What does polluted stormwater have to do with fish hearing? Until today, I’d say absolutely nothing. But in the last weeks, new science points to polluted stormwater runoff as the culprit for damaging the ability for salmon and other fish to hear.
Spokane Riverkeeper Settles Law Suit with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology to Protect Water Quality in Hangman Creek
The Spokane Riverkeeper has settled a federal lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) approval of Washington Department of Ecology’s plan to clean up pollution in Hangman Creek.
From Colorado River tributaries to Humboldt Bay, and from Prince William Sound to the Snake River – over 30 Waterkeepers from the west just gathered near Hood River, Oregon for three days of networking, brainstorming, and inspiration. Some were the Waterkeeper stalwarts: Columbia Riverkeeper and Puget Soundkeeper. Others were just starting out, working to become licensed Waterkeepers in new watersheds, such as in Chico Creek, Boulder Creek and the outer Columbia River estuary. All in all there are 48 Waterkeepers in our Pacific Region, including brand new groups in Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The best thing about these gatherings is they offer an opportunity to learn (of course) but even better – it’s a chance to bond with our Waterkeeper tribe.
The first order of business was to get updates from all the Keepers. We heard about a new legal action to lower water temperatures in the Snake River. The long and impressive list includes efforts to reduce the size of oil and gas leases in the Colorado River watershed, 4 new clean water act legal cases in Humboldt Bay, efforts to stop coal mining in Prince William Sound, successful changes in the cleanup plan for the Portland Harbor on the Tualatin River, amazing projects in Hawaii to restore native oysters, and an action forcing the decommissioning of military vessels in San Francisco Bay. There’s lots more…this is just the short list!
We were treated to a couple of great presentations and discussions lead by Eric de Place, of Sightline Institute. His topic was Strategic Communications in an Era of Fake News. In these times of serious decline of traditional journalism, it was a rare treat to be able to sit down and talk with Eric, a researcher, writer, speaker, and policy analyst who spearheads the Institute’s work on energy policy. Known as a leading expert on coal and oil export plans in the Pacific Northwest, it was a treat to hear about our successes in defeating coal and oil terminals, and the challenges that await us with fracked gas transport and proposed methanol plants
Amidst all this was an urgent call from our very own Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper! Our friends in Sandpoint, Idaho are fighting a second rail bridge that is proposed to carry even more fossil fuels and hazardous materials along and over Lake Pend Oreille. This will result in increased dangerous trail traffic through Spokane and along our river. Please stay informed and write a comment letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about this. Stay in touch with us for updates.
The last session of note was a discussion about agricultural pollution. We went around the room and almost everyone had examples of how pollution from large farms impacts our watersheds. Of course we need our farms and value the hard work our farmers do. But almost all of us shared serious problems in our streams, rivers and lakes due to low dissolved oxygen, too much sediment, toxic algae, excessive nutrients, pesticides, and other issues that seriously degrade fish habitat. In many cases, these problems stem from poor agricultural practices. In the Spokane River watershed, we recognize that good agricultural practices are essential to clean water. So we highlighted our concerns about sediment pollution, high nitrates, damage to headwater streams, and excessive erosion in Hangman Creek that combine to result in lethal conditions for our struggling native trout in many areas. We support and celebrate our local farmers who are taking the extra steps to protect water quality by respecting stream buffers, preventing erosion, and switching to no-till agriculture.
A lot more topics were discussed, fun was had, new connections made, and inspiration gained. Our next big gathering is the International Waterkeeper Conference in June, in Buffalo, New York. Stay tuned!
The Spokane Riverkeeper conducted a water temperature study in the Hangman Creek watershed in summer of 2017. Our results show that mainstem water temperatures are much too high to support redband trout. However, results were more promising in the tributaries.
A short video comparing turbidity in Hangman Creek and the Spokane River on 2/7/2018
While it may not be apparent, the river that we love, the river that’s vital to our health and economy – needs your help. As your Riverkeepers, it is our job and our privilege to protect and defend your river so that it’s clean and safe for all to enjoy. Here’s a little background on why the river is polluted, why this pollution matters, and some easy steps that we want you to take to keep toxic pollution out of the Spokane River.
Our winter intern, Jake Peterson, takes a look at the potential sources of microplastics in the Spokane River. A previous study found microplastics in over 60% of the fish in the Spokane River, but where are they coming from and why are fish eating them?
What does a dedicated group of anglers do when sediment threatens to bury the habitat of their prized sport fish, the redband trout? Citizen science! Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited (SFTU) is leading a study to understand the intensity and duration of sediment pollution in Hangman Creek and how that effects the Spokane River.
Our guest blogger Erik Rockliffe, an angler of all waters, describes below how and why he fishes small streams. These streams provide a solitary fishing experience, full of adventure, in habitat unspoiled by humans. Read on for the report...
Input wanted! The City of Spokane is upgrading their stormwater management in the Cochrane Basin. Click to read more.
Cleaning the Spokane River isn't easy. One way of doing it is supporting the people and organizations that do much of the expensive work. The Spokane Riverkeeper applauds the City of Spokane's work to upgrade sewer and stormwater infastructure. This work will lead to a much cleaner Spokane River.
Spokane should not be conducting any effort, or be a part of any conversation to weaken Washington state water quality standards that apply to our Spokane River. Any effort on the part of any pollution discharger to weaken standards that have been put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for public health and safety will be met with a robust response from the Spokane Riverkeeper and the rest of Washington Waterkeepers. It is one thing to ask for time to get over a challenging bar… and quite another to work on lowering that bar.
In mid July we received a number of complaints of a sewage smell from just downstream of the TJ Meenach Bridge. We investigated and found the smell to be coming from the Cochrane Basin Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) #12. The sample results of 4.5 bacteria/100mL were of a safe level for water recreation. Through monitoring like this, we can ensure that the Spokane River is safe for all who use the Spokane River.
When I talk to folks about the river, I can always count on one question: Is the river clean? This can be tough to answer since clean is in the eye of the beholder and can be a point of contention among different parties that work along the river.
Meet Erik. Erik loves our watershed. He also loves to fish. Specifically exploring the small streams that feed into the river and finding fish in places no one would think to look. His feelings and connection to the river echo a lot of what we feel at the Spokane Riverkeeper.
Early Spokanites used the Spokane River as a sewer and even a garbage dump - rendering the water undrinkable. After decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars, the rivers health is improving.
I entered 35 W Main with the goal of acquiring some of the “real-world experience” that employers and graduate school admissions offices are always asking for. Though many undergraduate interns make copies and get coffee, at the Riverkeeper I worked on projects alongside Jerry and Jule that allowed me to engage with the Spokane River firsthand.
The Spokane Riverkeeper, along with the North Sound Baykeeper, and others floated Hangman Creek from Tensed, Idaho to Kentuck Trails Road in Washington, Coeur d’Alene on Earth Day Weekend 2017. Along the way we encountered great beauty, incredible restoration efforts, and vast pollution problems.
During the summer of 2016, the Spokane Riverkeeper monitored water temperature in the Spokane River and Hangman Creek. The study was conducted to examine which areas of the watershed may contain unsuitable water temperatures for native Redband Trout and exceed Washington State's water temperature standards of64F (18C). Not surprisingly, much of the Hangman Creek main stem and the Spokane River above Sullivan Road exceeded these temperatures. Surprisingly, many tributaries of Hangman Creek were much cooler than expected. Warning: This is a graph heavy post, but we wanted to get the data out there and will be following up with an in-depth report soon.
Spokane Riverkeeper has been hard at work over the past few months putting together comments (see link at bottom) on draft National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits for three dischargers on the Spokane River – City of Liberty Lake Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP), City of Spokane WWTP and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), and Kaiser Aluminum, LLC. Our comments on these permits reflect the need for strong limits on pollutants entering our river.