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Environmental Group Concerned about Health of Hangman Creek

Photo courtesy of EcologyWA via Flickr
Hangman Creek

A local watchdog environmental group has given Hangman Creek a failing grade when it comes to health of the waterway.

The Spokane Riverkeeper says Hangman Creek deserves an F grade , because of what it called “thermal” pollution, and also presence of too much nitrogen and phosphorus.

Riverkeeper Jerry White says once robust fish populations are in decline, and much of it has to do with the removal of trees and vegetation along the creeks bank. White says, “The cause of this is the lack of streamside vegetation that has been caused by bad land use practices. It is important to note that every river or stream has to have streamside vegetation. Grass, shrubs, trees, in order to protect the water quality, we often call this area buffers, because it buffers between the land use and clean water.”

White says the lack of vegetation has resulted in much warmer water than in the past.  He also blames the Department of Ecology for not doing enough to reduce land uses like agriculture adjoining the creek.

Ecology spokeswoman Brooke Beeler says current state law regarding waterway protections and buffer zones, is somewhat complicated by the difference between rural and urban areas. Beeler says, “The shoreline master program does have some requirements for setbacks when it comes to building. But agriculture is largely exempted from shoreline regulations. Water quality regulations in Washington do require that people don’t pollute, so there’s not necessarily a strict number, but we do have recommendations depending on the type of creek or stream or the type of activity it is.”

Beeler says Ecology’s approach is to work with landowners to make voluntary improvements,  “There are quite a few state and local programs that landowners can enroll in ,that help pay for, whether it’s the plants, or paying to take land along the creek out of production, and receiving payment for it, there’s a lot of options available.”

Beeler says the Ecology Department reserves formal enforcement actions for egregious violations. She adds the agency has been sending crew out in boats in the last month to do specific surveying of conditions on the creek for a better understanding of the pollution threats it faces.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.