Jul. 22, 2015 Plan aims to improve water quality on part of Palouse River

Public comment period runs through Aug. 21

SPOKANE – A new plan for the North Fork Palouse River aims to improve water quality and stream health for fish and other aquatic life.

The Washington Department of Ecology developed the plan in response to problems like insufficient dissolved oxygen and high pH in the river. The amount of dissolved oxygen in a water body is vital to the health and sustainability of fish populations. Fish and other aquatic organisms need oxygen to “breathe” just like humans. Some insects and fish become sick or die when oxygen levels are too low.

The pH reflects the chemical balance of water. High pH indicates that water is alkaline, which can result in toxic or lethal conditions for aquatic life.

One pollutant this plan addresses is nitrogen, which acts like a fertilizer, causing algae to flourish. Excess algae leads to wide daily swings in the dissolved oxygen levels and pH in the water.

In an effort to meet water quality standards and improve stream health, the plan outlines several actions that need to be implemented. The most significant, concentrated source of nitrogen to the North Fork Palouse River is discharge from the City of Palouse wastewater treatment plant. The city will need to explore options to meet new permit limits required by this plan.

Other actions needed to achieve water quality standards in the river include:

· Restoring the historic natural levels of streamside shade.

· Reducing pollution in stormwater runoff.

· Preventing soil erosion and fertilizer nutrient release to streams or groundwater from agricultural and residential land.

· Stopping failing septic systems effluent from reaching the river.

The public is invited to comment on this plan, which can be reviewed online or in person at public libraries in Palouse and Colfax. You can also request that a copy of the plan be sent to you by calling 509-329-3503. The comment period runs from July 22 to Aug. 21, 2015.

Submit written comments by Aug. 21 to Elaine Snouwaert at:

· Department of Ecology, 4601 N Monroe St, Spokane, WA 99205

· Or via email:

A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Palouse Community Center, 230 E. Main St., Palouse.

More information is available on Ecology’s website.