East Fork Lewis River Alternative Restoration Plan
The East Fork Lewis River and its tributaries are on Washington State’s impaired waters list (303d list) for warm water temperatures and bacteria pollution problems, which drives the need to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study, as required by the Clean Water Act.
Keeping the watershed clean is important because high bacteria levels increase risks to people swimming, wading, or fishing. Also, warm water temperatures create poor conditions for fish and other wildlife.
We chose to develop the East Fork Lewis River Alternative Restoration Plan in advance of a TMDL to help speed up implementation of best management practices to improve water quality.
East Fork Lewis River Partnership
In 2018, Ecology published the East Fork Lewis River Source Assessment Report, which identified priority areas to improve water quality.
Shortly after, we launched the East Fork Lewis River Partnership to work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop and implement a plan to achieve clean water. More than 50 partners from 30 organizations have engaged in East Fork Lewis River Partnership activities.
Why is clean water important?
Improving water quality in the East Fork Lewis River will help ensure long-term use and recreational enjoyment of the watershed, while protecting public and environmental health.
To ensure swimmers and kayakers can safely enjoy the watershed, bacteria levels need to be lowered. Efforts to cool the water are also important to support critical habitat for migratory fish species. The East Fork Lewis River is a high priority for salmon recovery and has historically supported five populations of salmon and trout.
Residents and visitors are able to enjoy the East Fork Lewis River at its many public access points. Local governments, businesses, and residents also rely on clean water in the river for stormwater, wastewater, drinking water, and other services including agriculture and forestry.
Water quality priorities
Nonpoint source pollution from agricultural, forestry, and stormwater runoff, or from failing septic systems is the main water quality challenge in the watershed. Priorities for long-term implementation are to address water quality impacts from septic systems, stormwater, and agriculture, and increase riparian restoration, and streamflow restoration efforts in the watershed.
The East Fork Lewis River Alternative Restoration Plan was published in October 2021, and sent to EPA for acceptance in November 2021.
We believe that implementing the actions outlined in the Alternative Restoration Plan will result in the achievement of bacteria and temperature water quality standards. Our goal for the East Fork Lewis River is to achieve bacteria water quality standards by 2035, and temperature water quality standards by 2055.
There is a longer timeline for meeting temperature standards to allow enough time for trees to reach their site potential tree height. Effectiveness monitoring will be the primary tool used to assess progress towards meeting water quality standards.
If water quality standards are not achieved through implementation actions outlined in this plan, then a formal TMDL will be required in the watershed to comply with the Clean Water Act.
The long-term vision of the East Fork Lewis River is to achieve clean water, meet water quality standards, and support beneficial uses for people, fish, and wildlife.
What you can do to help
There are many things you can do to protect water quality at your home and while you are enjoying the great outdoors.
Improve your pasture
Agricultural landowners with livestock can help protect clean water by implementing best management practices (BMPs) that keep animals and manure out of the water. These BMPs may include installing livestock exclusion fencing, or making improvements to pastures and heavy use areas. Installing off-stream watering facilities, improvements to feeding areas, or other manure management BMPs may also help improve water quality. Contact Poop Smart Clark or Clark Conservation District to learn more about your options.
Inspect and maintain your septic system
Plant trees on your property
Planting trees or installing backyard habitat on your property can help lower warm water temperatures, which is important for water quality and salmon recovery. Landowners with property located on the banks of the East Fork Lewis River and its tributaries are the highest priorities for riparian restoration. There may be resources available to help plant trees on your property. Contact Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington, Clark Conservation District, Clark Public Utilities, or Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership to learn more.
Pick up after your pet
Pet waste is a major source of bacteria pollution in watersheds. If you own a dog, cat, or other domestic pet, it is important to scoop their poop! Bagging pet waste and throwing it in the trash can help keep your local swimming hole clean and safe from pollution. Learn more about best practices for pet waste from Poop Smart Clark or Clark County’s Canines for Clean Water Program.
If you see something, say something!
Environmental organizations rely on residents and recreationalists in watersheds to be the “eyes and ears” for the environment. If you observe a water quality concern, you can report an environmental issue online. You may also report an issue by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 360-460-6300.
East Fork Lewis River documents
- 2021: East Fork Lewis River Alternative Restoration Plan
- 2021: East Fork Lewis River Watershed Bacteria Monitoring and Nonpoint Source Identification
- 2020: Quality Assurance Project Plan - appendix B3: SWRO Sampling Sites for 2019 & 2020 - Monitoring Fecal Coliform Bacteria in western Washington Water Bodies
- 2018: East Fork Lewis River Watershed Bacteria and Temperature Source Assessment
- 2017: Quality Assurance Project Plan — Fecal Coliform Bacteria and Temperature Source Assessment (2017)
- 2009: Surface Water/Groundwater Exchange Along the East Fork Lewis River (2005)
- 2009: Streamflow Summary for Gaging Stations on the East Fork Lewis River, 2005–06
- 2005: Quality Assurance Project Plan Temperature and Fecal Coliform Bacterial Total Maximum Daily Load Study (2005)