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East Fork Lewis River fecal coliform and temperature source assessment

The East Fork Lewis River and its tributaries are listed on the state's polluted waters list for high water temperatures and fecal coliform bacteria problems. We are working with stakeholders and local governments to restore this stream so it meets state water quality standards.

The East Fork Lewis River sub-basin is located in Clark and Skamania counties. The sub-basin includes a couple of small towns, but the majority of the watershed consists of small-acreage private properties.

Water quality issues

The East Fork Lewis River sub-basin has been extensively studied by many groups because of its importance for fish resources and its high potential for salmon recovery. Historically, the sub-basin has supported thousands of fall Chinook, chum, coho, and winter and summer steelhead.

Waters placed on the 303(d) list — the list of polluted water bodies — require the preparation of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) study. It identifies sources of the impairments and how much pollution each source contributes. It then recommends strategies for reducing pollution "loads" from point and nonpoint sources.

What we have done

We conducted water quality sampling in 2005 and 2006. However, due to constraints on resources, the East Fork Lewis River study is on hold. The stakeholders continued implementing cleanup activities in the East Fork Lewis River watershed. We gave a grant to Clark Public Utilities. They completed a stream bank restoration project on Lockwood Creek in 2008.

Status of the project

In February 2017, we started to collect new fecal coliform data to see how bacteria concentrations have changed. This collection effort will continue through January 2018. We will analyze and compare this data with our 2005-06 results and develop a source assessment report. The report will describe temperature and fecal coliform problems throughout the watershed.

We will work collaboratively with these groups to develop a coordinated water cleanup effort:

  • Clark County
  • City of La Center
  • City of Battle Ground
  • City of Yacolt
  • The Cowlitz Tribe
  • Fish enhancement groups
  • Clark Conservation District
  • Local citizens
The Source Assessment Report and the document outlining cleanup efforts will be available in the summer of 2018. The following documents are available:

What you can do to help

There are several actions you can take to help water quality throughout the East Fork Lewis River watershed.

Moulton Falls, Lucia falls, Lewisville, and Paradise Point State Park are all great places to visit with family and friends. While you are enjoying the great outdoors, take all trash with you when you leave, or place it in a secure dumpster. Leftover food and trash not only looks and smells bad, it invites wildlife and pests which adds to possible bacteria problems in the water you have come to enjoy. Also, if you have brought your favorite four legged friends — make sure you clean up their messes. Pick up, bag and trash pet waste.

If you own property along the river make sure you maintain your septic system. This not only saves you money it protects the water we all enjoy on a hot sunny day.

The East Fork Lewis is a large watershed and water feeding the river comes off the neighboring landscape through creeks, wetlands, swales, and roadside ditches. If you have small acreage or a small farm, it's essential to follow best practices for field management and livestock to help keep the river fishable and swimmable.

Why it matters

Fecal coliform bacteria from human and animal waste can make people sick. Bacteria can get into 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 onsite 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.