Spokane Riverkeeper

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.

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.

 

Intern Spotlight

Meet our Health & Justice Summer Intern, Dana Corral!

School: Gonzaga Law SchoolDana Picture
Year: 2L
Hometown: Livermore, CA

I had the chance to sit down with Dana during her last week here at the center and talk to her about her time here.

Why did you want to intern for CFJ?

I’ve done a lot of transactional law and I was interested in diversifying and being able to get into a different area of law. Working in a type of law with a more human element and where there is more gravity in the decisions made. Also being able to work somewhere that is actively helping the community was something I found very appealing.

Favorite part of interning for CFJ?

Going to court with Barry and working on representing unlawful detainers. Having the opportunity to represent disadvantaged clients in this case tenants, has been very rewarding. I’ve had such a great experience being able to watch a lawyer like Barry zealously advocate for the rights of those who so often go unrepresented. It is such important work, in a lot of cases it is the difference between someone keeping their home or becoming homeless.

What have you learned while working for CFJ?

Law is very inaccessible to most people because of how expensive it is. There is such a dire need for agencies that provide low cost legal aid. So many people just don’t understand the system, or have nowhere to go to get the help they need other than places like the CFJ. There is such a natural bias in the system to rule in favor of the plaintiff especially in landlord tenant issues. These landlords typically understand the system and have the money to take advantage of it while most of the time our clients lack the understanding and the resources.

Supervisor Quote: “My only regret with Dana is that she is not going to be with us longer – her persistence and perspective were incredibly valuable.”-Barry Pfundt

 

Intern Spotlight

Reagan Photo

Meet our development intern, Reagan Wiley!

School: Gonzaga University
Major: Business Administration
Concentration(s): Economics and
Law & Public Policy
Graduation Year: May 2017
Hometown: Bellevue, WA
Reagan began an internship with the Center for Justice this past April and will be with us through the end of her senior year. Upon graduating Gonzaga, she is planning to attend law school and pursue a career in environmental law.

Why did you want to intern for the Center for Justice?

I really wanted to be able to intern somewhere I felt I could gain experience and knowledge about non-profit legal work. After hearing about the Center for Justice I felt that it would be a great place for me to gain exposure to environmental and poverty law.

What is the best part about interning for the Center for Justice?

Having the opportunity to work for an organization doing work I find so inspiring has been a very rewarding experience. The best part of working here has been witnessing the commitment to justice the entire staff has, their passion for helping others has been contagious and has given me a strong sense of how important non-profit legal work is to ensure a fair justice system.

What have you learned while working for the Center for Justice?

I’ve learned a lot about the Spokane community, and the types of issues being faced both in terms of the environment and the legal system. On a more personal level I have bettered my organizational and time management skills, as well as gaining familiarity with various data entry and promotional programs.

Supervisor Quote:

“We are delighted to have Reagan as a member of our team. She brings enthusiasm each day to the office and has been such an immense help to the development department. She demonstrates an appetite for knowledge and is always eager to dig deeper to understand the societal impact of our work in the community. I’m confident Reagan will make a talented leader one day in whatever field she chooses!”Megan Wingo