Little Spokane River

We're working to better understand and reduce pollution in the Little Spokane River and its tributaries. Pollution problems include high temperature, too much bacteria, and low dissolved oxygen. There are additional studies underway and several projects to help reduce pollution and improve water quality.


Water quality problems

The Little Spokane River and some of its tributaries, Dragoon Creek and Deadman Creek, have been identified as not meeting clean water requirements, according to our water quality assessments. Pollution problems include:

  • High temperature, bacteria, and pH
  • Low dissolved oxygen
  • High levels of PCBs
  • Too much sediment in the water column (turbidity)

Our final plan

We have submitted the Little Spokane River Dissolved Oxygen and pH Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) water quality improvement plan. This water quality improvement plan aims to address two issues in the river, low dissolved oxygen and high pH levels. The goal of the plan is to identify water quality and riparian habitat improvements needed to support aquatic life and recreational uses in the Little Spokane River watershed. We held a public comment period from Oct. 12, 2020 through Nov. 12, 2020. We also hosted an online public workshop on Oct. 20, 2020. The comments and our response to comments are included as an Appendix to the plan. We submitted the final TMDL to EPA on Dec. 15, 2020. Once finalized and implemented, this plan should lead to more functional habitat for mountain whitefish, redband trout, and other species and ensure safe swimming, fishing, and boating. You can view comments online in eComments.

What we are doing

Previously, we partnered with the Spokane County Conservation District to develop a water quality improvement plan that addresses fecal coliform bacteria, temperature, and turbidity. That TMDL was approved by EPA in 2012.

Currently, we have submitted a plan to EPA to address low dissolved oxygen and high pH in various streams in the watershed. This plan addresses the total phosphorus load that comes into Lake Spokane at the mouth of the Little Spokane River, which is required by the Spokane River and Lake Spokane Dissolved Oxygen water quality improvement plan. We used several studies to determine the nutrient, dissolved oxygen, and pH levels in the Little Spokane River watershed streams and lakes.

Studies used to develop improvement plan

Once both plans for Little Spokane are complete, we'll develop a more detailed approach that outlines specific activities to improve water quality.