Friday, July 6, 2018

River and stream health in Northeastern Washington

Sinlahekin Wildlife Refuge
The health of our watersheds is important to our communities, economies, and habitats that support fish and wildlife. Our field crews will be out in six counties in Northeast Washington collecting samples from rivers and streams through October.

Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Stevens counties will be sampled for the first time since 2012. The information from these samples will provide valuable data and insights. 
Watershed field crews collecting samples in the upper Columbia River region. 

The team of scientists out sampling is part of Ecology’s Environmental Assessment Program, the scientific, non-regulatory arm of the agency. Information from the samples is used in  Ecology’s statewide Watershed Health Monitoring program and in the State of Salmon report, which is published every two years.

Watershed health monitoring is a long-term effort to look at the overall condition of rivers and streams at the regional-scale, as well as statewide. The field crews will collect biological, chemical and physical data including: fish, bugs, algae, water quality, stream flow, and stream and riparian habitat. 

Native interior Redband Trout from 2017 sampling season.

The goal this summer is to sample 50 randomly selected stream sites. All the information will be combined to determine the watershed health status in the Northeast region. This summer’s effort will allow the watershed monitoring team to see how things have changed in the region since 2012, and how that change compares to the rest of the state.

Landowners, tribes, various agencies, conservation districts and local governments have been contacted by our crews so they are aware of the upcoming field work in their area.

“We want everyone to know where we will be working and what we are doing this summer,” said Stacy Polkowske, Ecology Watershed Health monitoring supervisor. “We take landowner outreach and permission very seriously. We only conduct our stream sampling where we have landowner permission.”

The State of Salmon report, which relies on the monitoring results, is used to justify federal and state funding for salmon and trout habitat projects in Washington. The Northeast Washington Salmon Recovery Region, conservation districts, and other groups often receive this funding to carry out on-the-ground implementation of watershed restoration projects.

Once collected and analyzed, all the data from the river and stream sampling will be available on Ecology’s website. 

To learn more about watershed health and see data in regions around the state, check out the watershed database

By Camille St. Onge, communications

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