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Stream Riffles

Lake Forest Park StreamKeepers December 2005 Annual Report

In this, the first StreamKeepers Annual Report, we'll recap our 2005 activities and present the results of our findings and status of Lake Forest Park (LFP) streams. This report includes: 

 

Introduction

Lake Forest Park StreamKeepers is a group of 20 - 30 people of all ages who care about the condition of our streams. Streamkeepers participate in stream monitoring, education, and restoration projects. LFP residents are fortunate to have two main stream

systems running through the city-McAleer Creek and Lyon Creek.
  • McAleer is the larger, more southerly one, which flows down by the gas stations and the LFP Fire Station, culverts under Bothell Way, and then towards the lake.
  • Lyon Creek flows through more backyards and front lawns, under the LFP Shopping Center, and then finally through the Lyon Creek Waterfront Preserve, which the City of LFP purchased as an environmental learning site.

The creeks meander through city parks, steep ravines, and neighbors' yards to flow into the waters of Lake Washington.

2005 Highlights

StreamKeepers has worked with the City of LFP, the Stewardship Foundation, Adopt-a-Stream, and others to expand the types of information we gather about McAleer and Lyon Creeks.

We have been doing quarterly stream "chemical characteristics" (basic water quality characteristics) testing for over ten years, and now have a valuable baseline of information about our creeks. In the last 18 months, we've added two new tests; and now do regular testing for:

  • Basic chemical characteristics (Qtrly) - began in early 1990's
  • Fecal coliform (FC) levels (twice/yr) - new in 2005
  • Benthic Inventory of Biological Integrity (BIBI) (yearly) - new in 2004.

    We don't yet test for specific toxic substances-such as pesticides, herbicides, oil and other street run-off contaminants-that are undoubtedly present in our streams (eg, phosphorus, petroleum, pcb's); however if we can acquire the resources, that may be the direction for future testing.

     

  • Stream Monitoring-What the Data Shows

    This is what we did and what we learned over the last 18 months. For details, see the Data page on this website.

    Basic Chemical Characteristics:

    What & why we test: This testing includes dissolved oxygen (DO), pH (acidity), temperature, and turbidity.

    How we test: Four times a year—Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter—StreamKeeper volunteers gather in the lower LFP Mall, then divide into four

    teams that each go out and test three locations (12 in all) for basic chemical characteristics. Each team totes one of the bright red, green, blue, or yellow color-coded testing boxes, which includes the sampling equipment, protocols, and driving directions.

    This year our numbers have steadily increased! We always make sure to pair up newcomers with seasoned StreamKeepers to learn the protocols and find the locations!

    Results: Consistently very good to excellent. These basic water characteristics are necessary for stream life, and especially fish.

    Fecal Coliform (FC) Levels:

    What & why we test: Fecal coliform is a bacteria almost always associated with feces from warm-blooded animals. It’s generally considered more benign than its nasty cousin, the e coli bacteria; however, the presence fecal coliform is an indicator that e-coli is also present. Fecal coliform (FC) bacteria may occur as a result of nonpoint sources of human and animal waste, or the overflow of domestic sewage. (Note: Mountlake Terrace had two raw sewage overflow incidents into Lyons Creek in 2005.) The presence of fecal contamination is an indicator that there is a potential health risk for people or animals exposed to this water. Waterborne pathogenic diseases include viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, and hepatitis A.

    How we test: FC levels are measured by number of colonies cultured in a laboratory from a 100-milliliter sample of water.

    Results: The state standard for streams such as ours is 50 colonies (per 100-millimeter). Our actual results, provided by the City of Everett, are consistently higher—4 to 5 times higher in some locations. These results are not necessarily alarming, however. Fish and other creatures that live in the streams seem to be able to tolerate periodic fluctuations in this range. However, you and I (and our pets) should not drink the water!

    BIBI – New Testing This Year

    What & why we test: The basic chemical characteristics are not enough to determine whether or not a stream can support fish,

    frogs, salamanders, crawdads, or other desirable stream-dwellers. These stream-dwellers depend on macroinvertebrates as a food source. Counting the number and types of macroinvertebrates helps determine if our streams can sustain life.

    How we test: We have recently begun using a sampling and testing procedure developed at the U of W, call the Benthic Inventory of Biological Integrity (BIBI, for short). (The protocol was developed by James Karr, UW, http://www.fish.washington.edu/people/karr/). This process uses a sample of organic material from a 12 in. square area of stream bottom, and inventories the macroinvertebrate creatures present (aquatic insects, worms, small mollusks). In summer of 2005, about 15 LFP StreamKeeper and LFP Stewardship volunteers gathered for video and hands-on BIBI training in the protocols of the BIBI testing under the direction of our co-leaders, Mark Phillips and Don Fiene. The Shoreline/Lake Forest Park "Enterprise" newspaper featured the new activity as a cover story article.

    Results: The limited test results from an initial sampling last year--Oct. 2004—showed both streams in the “Poor” category. (Note: We will update this report as soon as the lab provides 2005 results.)

     

    Stream Monitoring-Beyond the Data

    There's good news and there's cause for concern.

    The Good News

    Our streams continue to be wonderful resources that connect us to the natural world, whether we’re fortunate enough to live near one or simply catch glimpses as we make our daily rounds. It is heartening to know that there are still a few places, on McAleer Creek especially, that are probably not much different than they were 200 years ago—a few places. And, our streams still are home to a variety of living creatures, including fish, crayfish, salamanders, insects, worms and mollusks, and the other creatures, like birds and raccoons, that feed on them. But, unfortunately, the picture is changing.

    A Shadow of Things to Come?

    When you look at a snapshot of the data, it looks like good news; but that's not the whole picture of stream health.

    Animals in decline? The bad news is that both the variety and numbers of stream-resident animals seems to be in steady decline. Long-term residents tell of salmon runs on Lyon Creek, until about 20 years ago – but none have been seen in recent years. McAleer Creek still has small, remnant salmon runs, undoubtedly aided by annual stocking by elementary schools and others. Several beautiful large salamanders were found recently on Brookside Creek, a tributary of McAleer, but generally salamanders are very rare. And has anyone seen (or heard!) a frog in LFP lately? This decline in types of animals is supported by the results of our BIBI testing. If life in our streams continues to disappear, we have the real future scenario of streams that are essentially devoid of life. Like installation art displays, they might still be interesting to behold, but essentially dead.

    Is erosion the root cause? From available data, a good case can be made that the most serious threat to our streams is not chemical pollution, but erosion. Over the years, as we have developed along the streams and engineered them to suit our purposes; the natural vegetation buffers, wetlands, and flood plains that border streams have been greatly reduced.

    Our streams are now very susceptible to extreme erosion during extended periods of heavy rain. In Lake Forest Park, in too many places, our streams flow through artificial, hard channels that increase the velocity of flow. This change to the natural, meandering flow causes great amounts of silt. This channeling, in turn, changes the nature of the streambeds in many areas, creating an inhospitable environment for the insects and other creatures which are adapted to live in the spaces between rocks, and which form the base of the stream ecosystem.

    2006 Next Steps

    StreamKeepers is "run" by an informal steering committee, which meets periodically to discuss goals and plan activities. A few of the projects

    StreamKeepers are discussing for 2006 include:
    • Refresh StreamKeeper Web site, to include more community involvement, such as an "I Spotted a Salmon" form for reporting salmon sightings and links to other stream-protection resources. 
    • Increase partnership activities with other organizations, such as Stewardship Foundation, Adopt-a-Stream, and schools. 
    • Developing school curricula and projects, such as "Salmon Spotter" badge and school reports ("Why aren't there any frogs?" What chemicals are in our streams?," etc.).

    2006 Monitoring Schedule

    Please join us for stream sampling. Stream monitoring is a great activity for young environmentalists and a good way for students to earn community service credits. Monitoring events are scheduled for Saturdays:

    • Basic stream chemical characteristics: Stream monitoring sessions are typically scheduled for the 3rd Saturday of the 1st month in each quarter (e.g. January, April, July, and October). We gather in the lower level of the Lake Forest Park Towne Center mall at 9:00 AM, and are done by about 11:00 AM.
    • Fecal coliform (FC): Sampling will be scheduled for April & September.
    • BIBI: Sample collection will be scheduled between Sept 15th and October 15th.

    Confirm the dates by emailing either of our co-leaders:

     

    Additional Resources