Up On Crystal Creek

The Yakima River Headwaters TU Chapter recently completed the first of many events on Crystal Creek, an intermittent tributary of the Yakima. Historically, the area of Roslyn and Ronald, WA were mining towns, and Crystal Creek bears the legacy of those operations. Smaller tributaries and springs contribute some water flow to the creek, but it's down to a trickle now, and barely reaches the Yakima.

According to the Department of Ecology, Crystal Creek has a very storied past. Studies determined that pollutants, like fecal coliform bacteria, chlorine, and nutrients, were entering Crystal Creek from several sources. Leaking sewer lines in Roslyn introduced pollutants into the creek. Wastewater from a sewage treatment lagoons drained into the creek from an open ditch. Drainage from a nearby mine also entered the creek. (Courtesy of http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/tmdl/CrystalCrTMDL.html)

Before you ask why we'd undertake such a project on a waterway that is often dry, polluted, and rarely used anymore, consider that there are many more waterways just like this one in the area, that have a larger cumulative effect - when the creek does flow with water, it carries those pollutants into the Yakima. So, we're taking care of the creek when it's dry to protect the larger system when it's wet. To reconnect this creek to the Yakima, it will take a lot of work. To restore more than 5 miles of potential spawning and nursery habitat to the system for salmon, steelhead, and bull trout will take time, money, and volunteers engaging in more clean-up's, citizen science, and stewardship. Is it worth it?

What did we find during our clean-up? Plenty. To our delight, we found fish - fish taking refuge in pools where they could be found. Garbage - lots of that. 300 pounds of fast food containers, tires, metal signs, etc. Illegal trails that criss-cross the creek being used for ORV "bridges" over the water block the passage of fish, and has resulted in homes being flooded downstream. And culverts - proof that some work to control the flow of the river has been done in the past, but at the detriment of fish.

We have another clean-up planned for Saturday, October 10th, part of a Women's Weekend on the Yakima River. Keep an eye on this group, or our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/YakimaRiverHeadwatersTU for more information.

Headwaters Matter!

Derek Young

President, Yakima River Headwaters Trout Unlimited



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