Dire warnings on our watershed – dialogue

Several members of the Chambers Clover Watershed Council have been exchanging some very concerning emails recently. Based on their experience, credentials, and length of service in the stewardship capacity, these are worth your interest. (Cindy Beckett, Don Russell and Kurt Reidinger)

Starting with a reply to Ms. Beckett’s email in the previous article, “Destruction of this creek has always been illegal,” Don Russell replied:


Ironically the Federal CWA and ESA and State RCWs, WACs, GMA and SMA comprise the State’s, County’s and City’s stakeholder/stewardship manual.  As you state much of what they mandate is ignored by the governmental agencies so charged with this responsibility.

The one thing that citizen driven watershed Council can do is to produce and promulgate a stream side and lake shoreline private property owners stakeholder/stewardship manual that provides those with the greatest investment to take care of what they cherish the most, i.e., the value of their property, its full beneficial use by their family, their fellow citizens and salmon and incidentally permit their informed demand that our governmental agencies do likewise.

My thoughts.

Then Cindy countered with: 

Hi Don

At this point, I can only say that if this same council would have taken just a little bit of their time to actually read the laws for themselves, which they have always refused to do, they would have known that it is not allowed to knowingly break those laws, or to knowingly destroy a vital waterway that is in fact Federally protected as it flows (flowed) to tidal waters.  At any time they could have got that help, and this creek would still be flowing today.

Nowhere within those laws does it say the people have to come up with ideas that cannot be made reality, some utopia of thoughts where the violations just corrected themselves, or that all of this destruction was someone’s “right” as a property owner.  The law that protects these waters is a funny thing – if you don’t ask for it to be enforced, then it is not, and when you are in a county who has no enforcement ability at all, nor the interest in changing that, wishing will not work. 

There are no preemptive agencies out there who just wait for violations so they can enforce.  They will enforce if someone, especially a watershed council, asked them to, though, yet no one wants to do that here, they all just want to talk it to death – the death of this waterway.  If anyone suggests otherwise, they throw them out.  I certainly learned that one, didn’t I.

Nothing can change that mindset, and within a very short time now, nothing will be able to save this creek.  It is on its last breath now.  We have watched it go from a vital waterway that used to be full of Salmon to nothing today, all under the watch of those who mouth the words and that’s where it ends.

It’s like watching someone being attacked on the street and refusing to intervene but instead coming together and talking about how that person really needs help but not calling anyone to help.

Truly very sad to see the Clover Creek die.  So much history will die with it.  All preventable, which makes it even worse.

Welcome to Pierce County!  Other counties do not do this, they actually protect their waters – some even guard them jealously and enforce all violations.  Not so here, sadly.  The watershed council would have to ask the State or Fed agencies for help, and none of them want to do that which I have always found confusing.

We get what we get then, and no one can complain after the fact.

Stay safe

Then Kurt Reidinger replied:


Regarding TMDL, the program’s shortcomings haven’t gone unnoticed by others. A General Accounting Office (GAO) report is here: https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-14-80; along with a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report here: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R42752. Figure 4 in the GAO report (p. 19) summarizes the TMDL process. It gives you a sense of how nebulous it is for nonpoint source pollution.

Our own Ecology Department’s assessment of Clover Creek is given here: https://ecology.wa.gov/Water-Shorelines/Water-quality/Water-improvement/Total-Maximum-Daily-Load-process/Directory-of-improvement-projects/Clover-Creek. It’s helpful to read their “Status of the project” section. They’ve basically left things up to Pierce County. A cynical person might conclude this is just CYA to make it look like the government is doing something. Additional documents are at: https://apps.ecology.wa.gov/publications/SummaryPages/1303109.html and here https://apps.ecology.wa.gov/publications/SummaryPages/1603039.html

[BTW, I believe the second report covers the data collected by Kardouni et. al. at Lakewood’s Springbrook Park]

Unfortunately, while DO, fecal coliform, and temperature are certainly issues in this watershed, these are certainly not the only pollution contaminant problems, and also may not be the most serious. For example, the attached spreadsheet shows the results of sediment sampling carried out in the creek at my neighbors (data downloaded from Ecology’s EIM servers). You can see a wide range of chemical constituents, which includes quite a few different PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) and PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) species. The former has been banned but the latter might be from the flame retardants used in furniture and clothing. The quantities are quite small but these are highly persistent chemicals and subject to biomagnification. They may be ingested at sublethal levels by tiny invertebrates but those animals are in turn ingested by larger animals like fishes (cottids or sculpins, brook lamprey, even small salmonids, etc.). Because the chemicals persist and accumulate in lipid tissue, they can have effects on reproductive and endocrine systems. It’s not clear to me that a program like TMDL will ever get at the root causes of this pollution.

This is just a tiny snapshot of one location at a point in time. And just in the sediments. And probably just the chemicals they were looking for. When the analysis was carried out, they didn’t even know about 6PPD quinone (the toxic rubber tire chemical). How many other man-made toxic chemicals are there? We also don’t know what the concentrations were in the water column above these sediments at different times of the year. There could also be areas of lower or higher contamination in different watershed creeks.

I’m skeptical that a TMDL program that looks at a very small range of pollutants is going to have much effect. I suspect you’re not going to make any progress until you adopt a more holistic approach to controlling runoff pollution and other nonpoint source problems. I suspect that something like the soil filtering methods developed at the Puyallup Stormwater Center are what’s really needed.


And Don Russell again replied:


Excellent work by a CCWC stream side property owner aka a meeting attendee.  

Did you happen to listen to Tim Hagan’s recent presentation on the status of five years into the execution of the Clarks Creek DO and sediment TMDL water quality and salmon habitat improvement Plan?

It makes you wonder about PCSWM’s wisdom of viewing the function of the CCWC as a passive group of spectators who should listen, but not advocate.

We already have RCWs and WACs governing these issues with promising titles but whose prescriptions thwart realization of the promise.  

If you think not, read the title of HB 1838 Protecting, restoring and maintaining habitat for salmon recovery.  And then read the prescription, plant trees in the riparian zone!  

Even the Puget Sound Partnership and Ecology acknowledge this truth but do nothing about it.


And then a heavy hitter from Cindy Beckett:

I very much enjoy and am relieved at this conversation.  For myself, I need to add some real eye-opening issues to the mix….

We must start with the realization that no one is in charge in this county, and that is not a cute catch phrase – it is the honest truth.  And that seems to also apply to the watershed council, who could easily have taken the reigns and saved this creek but do not want to.  It’s that simple – you either want to or you don’t.  Period.

The Clover is in such serious trouble now that it is doubtful that it will survive, and I do not say this lightly, it is heartbreaking. 

Just one of many examples…..There are issues like the golf course development that really should have put some of the players in jail for breaking a number of Federal therefore State laws. 

Most don’t realize it, but not only is the entire course contaminated with globally banned highly toxic Dieldrin, which is Dioxin 2,3,7,8TCDD, (Agent Orange), that was also used as an insecticide on the course over its 100 year history, but even after being advised of this, Pierce County failed utterly to address this, instead   turning it back to the developer to “resolve”.  That then went to a dept of ECY who failed utterly to require the entire course be fully tested, and certainly Pierce County would not attend to that, even though it is a Federal requirement.  All of this will run off from both sides of the course into the Clover too, there is no way to stop it once the soils are disturbed for development.  There is also an ASARCO fallout overlay on this course, that was not addressed at all, nor were the soils tested for those deadly contaminants.  I did extensive research in to the Asarco history and everything that fell out of the air onto the land from it’s 100 years of operation.  It is a very serious issue for the creek.  The CCWC would not even listen.

When it was established with the (proven) master builder’s top attny, who was also the county Hearing Examiner for the people at that time (that both county council and HE failed to inform the people of), that there were fish (pictures to prove this) in the lower creek flowing across the course, none of that was addressed in his approval.  When it was established by photo proof that a Federally protected Heron rookery was established at the eastern edge of the course over the “main” Clover, and pictures of these Federally protected birds standing in the creek fishing were submitted to the HE, he just ignored that altogether.  When it was established by WA that in order to put a road through the course to connect 152nd to BD Road they would have to put a full sized bridge over the creek, beaver were illegally brought in by a “private party”, (several residents were witnesses to this) who dammed off the Clover on the east side of the course, effectively killing the flow of the Clover on the course. No need for a bridge if the creek is dead.  When it was established that there were indeed jurisdictional wetlands (under USACE jurisdiction) on the N side of the course near the creek, neither the county nor the developer applied to the USACE for review and permits.  It was also established by FEMA that the original Clover, now erroneously called the “N Fork”, is designated as a flood hazard area, it was completely ignored, even though it is established by legitimate records and very old blue prints of that area that the N Fork is/was the original Clover Creek that in fact had 5 tributaries cascading down into it from the higher N side slope above, before BD road was shoved through.  The county has done its best to kill those tributaries too – Midland did fight and win to recover one of them and return it to the “N Fork” at GG road, which is in fact the original Clover.   All of that is ignored by the county and developer as well, with the blessing and encouragement of the planning dept, who says “we say it’s OK so it’s OK to build right on top of this historic water flow”, so have at it.

It is worth noting that several of us have, over many years, pointed out that the PC planning dept has NO water scientists on staff and never has, therefore NO BAS or any other science is used – ever.

I have photos from when the citizens living near the Clover at the course went out with pails and buckets to save what they could of the stranded fish, putting them into pails and buckets until they could relocate them, after the beaver were illegally brought in to kill the creek flow.  It is indeed a miracle that anything lives in the Clover today, despite all the efforts of the county to kill the creek so to create more “buildable land”. 

We all know this is true, but I gave up trying to get the CCWC to even listen.  If they are not interested in stopping further damage and restoring this creek (it could still be done today), then what is their purpose?  None that I can see.

I  should also mention that at the time the current executive ran for that office, in fact he was the president of the master builders assn for Pierce County, owned 5 LLC development co’s, but failed to reveal that when he ran for exec?  After he was “called” on it, he “dissolved” those LLC’s, but in WA, dissolution merely puts them on hold – they can be re-upped any time.  LLC’s are dangerous in that until this year, you didn’t even have to own a pencil to get an LLC license.  After numerous complaints to the State, this has been changed as of Jan 1 this year, but the horrific damage has already been done and no one will be held accountable.

If we really do want to save and recover this once truly impressive, vital creek system, and our dying Orcas, it will take a firm resolve and a “never give up, never back down” determination

I truly hope we can save this creek, but if there is not enough actual interest, it will be lost in our lifetime.  That is nothing to be proud of, to be sure.


And Don Russell again:


Appreciate the history of the destruction of the upper north fork of what used to be a functioning Clover Creek.  Now it is mostly a constructed stormwater runoff drainage ditch.  

The wet season flood waters in this ditch should be conveyed to a constructed wetland detention and infiltration pond located between Spanaway Loop Road and the eastern fence of McChord AFB.  The function of this constructed wetland detention and infiltration pond (reservoir) is to remove trash, store wet season runoff, and condition it for infiltration into the shallow aquifer beneath McChord AFB.  It is shallow aquifer groundwater discharge that sustains in-stream flow in the McChord to Lake Steilacoom reach of Clover Creek.

Simultaneously actions should be taken to restore salmon access and the water quality and salmon habitat in the Coffee Creek-Spanaway Lake-Spanaway and Morley Creeks-McChord to Clover Creek to Lake Steilacoom reach of the Clover Creek watershed. Currently there are dams, high water temperature, low DO and excessive native and invasive aquatic plant, filamentous green and brown (diatom) algae growth, cyanobacteria toxin poisoning, and sediment fouling of stream and lake bottoms from Spanaway Lake all the way to Lake Steilacoom.  

This salmon access and habitat southern fork of Clover Creek can be restored provide that the stream side and lake shoreline private property owners, Pierce Conservation District, PCSWM/Cities along the way, Ecology and WDFW decided to collaborate rather than obstruct such a plan’s development and implementation.

This something “we” can all do together.  “We” cannot now restore what has already been irretrievably lost.

Best regards,

Then Cindy Beckett replied with a bit of history she has regarding mapping the creek, (some maps which she got from this editor who was gifted it from a friend who passed away).

Don, appreciate your info, but beg to differ on a bit of the history.

First, I have established via satellite and old 1800’s historic maps that the water the county is portraying as the “N Fork flowing in a cemented ditch” originating upland is as false as it can get, yet that is the lie they portray on their mapping.  They included that lie in the application to develop the golf course.

There has never, ever been a N Fork that originated in the uplands at 112th – ever!!!   The actual “N Fork” (original Clover) on the golf course property you will see on the GIS map now designated by FEMA as a flood hazard area, and was there before there even was a golf course.  The creek was (illegally) split originally by a farmer who wanted to stop his pasture from flooding from the real Clover which flowed near where they (illegally) put Brookdale road through between the cascading tributaries and the creek.  Yet even then that action was illegal under both State and Federal law, we just have never had any enforcement in the history of Pierce County.  The biggest misconception remains that the lower split they call the Clover today is in fact  the main Clover – but that lower channel is indeed the split.  That split rejoins the “N Fork”, which is the true Clover, just west around Golden Givens.  I have photos of the impressive amount of water in the creek at that location.  All of that volume should still be flowing through Parkland and west, yet it has also been illegally highly damaged in Parkland.   

Re the highly misleading and erroneous county map designation of the “cemented” N Fork…..

In fact, there are outlet lines on the bed of a water body created when they detained Diru Creek that flooded so badly they had to drain it when they built 512 and cut off the Diru.  Those lines have “N Fork Clover Creek written on the submerged outlet pipes draining that water body, and the water body they are draining into the Clover is in fact part of the Diru Creek system that flows to the Puyallup.  There is history that goes with this, but it goes into WADOT breaking the law when constructing 512 and cutting off the Diru.  The Diru is where the Puyallups have their fishery down below near the Puyallup flats.  As there are no statutes of limitation on those laws, I will be pursuing this with Fed Hwys and the Tribe, who is interested in getting that much needed water back into their creek.  Before they laid those lines on the bottom of that water to drain it to the Clover, the Diru waters used to flood across 112th.

The cemented channel that only runs across the golf course is not the actual N Fork waterway at all.  It is a cemented ditch channel that catches water from the uplands and the detained Diru and runs it across to the other side (west) of the course, where it reenters the natural waterway.  They did that so the golfers would not get wet feet (LOL). 

This North Fork Clover Creek should never, ever be considered to be drained off into a constructed wetland detention area!!!!!  Especially given that it is the true Clover.  It needs to be restored so it can flow freely to the west as it once did.  It would be an even more impressive flow if  the south fork that everyone wants to believe is the actual Clover was removed altogether.  It is now and always was illegal to split the creek then pretend the split is the actual creek.  No time like now to put it all back.

There is no option of taking all of that Clover Creek water and sending it elsewhere to some man made detention area. Why would anyone even want to do that? The Clover water needs to get back into the creek and out to the dying Orcas.    And, if all the water was put back into this creek, people would see just how impressive it can be.

Re aquifers….What D and Lakewood water are doing now is also illegal – tapping into a lower aquifer under Spanaway Lake to deliver into the UGA since they have now overdrawn the actual sole source Aquifer and over development has caused a serious loss of recharge.  We are addressing that now as it is actually illegal.

BTW, did you know that most of the water co’s here are now owned by Capital Water, a California company owned (confirmed) by the master builders of California?  Their office is on the same floor as the master builders in Gig Harbor.  Water is increasingly becoming a highly sought and bought commodity.

They, along with master builder controlled (confirmed) Lakewood water are the ones, along with the (confirmed) master builder county executive, are laying in all those lines so to tap into that aquifer under Spanaway Lake, to deliver out to the UGA after the loss of the SSA recharge.  The issue is, they are also laying in sewer lines, draining away all recharge ability.  That’s why we are losing our SSA right now.  Once all that recharge is drained out of the UGA, even that other aquifer will fail, the aquifer above that one will drain down into the lower emptying aquifer, and the lake will drop as it is not surface water flow that keeps that lake a lake.

All illegal of course.  The CCWC should be all over that!  They don’t care about that, either. 

What a stupid way to run a county!!!


Editor takeaway and summary:

• The portions of the watershed containing Clover Creek consist of a network of lakes and streams that flowed into the Clover Creek waterway that now flows under McChord Field into Lakewood and Steilacoom and then joins the Chambers Creek waters into Chambers Bay and Puget Sound. That is a key point, it flows directly into tidal water, which gives it Federal level protection.

• This watershed is being depleted of ground water due to development, a sewer system that pipes used water to Puget Sound rather than replacing it in the aquifer, and Federal Laws that prevent other sources of drinking water (from another watershed) to be used in a sole source aquifer. new zoning for higher densities is a critical problem and the aquifer recedes.

• Diverted flow has happened in several places along the Clover Creek. Landowners wanting ponds on their property, large landowners, (like PLU & military) willing to divert the entire creek into culverts, beavers (native or not), causing their own blockages and flooding, sediment buildup allowing invasive plants to take root, culverts, and backfilled areas to create roads.

• Land near the creek (Brookdale Golf Course) has been polluted by applications of pesticides, including aldrin, dieldrin, dioxin and the entire watershed by air from ASARCO, arsenic.

• The CCWC, originally was formed to be stewards of the creek, but has since been co-opted by the participation of several Pierce County government agencies that have reduced the creek health objectives more to conversation than action.

• Actions on developments through the Hearings Examiner and planning over the past 20 or more years have not held developers accountable to prevent damage to the creek as they put up structures in the watershed.

• Water companies in the area have been consolidating, several are now under control of an out of state (California) corporation. Lakewood water has been laying lines toward Summit and Puyallup to make up for those water companies not having enough flow available for current population in their jurisdictions.

• More development is planned and no one is quite sure how they will have enough water, but certain it is not going to improve creek health.

• Individuals who have been stewards of the creek for up to 50 years are extremely frustrated and upset about the damage and lack of ability to heal the creek and watershed.

• The prognosis is not good.

• We need to hear from the Squaxin Tribe; apparently, they have jurisdiction over the area also.

• More people need to be aware how bad it really is. Speak out and pay attention to who needs to be elected to county government to start turning this around. Hold your public officials accountable. Too much of the money and power is in the hands of developers who are not being held accountable.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Lincoln says:

    Please share this with your neighbors if you live in Pierce County, WA.

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