Washington Plans to Cool Overheated Redmond Creeks

BELLEVUE, Washington, July 28, 2008 (ENS) – Bear are not seen on Bear Creek in Redmond, Washington any more. They have been displaced from this area just east of Seattle by apartment buildings and shops, railway yards and businesses, including the main campus of Microsoft.

Now, the state has a plan to tackle the high temperatures and low dissolved oxygen concentrations recorded in Bear Creek as well as Evans and Cottage Lake Creeks within the Bear-Evans watershed.

These creeks are included on Washington State’s 303(d) list of impaired waters, and water from these creeks flows into Puget Sound.

Many small steps make up a plan by the state’s environmental agency to lower stream temperatures and raise oxygen content of waters in the Bear Creek watershed.

The Washington Department of Ecology released an extensive report on the plan last week and now invites the public to review and comment on the report and its proposals and to provide input at a community meeting next month.

The 51 square-mile watershed includes much of Redmond, where Bear Creek empties into the Sammamish River, and nearby parts of King and Snohomish counties.

Bear Creek, Redmond, Washington (Photo
by Lisa Jean Beveridge)

Land use has changed a great deal in the past 150 years as development in the area has increased, the state report points out, saying, “Loss of riparian and wetland areas as well as changes in the hydrologic regime have resulted in the loss of valuable aquatic habitat and are likely triggers of the water quality impairments observed in the creeks.”

Monitoring by the Department of Ecology have so far confirmed that water in at least nine stretches of the watershed’s streams does not have enough oxygen to meet state clean water standards for oxygen content.

In addition, 18 areas of the creeks have been found to be too warm. High water temperatures harm salmon, trout, and other fish and decrease the oxygen carrying capacity of the water. Oxygen is critically important for fish and other aquatic life.

Causes of low oxygen and high temperatures in streams include lack of vegetation to provide shade along streams.

Groundwater flows, which provide cool water to creeks during the summer, are diminished partly due to runoff from developed areas, the state agency says.

And nutrient pollution from failing on-site septic systems and lawn fertilizer, which leads to increased oxygen consumption by bacteria, is further depleting the oxygen content of these creeks.

The Department of Ecology is encouraging citizens to maintain and repair their septic tanks, conserve water, keep stock and other animals out of streams and get involved in stream and wetland restoration projects through local organizations and governments.

The proposed cleanup plan would incorporate new and existing state and local initiatives to lower stream temperatures and maintain oxygen levels, including:

* Restoration of streamside vegetation and wetland areas, including preservation of existing high value habitat along waterways.

* Programs to help keep more water in the ground for recharging streams.

* Education and technical assistance for livestock and equestrian facility owners for proper manure management.

* Monitoring streams to track progress.

The Department of Ecology will host a public meeting to provide information and answer questions about the Bear-Evans Watershed Temperature and Dissolved Oxygen TMDL/Water Quality Improvement Report on Monday, August 11, 6:30-8:30 pm, in the Woodinville Public Library at 1705 Avondale Rd. NE.

The report is available on the Internet at www.ecy.wa.gov.

Ecology is accepting public comments through August 22. Send comments to Sinang Lee, Department of Ecology, 3190 160th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, Washington, 98008, or by e-mail to sile461@ecy.wa.gov.

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