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King County Water Quality Monitoring

King County monitors the ecological health of Lewis Creek in a variety of ways, including collecting and analyzing water, sediment, and benthic invertebrate samples. Water quality samples have been collected monthly near the mouth of the creek at Station A617. The station is located at a bridge near the intersection of 187th Ave SE and 185th Pl. SE. Water quality sampling began in 1995 and continued until 2008 when King County was forced to reduce its monitoring program due to budget cutbacks. Sampling at this site resumed in February 2013. Sediment samples have been collected from Lewis Creek as part of the Streams Sediment Monitoring Program starting in 1987. King County began collecting benthic macroinvertebrate samples in Lewis Creek in 2010.

From time to time, additional studies have been conducted on Lewis Creek. Click here for information about Special Studies.

Watershed

Water Shed Image

The Lewis Creek basin encompasses 1,209 acres, yet the mainstem of Lewis Creek is a relatively short 1.5 miles with numerous branched tributaries (Kerwin, 2001). The mainstem originates in a low gradient area above the Eastgate region of Bellevue on the northeast side of Cougar Mountain. The creek then flows through a steep, wooded ravine before entering another low gradient reach downstream of Interstate 90 where it drains into the southern end of Lake Sammamish.

The dominant land use in the basin is developed followed by forest. Development is mostly low to medium intensity and open space; while mixed forest is the most common type of forest. Scrub and other land use (grassland) only make up a very small percent of the land use. Agriculture and wetlands are not present. See Table 1 below for more details on land use.

Table 1. Total land use in the basin

Developed Forest Scrub Other
Total 71% 27% <2% <1%

Fisheries

Numerous fisheries studies have been done on Lewis Creek (The Watershed Company, 1988, 1989; URS Corp., 1987; King County, 1995; Ostergaard, 1998; King County, 2000c). A culvert located at river mile (RM) 0.75 at Interstate 90 is a barrier to fish migration. Below this barrier, in the lower reaches of the creek, kokanee, sockeye, coho and cutthroat trout were observed during a recent habitat and barrier assessment done by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW, 2000). King County staff and volunteers with the Salmon Watcher Program (which ran from 1996 to 2015) also observed adult coho, sockeye, kokanee, and Chinook in the last seven years (King County, 2000c, 2001b, 2001c, June 2002). A fish habitat and population assessment conducted in 1992 by the Watershed Company noted the presence of cutthroat trout, steelhead trout, kokanee, and coho (Kerwin, 2001).

Since 1996, volunteers with the Salmon Watcher Program made observations in Lewis Creek. Kokanee salmon were observed in the creek. Less commonly seen were coho, sockeye, and chum salmon.

Water Quality

Water quality samples are analyzed monthly for temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, conductivity, turbidity, total suspended solids, ortho-phosphorus, total phosphorus, ammonia, nitrate-nitrogen, total nitrogen, and fecal coliform (FC) 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. Lewis Creek is now categorized as “Core Summer Salmonid Habitat” for aquatic life use, and “Extraordinary Contact” for recreational use. As part of the updated water quality standards, portions of Lewis Creek have been assigned an additional “Supplemental Spawning and Incubation Protection” temperature criteria of 16 °C. The creek is on the Washington State Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) 303(d) list for violation of water temperature, DO, and FC bacteria standards (Category 5).

See Table 2 below for routine monitoring summary statistics of water quality data collected to date. If stormwater data is available for this site, it will be shown as Table 3. Historical data reviews can be found in the annual reports produced by METRO/King County DNRP.

To view charts of current water quality data, please visit the Data Download webpage.

Water Quality Index

A Water Quality Index (WQI) rating system was developed by 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, please visit the Water Quality Index webpage.

Table 1. Routine monitoring summary statistics for this station from 1995 to 2018
ParameterNumber of SamplesMeanMinimumMaxmiumMedianStandard Deviation
Dissolved Oxygen (mg/L)21611.18.414.811.11.3
Temperature (°C)24310.41.519.510.33.9
Turbidity (NTU)2443.830.41163.001.3512.03
pH2407.656.308.807.700.34
Conductivity (mSIEMS/cm)194161.974.4363.0164.034.0
Total Suspended Solids (mg/L)2448.270.50482.001.6935.60
Ortho-Phosphorus (mg/L)2440.03810.00940.07930.03250.0171
Total Phosphorus (mg/L)2440.05860.01560.34400.05230.0358
Ammonia (mg/L)2440.01360.00230.04960.01000.0110
Nitrate (mg/L)2440.81240.28301.95000.71000.3435
Total Nitrogen (mg/L)2440.99800.40302.62000.91100.3790
Fecal Coliform(CFU/100ML)2411852360060372

Table 2. Storm water monitoring summary statistics for this station from 1995 to 2018
ParameterNumber of SamplesMeanMinimumMaxmiumMedianStandard Deviation
Dissolved Oxygen (mg/L)3910.99.513.810.71.0
Temperature (°C)5010.55.716.210.22.7
Turbidity (NTU)50100.502.541990.0013.55341.66
pH497.516.108.007.500.30
Conductivity (mSIEMS/cm)34101.456.0132.099.517.9
Total Suspended Solids (mg/L)50283.503.405060.0026.70989.83
Ortho-Phosphorus (mg/L)500.03560.01530.23100.02660.0321
Total Phosphorus (mg/L)500.26260.03727.24000.09621.0127
Ammonia (mg/L)500.03200.01000.12700.02000.0281
Nitrate (mg/L)500.95530.37302.21000.78450.4884
Total Nitrogen (mg/L)501.50640.70006.76001.22500.9682
Fecal Coliform(CFU/100ML)50152850290004454234

Hydrology

King County maintains two gages on Lewis Creek:

  • Streamflow gage : West Lake Sammamish Parkway SE (63a)
  • Precipitation gage: Lewis Creek Rain Gage (63u) on Lewis Creek

Stream Sediment

Sediment data were collected from Lewis Creek as part of the Stream Monitoring Program starting in 1987. Data were compiled and analyzed for the years 1987 through 2002. Data were analyzed for trends, correlations, and were compared to sediment quality guidelines. No significant trends were identified during data analysis for any of the parameters tested. Results indicate that Lewis Creek sediments did not exceed any sediment quality guidelines. Of the 27 streams monitored in King County, Lewis Creek had the 3rd lowest metals concentration.

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 webpage. To see the benthic macroinvertebrate data for Lewis Creek, please visit the Puget Sound Stream Benthos webpage.

Special Studies

Lakemont Boulevard

Public concern over the 1998 construction of Lakemont Boulevard in the sensitive Lewis Creek corridor led to major environmental controls. Bellevue and King County staff worked together to control stormwater road runoff. Several reports have been written in relation to this project including:

Small Streams Toxicity/Pesticide Study

As part of King County's Small Streams Toxicity/Pesticide Study, pesticide concentrations and toxicity were measured in Lewis Creek in 1999 and 2000. The County collected samples for analysis of pesticides, other organics, metals, suspended solids, and toxicity (Ceriodaphnia dubia and Selenastrum capricornutum).