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King County Water Quality Monitoring

King County has been conducting monthly baseline water quality monitoring in Tibbetts Creek since 1976. The stream is sampled at one site (X630), located near the mouth, at the footbridge crossing over Tibbetts Creek in Sammamish State Park. Sampling at X630 was discontinued in 2008 due to budget cutbacks but was reinstated in February 2013. King County began collecting benthic macroinvertebrate samples in Tibbetts Creek in 2002. Sediment samples have been collected from Tibbetts Creek as part of the Streams Sediment Monitoring Program starting in 1987.

Watershed

Water Shed Image Tibbetts Creek is placed in Ecology's Noncore Salmon/Trout Aquatic Use Category which sets criterion for the protection of spawning, core rearing, and migration of salmon and trout, and other associated aquatic life.

Tibbetts Creek is a relatively short creek (4.3 miles long) that originates on Squak Mountain at an elevation of 1,080 feet. The stream flows through a steep headwater area, then in midcourse opens up to a broad flood plain that empties into Lake Sammamish. Though not a tributary to Issaquah Creek, it shares a common floodplain with the mainstem during large flood events.

Efforts to restore the damaged creek have been underway for more than ten years. In the summer of 2002 more than 10,000 cubic yards of mine tailings were excavated from where the debris had been dumped into a gully along Tibbetts Creek by mine operators. Prior to excavation, heavy rains would wash large quantities amounts of the tailings into the creek. The sediment clogged channels, impeding salmon and trout migration and contributing to downstream flooding. The mine closed in the 1950s. (Seattle Times, November 22, 2002).

A site, roughly 5-acres in size, was replanted in 2002 on part of a 400-acre parcel between Cougar and Squak mountains deeded to Issaquah in May by the Talus developers. The transfer preserves valuable wildlife habitat, creating a mile-wide swath of public land that connects the Cougar Mountain and Squak Mountain parks. The restoration is a joint effort by Issaquah, local environmental groups and the developers of Talus and is meant to restore fish habitat, reduce flooding and eliminate a significant source of phosphorus

About 1,800 feet of new stream channel, complete with standing snags and strategically placed logs, has been built on Rowley Enterprises property south of Interstate 90. Rowley Enterprises has committed $1.2 million to the restoration project. The process also included the Muckleshoot Tribe; the city of Issaquah; the volunteer Friends of the Issaquah Fish Hatchery, and the state departments of Transportation, Parks, and Fish and Wildlife.

In the lower 2.2 miles of the creek, the state Department of Transportation will restore a portion of the creek, downstream of the Rowley property. The city will restore an upstream segment, and improvements will extend as far up as Tibbetts Creek Manor. The finished project also will include a trail linking to Lake Sammamish State Park, the Issaquah park system, a Park & Ride lot and other parks (Eastside Journal June 26, 2001).

Fisheries

According to King County's 1989-1990 Status Report, Tibbetts Creek contains small populations of coho and cutthroat trout (Metro 1990). No salmonids were observed in the creek by volunteer salmon watchers in 2001 (King County June 2002)

Water Quality

Water quality samples are analyzed monthly for temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, turbidity, total suspended solids, ortho-phosphorus, total phosphorus, ammonia, nitrate-nitrogen, total nitrogen, and fecal coliform bacteria. Results are compared to state water quality standards. Water quality standards are designed to protect public health and aquatic life. Comparing monitoring results to water quality standards allows an understanding of how safe the creek is for recreational contact as well as for aquatic life. (See link at top of page to view current water data.)

State water quality standards were revised in 2003. Tibbetts Creek is now categorized as “Core Summer Salmonid Habitat” for aquatic life use and “Extraordinary Contact” for recreational use under the 2003 rules. As part of the updated water quality standards, the creek has been assigned an additional “Supplemental Spawning and Incubation Protection” temperature criteria of 13 ºC to be applied from September 15th through May 15th. Tibbetts Creek is on the 2012 Washington Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) 303(d) list for violation of dissolved oxygen and temperature standards (Category 5). See Table 1 for a summary of water quality violations in the creek during the most recent water year.

Water Quality Index

A Water Quality Index (WQI) rating system was developed by the State Department of Ecology that evaluates several water quality parameters and gives a single rating of “high,” “moderate,” or “low” water quality concern. To see how these ratings compare with other stream sites, visit the Water Quality Index page.

Table 1. Routine monitoring summary statistics for this station from 1997 to 2017
ParameterNumber of SamplesMeanMinimumMaxmiumMedianStandard Deviation
Dissolved Oxygen (mg/L)2019.74.814.59.81.9
Temperature (°C)20311.22.121.110.84.4
Turbidity (NTU)2037.431.30107.004.6910.42
pH2027.266.507.817.280.24
Conductivity (mSIEMS/cm)181224.679.0392.0206.079.3
Total Suspended Solids (mg/L)2037.920.50261.003.2021.07
Ortho-Phosphorus (mg/L)2030.01640.00420.08470.01410.0086
Total Phosphorus (mg/L)2030.04730.01470.27500.03940.0280
Ammonia (mg/L)2030.08580.01900.26800.07700.0455
Nitrate (mg/L)2031.05560.06863.55000.90100.7771
Total Nitrogen (mg/L)2031.34830.40103.67001.18000.7391
Fecal Coliform(CFU/100ML)20228341200081989

Table 2. Storm water monitoring summary statistics for this station from 1997 to 2017
ParameterNumber of SamplesMeanMinimumMaxmiumMedianStandard Deviation
Dissolved Oxygen (mg/L)339.55.413.59.51.8
Temperature (°C)3411.15.818.211.03.5
Turbidity (NTU)3458.723.97894.0019.30156.04
pH337.096.707.507.100.20
Conductivity (mSIEMS/cm)28122.258.0209.0108.543.0
Total Suspended Solids (mg/L)3485.831.901380.0023.65239.36
Ortho-Phosphorus (mg/L)340.01910.00830.13600.01520.0210
Total Phosphorus (mg/L)340.12070.03331.16000.08360.1894
Ammonia (mg/L)340.05790.01100.19800.04410.0384
Nitrate (mg/L)341.16810.20303.19000.79450.9350
Total Nitrogen (mg/L)341.75490.55006.83001.34001.2504
Fecal Coliform(CFU/100ML)341841701600011002891

Hydrology

King County maintains one streamflow gauge: Tibbetts Creek above Tributary 0170 (67a) and one precipitation gauge: Tibbetts Creek Rain Gauge (67u) on Tibbetts Creek.

Stream Sediment

Benthic Invertebrates

Benthic macroinvertebrates are small animals visible to the naked eye (macro) that lack a backbone (invertebrate) and live in or around the streambed (benthic). This group includes aquatic insects (such as mayflies and dragonflies), crustaceans, clams, snails, and worms. Benthic macroinvertebrates are of interest to scientists and water resource managers because they are an excellent indicator of the biological health of stream ecosystems and are a critical component of the food web in aquatic communities. Scientists quantify the composition and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrate populations in a stream to compare the biologic integrity of different streams. King County has utilized benthic macroinvertebrate sampling to assess biological health of numerous creeks across the county (see map).

For more information about benthic macroinvertebrates and King County’s Benthic Macroinvertebrate Program, please visit the King County Stream Bug Monitoring web page. To see the benthic macroinvertebrate data for Tibbetts, please visit the Puget Sound Benthos webpage.

Special Studies