fall 2007. A TMDL includes:

  • An assessment of the water quality problems.
  • A technical analysis to determine how much pollution must be reduced from all sources to meet water quality standards.
  • The selection and implementation of appropriate control measures.
  • Follow-up monitoring to determine the success of the effort.

In spring 2008, Ecology formed a Burnt Bridge Creek TMDL Advisory Committee comprised of city, county and state governments, local citizens, and other stakeholders. Ecology held the first Advisory Committee meeting on April 14, 2008 and a public meeting on May 20, 2008 to describe the TMDL process, timeline and study, answer questions, and solicit feedback on issues and concerns. Intensive water quality monitoring, which included surface water, ground water, and stormwater, began in June 2008 and ended in August 2009. The monitoring data will be used to model current creek conditions and various management scenarios.

Technical information

303(d) Listings

Quality Assurance Project Plan: Burnt Bridge Creek Fecal Coliform Bacteria, Dissolved Oxygen, and Temperature Total Maximum Daily Load-Water Quality Study Design (Ecology publication)

Department of Ecology’s June 5, 2008 Response to Comments: May 2008 Draft Burnt Bridge Creek Fecal Coliform Bacteria, Dissolved Oxygen, and Temperature Total Maximum Daily Load Quality Assurance Project Plan (PDF)

Map of Burnt Bridge Creek Total Maximum Daily Load Study Monitoring Sites (~13 mb)

Quarterly Progress Reports for TMDL Study



Related information

Focus on Burnt Bridge Creek (Ecology publication)

May 20, 2008, Public Meeting Presentations:

March 11, 2009 Advisory Committee Presentations:

June 22, 2010 Advisory Committee presentation

City of Vancouver Public Works web site

WRIA 28: Salmon-Washougal Watershed Information (Water web site)


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Last updated March 2016
  Map for water resource inventory area (WRIA) 28, Washington State.


WRIA: 28 (Salmon-Washougal)
County: Clark

Water-body Name:
Burnt Bridge Creek

Fecal coliform
Dissolved Oxygen

# of TMDLs: ---

Under development

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