On Tuesday, August 30, property owners and residents came together at a meeting hosted by Auburn residents Trish Borden and Lee Valenta to discuss concerns about Bowman Creek, a tributary to the White River. Staff from the City were also invited to attend and participate in the discussion.
Approximately 20 neighbors attended the meeting, and were joined by Kevin Snyder, Director of Auburn’s Community Development & Public Works Department, and three staff members from the Department’s Environmental Services Division.
The meeting was called because residents are concerned about loss of flow in the creek, where portions of it have run dry since April 2015.
Some of the concerns expressed at the meeting by neighbors who live along Bowman Creek included that the loss of stream flow:
- May be the result of or related to Cascade Water Alliance’s management of water levels on Lake Tapps and/or City of Auburn roadside maintenance activities
- Has resulted in a negative impact on enjoyment and value of their property
- Has resulted in die-off or non-return of aquatic and riparian organisms
- Has caused other adverse effects on the environment, such as the establishment of noxious weeds and non-native vegetation within an along the stream channel
An additional concern expressed by neighbors was that state regulatory agencies had not been responsive when contacted about this issue.
Mayor Backus shares the concerns expressed by the neighbors regarding how the loss of flows in the creek impact property owners, fish and wildlife, and the long term viability and health of the stream. She has directed staff to implement the following actions as next steps in the City’s efforts to address this issue:
- The City will create a section on the City website devoted to maintaining current information about the loss of Bowman Creek stream flows. The City will also send out update emails to those neighbors who have provided the City with their contact information as new information becomes available.
- City staff are also currently looking at how the City can use technology to provide a way for property owners with Bowman Creek frontage to provide information, photos, etc. regarding their observations along the stream channel. Use of these technologies will help develop a better understanding of the causes and effects associated with the loss of stream flow.
- The City will review its municipal project and maintenance records over the past couple of years to identify what City work may have been performed along 53rd Street SE in the vicinity of the creek as reported by meeting attendees, and to understand if and how work in that area may have affected stream flows or drainage in Bowman Creek.
- As requested at the meeting, the City will work with interested property owners to schedule a meeting to discuss major storm water infrastructure and drainage patterns along the Bowman Creek corridor, with particular emphasis on the drainage that flows under Kersey Way SE from the hillside to the south between 53rd St SE and R St SE and discharges to Bowman Creek.
The City will be further engaging Cascade Water Alliance and others involved in the 2014/2015 drawdown of Lake Tapps, and the state agencies responsible for environmental protection, to get a current status update on their efforts so far in identifying and addressing the cause(s) of the loss of stream flow, and to mitigate the effects that have resulted from it. We will share additional information that comes out of those interactions with neighbors living along Bowman creek as it becomes available. The City will also be looking for an opportunity to do a "check-in" with property owners and agency representatives to ensure all interested parties are on the same page, possibly as part of a future site visit to see conditions in the field together first hand.
New Map Monitoring Tool:
As part of the City's desire to use technology to keep property owners updated on Bowman Creek, the City has developed a monitoring tool where neighbors along the creek will be able to report the status of the creek in a specific area.
Please allow two business days for your submissions you make using the tool to appear on the map. Contact information is not mandatory on this tool. However, keep in mind that we will be unable to post a submission that is unclear and was also made anonymously.
The first accounts of changes to the creek were reported to Environmental Services in April 2015. The full extent of the Bowman streambed was dry for approximately four months afterward. Residents living near Bowman Creek report that they had never seen the creek run dry, seasonally or otherwise before this time. On August 7, 2015 stream flow resumed in portions of the stream channel. To date, the creek has not yet resumed continuous flow from source to mouth. The cause of the drying of the Bowman streambed is unclear. However, the following two significant, yet uncommon events may have contributed to this outcome:
- Lake Tapps (which feeds Bowman Lake, the headwaters for Bowman Creek) was lowered significantly in late 2014 by Cascade Water Alliance (CWA) for maintenance and repair to their water supply facilities at the lake the following spring, and
- Following this lowering, our region experienced a record low level of precipitation and severe drought through the summer of 2015. The refilling of the lake was delayed on several occasions to maintain minimum stream flows in the White River, which had also been low as a result of the drought, and could not be returned to higher water levels as quickly as originally planned.
Environmental Services staff conducted weekly monitoring of Bowman Creek flows between Randall Avenue SE and Kersey Way SE from November 2015 to February 2016. Visual observations at a series of locations accessible from public right-of-way were recorded to determine presence or absence of stream flow, as well as relative speed and condition of water flow.
In the Flow Map linked below, the sections in blue represent areas with flow, red represents areas with no flow, and purple areas were not visible from right-of-way, thus flow condition was unknown.
A field investigation of the die-off of some of the aquatic organisms that lived in Bowman Creek was also conducted, focusing on identifying an affected species of freshwater mussel that preliminarily have been identified and confirmed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as being Western Pearlshell, which is listed on the Washington State "Monitor Species" list.
Bowman Creek Species Report (PDF)
Stay tuned for updates on the status of Bowman Creek. If you are not already signed up to receive email notifications when this page is updated, email Environmental Services with the subject line: Bowman Listserv. Please provide your name, Auburn address, and preferred email address in the message, and we will add you to our Bowman notification list.