February Membership Meeting, Thursday, February 18th @ 7:00 pm : “Mill Creek Fish Passage Improvements” with Brian Burns

The Mill Creek flood control channel includes a two-mile long concrete-lined section. Fish passage in the concrete channel is poor for returning adult steelhead, bull trout, and chinook due to existing conditions of water depth and velocity. A passage study completed in 2010 described the passage problems, and is the basis for multiple projects that improve passage. Currently, about 22% of the channel length has been treated with fish passage improvements. This presentation will explain the nature of the passage problems, and provide an update on progress of projects.

 Brian was raised in Napa, California, and completed a B.S. in Biological Sciences at Sacramento State University in 1997. During his years in Sacramento, he developed an interest in birds which lead him to study avian biology at Utah State University, where he completed his M.S. in 2000. Soon after, he moved to Walla Walla, and began working with the Tri-State Steelheaders in 2002. In 2004, he became project manager and has since completed several fish passage and habitat restoration projects. In his free time, his hobbies include a large vegetable garden, preserving the garden’s harvest, a stream restoration project on his property, and walks with his Siberian husky.

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Brian Burns, Tri-State Steelheaders

Brian Burns, Tri-State Steelheaders-all photos courtesy of Brian Burns

Mill Creek

Mill Creek

Mill Creek

2 thoughts on “February Membership Meeting, Thursday, February 18th @ 7:00 pm : “Mill Creek Fish Passage Improvements” with Brian Burns

  1. Harold Kehney

    Salmon and fish in Mill Creek

    What is the the effect and consideration given to the the tons of erosion of top soil that is filled with farming chemicals draining into Mill Creek yearly. Millions is spent on protecting the creek but I have never heard anything about the effect of chemicals in the creek or what is down to control pesticides in the creek. It doesn’t take a lot of studies to see muddy water that is coming from farm fields after heavy rains and spring run off and a simple walk can tell you which farms is it coming form. I have all respect for our farmers but at the same time simple barrier and green barriers seem to help prevent this.

    1. Kathryn Howard Post author

      Dear Mr. Kehney,
      You pose some interesting questions. The Washington State Dept. of Ecology is the regulatory agency regarding water quality. Both the Dept. of Ecology and Washington State Dept. of Agriculture have sampled for chemicals including pesticides within our greater Walla Walla Basin. Additional info is included below.

      You bring up some good points regarding erosion. Yes, there is always more work we could be doing. Riparian buffers and grass filter strips are good ways to separate agricultural activities and surface runoff from streams. We still encourage these practices. We worked with farmers and our USDA partners to reduce tillage (resulting in less surface erosion) practices and installed over 3,400 acres of riparian forest buffer in our county. We have annual meetings to educate folks on pesticide management whether alternatives to using pesticides, alternate crops to reduce weed pressure and the need for chemical applications or appropriate application techniques.

      Mud/silt in streams can come from surface flow or instream processes. High flows have a lot of velocity and scour banks resulting in excess erosion conditions. I can think of several places where streams eroded 15 feet of lost soil along 200 linear feet of stream bank contributing a significant amount of sediment to the system.

      These are complex processes that are difficult to convey over email. We also have a few upcoming efforts to reduce pollutants in Mill Creek. I would be happy to fill you in on our current and upcoming efforts or to discuss specific concerns with you. Please feel free to contact me directly at the Walla Walla County Conservation District at 509-956-3756.

      The state Dept. of Agriculture is conducting a 3 year series of pesticide sampling in the Touchet River. Compared to other areas in the state, initial results weren’t as bad as they were expecting. Their results are published in fact sheets found here: https://agr.wa.gov/forms-and-publications/publications/natural-resources-assessment

      Ecology documents can be located through their publications portal. There are over 130 publications for the Walla Walla area ranging from air quality, water quantity to water quality (Total maximum daily load=TMDL). Mill Creek has TMDL reports for chlorine and ammonia-nitrogen. I don’t know of one specific on Mill Creek for pesticides.

      The Dept. of Ecology shared last fall the following:

      “The Walla Walla Basin Bacteria, pH, and Dissolved Oxygen TMDL – Water Quality Effectiveness Monitoring Report is ready for your review.

      You can download the report from Ecology’s Public Share site. The report is separated into two sections, body and appendices, linked below.

      Walla Walla Effectiveness Monitoring Report draft – Body

      Walla Walla Effectiveness Monitoring Report draft – Appendices

      This report includes results and analyses of surface water quality monitoring in rivers and streams of the Walla Walla Basin conducted by the Washington Department of Ecology between July 2014 and June 2015.”

      Renee M. Hadley

      District Manager

      Walla Walla County Conservation District

      direct line 509-956-3756 or office line 956-3777


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