Summer 2016 Water Temperature Round-Up

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 of  64F (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 River

First, let’s talk about the Spokane River.  Spokane River water temperatures are best viewed in two sections – upriver and downriver of where the aquifer enters at Sullivan Road. Our upriver loggers were located at Barker Rd., Harvard Rd., and State Line, and downriver loggers at TJ Meenach Bridge, Glover Field, Division Street, and just above Upriver Dam.  This separation in temperature trends is due to aquifer influence; aquifer water is cooler than surface water, particularly in the summer, as it is stored below ground.  As indicated on the graph by the missing data, we had five loggers stolen over the course of the summer. Thankfully the upriver site of Harvard Rd. had enough data for us to compare its trends to downriver locations. (In lieu of this loss of equipment, PLEASE leave any scientific monitoring equipment you may come upon in the river be.  Next year I will be placing replicate loggers at each site!)

The graph below shows the average, highest/lowest daily, and extreme instantaneous water temperatures recorded at each location.  Even though there are missing data, the difference between the upriver and downriver sites isclear.  Upriver sites exceed water temperature standards while downriver sites do not.  Interestingly, the site above Upriver Dam (located just downstream of Boulder Beach) was the warmest of the downriver sites, and had days above the 64F (18C) standard.  slide1

The line graph below shows the temporal distinction between upriver (warm tones) and downriver (cool tones) trends. While both regions peaked in temperatures around late July and early August, downriver temperatures remained below the maximum habitable temperature for trout – indicated by the red line on the graph – for most of the summer while upriver temperatures were consistently above this limit. The upper Spokane River is uninhabitable for Redband Trout during the summer, raising the question of whether it should be listed.

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Next year we plan to continue our Spokane River water temperature monitoring, focusing on just how hot the River is above the aquifer.  We will add a number of sites and replicate our current sites.

Hangman Creek

 

We placed loggers throughout the Hangman Creek watershed (see red stars on the map below), with four on the main stem and nine in tributaries.  Spangle Creek went dry, leaving us with 11 total loggers that gave us water temperature data.

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We found that Hangman Creek is significantly hotter than its tributaries. The boxplot below shows Hangman Creek locations on the left and tributaries on the right.  No main stem location had average temperatures lower than any monitored tributary.  This can be explained in part by the lack of riparian (streamside) vegetation along the creek.  Though the tributaries do see influence from underground springs, if Hangman had adequate riparian cover along its entirety to filter non-point pollution and shade the creek from intense sunlight we may not see such a stark differentiation in temperature trends.  One surprise from this graph was Rattler Run Creek.  We expected it to have high temperatures because it flows through an intensely modified area of the Palouse, but instead it had the lowest temperatures of all the tributaries monitored.

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Sorry for the messy graph below, but we wanted to show that parts of Hangman Creek rarely meet temperature standards for Redband Trout during the summer. While its tributaries do, Redband are unlikely to reach the sanctuary of the tributaries when Hangman’s main stem is uninhabitable from mid-May to early September.

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Next year we plan to continue monitoring Hangman Creek watershed water temperature, focusing on more tributaries that may have temperature issues .  We would also like to form a better picture of where the main stem of Hangman Creek gets so warm by expanding our monitoring locations into Idaho.

Thanks to intern extraordinaire Rachel Fricke for help writing and editing this blog!   

Reducing Pollution One Permit at a Time

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.

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The Spokane Riverkeeper reads and comments on discharge permits, asking for less pollution to be dumped into our river.

The NPDES was established by the Clean Water Act as a program to control the amount of pollution discharged into bodies of water. The original architects envisioned achieving fishable, swimmable waters across the nation by 1987. The word “elimination” is of specific importance; the system was established with the intent that discharges would ultimately be eradicated. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states only 31% of the nation’s rivers are actually monitored for water quality. Of those rivers monitored or tracked, only 55% are clean enough to for others to swim or fish.

Permits, such as those addressed in our comments, provide timelines and limits on the pollutants discharged into the Spokane River. Large pollutants of particular attention are the nutrient total phosphorus and toxic chemicals like PCBs. However, additional pollutants have a strong presence – examples being pharmaceuticals and fire retardants – and consequences we do not yet fully understand. The regulation of all of these pollutants is important because toxins bioaccumulate in the food chain, creating alterations in the eco-balance.

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Bioaccumulation of PCBs in the Puget Sound. Toxins magnify up the food chain, with dire consequences for those at the top (including humans).

These permits have strong total phosphorus limits and numerical limits proposed for PCBs that will put the river into compliance with water quality standards by 2026. We support the numbers in these permits and in fact, both total phosphorus and the numerical PCB limits in these permits are essential for a clean river. Without these numerical limits, these permits would not provide assurance that we will get to a clean river. Riverkeeper participates with Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force (SRRTTF) that is designing a plan to get our river to the Water Quality Standard (WQS) for PCBs. For this Task Force to be legitimate, it must make “measurable progress” in cleaning up PCBs in the river. Riverkeeper maintains the belief that permits are an essential part of making “measurable progress” inside the SRRTTF.

The comment period for these permits is currently closed, but NPDES Permits for Inland Empire Paper  and Spokane County will open for public comment in draft form this Fall. Information on these will be sent your way via Facebook and email alerts!

Check out our comments here:  waterkeeper-tlc-npdes-comments

 

A huge thanks to our intern Rachel Fricke for writing this blog.

Spokane’s Solution to Combined Sewage Overflows

A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of touring a Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) tank currently being constructed underneath Pettit Drive (better known as Doomsday Hill). The City’s investment in multiple tanks similar to the one pictured below is preventing millions of gallons of combined sewage and stormwater overflow from ending up in our river.  This project and ones like it are great news for the health of the Spokane River.

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Riverkeeper technical lead, Jule Schultz, stands in the CSO tank at the top of Doomsday Hill.

So what are CSOs, and why do they exist in the first place? When Spokane’s sewer system was initially installed in the late 1800s, sewage and stormwater were removed via a singular pipe system, and all pipes drained directly into the Spokane River or Hangman Creek (!). A Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) was installed by 1958 with a capacity of 50 million gallons a day (mgd). Sewage and wastewater that were treated discharged into the river. However, on days when flow exceeds the WWTP’s maximum capacity– typically a result of precipitation or rapid snowmelt – runoff overwhelms the ability of the WWTTP to handle this combined sewage and stormwater. On these days, the excess combined pollution flows into the River before reaching the sewage treatment plant, hence the term Combined Sewage Overflow (see figure below).

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Figure 1. A typical CSO which sends sewage to be treated at the Wastewater Treatment Plant during dry weather, but diverts sewage to the river during wet weather. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia).

Though our sewage treatment plant’s capacity has increased to a present-day maximum capacity of 150 million gallons per day, CSOs continue to occur, albeit at significantly reduced numbers. The City’s 2015 annual report found that 54 million gallons of untreated combined sewage and stormwater was discharged into the river.

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Figure 2. A typical CSO storage tank adds capacity to a sewer system and reduces sewage flowing to the river. (Image courtesy of King County).

To further combat CSOs, in 2005 the City of Spokane initiated a plan calling for the addition of CSO control facilities to the city’s sewer system. These control facilities are large, underground concrete tanks. In the event of an excessive flow, CSO tanks temporarily store combined sewage and stormwater until flow has decreased to the point where the treatment facility has the capacity to process the stored overflow. The tank we toured under Doomsday will have a capacity of 694,000 gallons.

Currently, 11 CSO tanks are operating with a total combined volume of 3,598,300 gallons, but during the duration of a storm, they can redirect much more combined sewage than that (Figure 3 below). For example, a December 2015 four tanks diverted 4.2 million gallons! With the completion of all tanks under construction and in design, there will ultimately be 24 tanks with a combined capacity of 14,579,300 gallons. This should essentially eliminate CSO outfalls into the river, ensuring cleaner water for humans and wildlife. For more information on CSOs, see the City’s CSO Overview/Monthly Reports, 2015 CSO Annual Report, 2005 CSO Plan Amendment, and Integrated Clean Water Plan.

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A huge thanks to Rachel Fricke, our intern, for writing this blog.

In Hot Water: A Preview of Water Temperatures in the Spokane Watershed, 2016

Rachel Fricke, a Spokane native who comes to us from the University of Southern California, is our Fall Intern. Below, she discusses our recent summer temperature findings.

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Hangman Creek in the Palouse region of Whitman County, WA. Note the complete lack of streamside vegetation that should provide shade from the summer sunshine.

 

For the past month, I’ve had the pleasure of running around the Spokane River watershed collecting and recording data from temperature loggers that were placed back in June. Why does Riverkeeper care about temperature? Though temperature is not a physical or chemical pollutant, it has a direct impact on the organisms inhabiting our river and its tributaries.

The majority of freshwater-dwellers are cold-blooded, meaning their internal body temperature aligns with the temperature of their external environment. Should these organism’s internal temperatures become too hot, their cells begin to die, eventually causing mortality. Redband trout, a prominent species in the Spokane River ecosystem, live and spawn at an optimum temperature of 57.2° F. They can withstand temperature variances of a few degrees, but will not occupy regions where water temperature is significantly higher than optimum.

Our summer loggers from the Spokane River showed that temperatures reached their highest (~83° F) at the Harvard and Barker Road bridge crossings. This makes sense because these locations are upriver from where groundwater from the aquifer – which is cooler than surface water – begins feeding into the river. Further downriver at TJ Meenach we recorded a high of 63°F – a habitable temperature for Redband.

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Summer 2016 Spokane River water temperature. An upcoming post will look at these temperatures in depth.

On Hangman Creek, our loggers recorded significantly elevated temperatures. At the mouth, where Hangman flows into the Spokane, temperatures peaked at 79° F.  Just downstream from Tekoa at Waverly we recorded our highest water temperatures from the entire watershed – a whopping 84° F.

Hangman’s banks in this region have little to no riparian cover, also referred to as streamside forestation. Plant growth alongside streams is essential for healthy stream temperatures as it shades creek water. Hangman Creek’s current conditions in the Waverly area leave creek water directly exposed to the Palouse’s intense summer sun and heat, resulting in heightened water temperatures.

Check back within the coming weeks for a comprehensive report of this year’s temperature and water quality data. For more information on Redband trout, the Western Native Trout Initiative is a great reference.

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A kayaker observes the lack of riparian cover on Hangman Creek in April, 2016.

 

Spokane and the Spokane Riverkeeper Stands With the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline Project

Allison Beard testifies in favour of Resolution 2016-0079

Allison Beard testifies in favour of Resolution 2016-0079

On October 3rd, 2016 the Spokane city Council passed a resolution to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and the people who are actively opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River and ancestral tribal lands. This project has put tribal waters, sacred burials and ancestral lands at risk of oil spills. The project reflects the ongoing push to put oil profits and global markets ahead of indigenous values, by externalizing the costs of oil transportation to local people and environments. The Spokane Riverkeeper stands with this historic and momentous opposition.  We made the following comments at the City Council Meeting on Monday night, October 3rd. Thanks to the Spokane City Council, the Spokane Tribe, and to all who testified in support of this resolution. Thanks also, to those folks, like Jacob Johns and others, who have traveled out to North Dakota to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.  The Resolution passed with all but two council members voting for 2016-0079.  #WaterIsLife

Spokane Riverkeeper testimony favor of Resolution 2016-0079 given at the Spokane City Council meeting October 3, 2016 (my comments to the council were condensed in the verbal testimony)

https://static.spokanecity.org/documents/citycouncil/current-agendas/2016/10/city-council-current-agenda-2016-10-03.pdf(Pg 81)

“Thanks Council President Stuckart, Spokane city Council for bringing resolution 2016-0079 forward.
I am the Spokane Riverkeeper and I bring a simple message of support for resolution 2016-0079. The Spokane Riverkeeper is a member of the Global Waterkeeper Alliance. The Water keeper movement began as a movement of local fishermen on the Hudson River who fought corporate polluters, and the destruction of their local fisheries by corporate power. Today, we are joined by many indigenous waterkeepers working across the earth behalf of the public and local populations to protect their sacred and unique waterways.
It is only right that we ask the City of Spokane to support the Standing Rock Tribe in calling for the halt of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Indeed the indigenous Peoples worldwide from Borneo to Lapland, are now calling for the support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the halt of this pipeline near sacred burials and the waters of the Missouri River. This makes sense for the following reasons:
1. The people of the Standing Rock Tribe are now facing a situation in which their local, unique and treaty endowed rights is being threatened for corporate profit. This scenario is being played out across the earth and is both unjust and immoral. We need to put a stop to the continued destruction of indigenous peoples and cultures through the destruction of lands of natural resources.
2. The City of Spokane is in a unique situation to understand and the plight of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. Spokane now has many trains a week traveling through our city and we have little control over the price that may finally be exacted from our river and our community. We should feel and express solidarity with communities in parallel situations.
3. Water is Life. This resolution supports the idea that the pillars of water and culture are actually more important than corporate profits. Respecting and valuing water – and our connections to that water is idea whose day is now here. We are at a turning point in history wherein if we continue to risk, degrade and waste our children’s precious water, we will – and our children will – find ourselves living in a world of poverty. A world bereft of the gifts like clean water, and healthy rivers –a gift that we currently too often take for granted.
I urge you to support the Standing Rock Sioux by passing this resolution and send a powerful message that the world’s waters are not for sale – that the worlds indigenous cultures and the Earth that underpins all of us, deserve respect. After all it is indigenous peoples from Laos to Lapland to the first nations of the Columbia River that are holding up the wisdom of caring for the places we live, and the waters that support and sustain us. – Spokane Riverkeeper

 

Language of the resolution passed By the Spokane City Council on October 3, 2016.
RESOLUTION NO. 2016-0079

A Resolution expressing solidarity with Indigenous protest in opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

WHEREAS, the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) would carry as many
as 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day for more than 1,100 miles from the oil fields of
North Dakota to Illinois, crossing more than 200 rivers, creeks, and tributaries, including
the Missouri River, which provides drinking water across the Midwest and serves
around 10 million people; and

WHEREAS, despite opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, more than
30 environmental advocacy groups, as well as other tribes along the proposed route,
and without environmental review as required by federal law, in July 2016 the U.S.,
Army Corps of Engineers issued a “mitigated finding of no significant impact” that would
permit construction of the pipeline to move forward; and

WHEREAS, on August 15, 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council called
on Tribal nations and Indigenous people around the world to issue resolutions in
support of the Standing Rock Sioux and the Sacred Stones Camp; and

WHEREAS, Washington State recognizes that American Indian burial grounds
and historic graves are “a finite, irreplaceable, and nonrenewable cultural resource, and
are an intrinsic part of the cultural heritage of the people of Washington” (RCW
27.44.030); and

WHEREAS, any oil spill into the Missouri River would irreparably harm the
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lands, burial grounds, waters, and other sites of cultural,
religious, and historical significance; and

WHEREAS, the City Councils of Seattle and Bellingham, Washington; Portland,
Oregon; St. Louis, Missouri; Lawrence, Kansas; Cleveland, Ohio; and St. Paul and
Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians, comprised of 59
Indian Nations in the Northwest; and nearly 200 Indian Nations; are among the
governmental bodies that have taken formal action to support the Standing Rock Sioux
Tribe and oppose the DAPL.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SPOKANE CITY COUNCIL
that the City of Spokane stands in solidarity with any and all peaceful opposition to the
construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and urges the residents of Spokane to help
raise awareness of this important struggle for Indigenous sovereignty and
environmental justice.

Passed by the City Council this ____ day of September, 2016. (October 3rd, 2016)

A Message from Will the Intern

Will Tender, a student at Redlands College, interned for us this summer.  He volunteered his time hauling heavy loads of garbage and helping with our water quality monitoring program.  I asked him to write a short summary of what he did this summer (that’s him in the blue PFD).  13312662_1005810499455217_1208258925092673815_n

This summer I was given the opportunity to be an intern for the Spokane Riverkeeper. Throughout the experience I learned a lot about the Spokane River and Watershed. Pretty much every day I was in the field, working right beside the river. We rafted the river about once a week picking up several hundreds of pounds of garbage each day. Days we didn’t raft we would take groups out alongside the shore to pick up trash, go on water quality runs, place temperature loggers into the Watershed to help monitor the health of various spots on the river, as well as a variety of other tasks.

13507090_1024439490925651_2283164362271327934_nRafting at least once a week for 3 months gives you a newfound respect and appreciation for the river. It really showed me that preservation should be taken very seriously, as something so beautiful and natural should be protected from industrialization and unnecessary pollution.

The other aspect of this experience that really altered my views was how the Riverkeeper wants people to use the river. Initially, when I began this experience I wasn’t sure the program’s stance on public usage. I thought that public usage was potentially a primary source of pollution. I came to find out that a good deal of the frequent rafters and tubers are very respectful of the river and strive to protect it. A really cool aspect of the Riverkeeper is how supportive they are of the public users, and how the program not only supports, but encourages everyone to experience the river.

Overall this opportunity opened my eyes to what goes into monitoring and protecting nature as a whole. There are so many different components that need to be addressed, and so many different players that need to be factored into the equation. This internship has been a real mentality changing experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity.