The small coastal watersheds within the Salmon River to Drift Creek watersheds vary in condition but several have significant water quality problems that impact valuable ecosystems and salmon populations. Most of the water quality problems within these watersheds are due to non-point-source pollution. This means that issues are not due to pollution coming out of a particular pipe, for example, but rather to land-use, landscape-level, or problems such as malfunctioning septic tanks.
For current pass/fail on local sampling sites, visit The Swim Guide, an international water quality database at this link.
Several severe problems have been highlighted by our data. In the 2009 data, all sites dipped below a pH of 6.5 in late summers and fall. The Salmon River system suffers from temperature, bacteria, and turbidity issues. Its tributary, Panther Creek shows an enormous amount of bacteria, E. Coli occasionally above 2,400 (off the scale,) most likely due to failing septic systems. Devils Lake had extremely high temperatures throughout the summer, even on the bottom of the lake, which is a detriment to its potential as summer refuge for Coho salmon.
Rock Creek is a cooler tributary, but has bacteria issues in the lower section, possibly due to livestock. Schooner Creek is consistently of high temperature, 7 day average maximums above 18°C (statewide standard) for around a month and consistently above 13°C (spawning standard) throughout the summer. At the Schooner Creek bridge below the sewer treatment plant, total coliforms measured out of range above 2,400.
Drift Creek has very high temperatures, 18-20°C average maximums for 2 months running and above 13°C in the summer. Drift Creek also shows high bacteria at multiple sites where the total coliform numbers were occasionally above 2400.
Many of our projects will directly or indirectly improve water quality conditions and some of them target obvious problems. For instance planting trees along a river will help eventually decrease the temperatures in the stream.