Anderson Creek at Lake Whatcom

Anderson Creek Basin Analysis and Restoration Alternatives

The Anderson Creek Basin Analysis and Restoration Alternatives is a scientific study that helps prioritize restoration in the Anderson Creek corridor. The study consists of analyzing existing basin conditions to identify restoration projects that have the potential to address water quality and habitat impairments in Anderson Creek and complement existing efforts toward the protection and restoration of Lake Whatcom. 

Anderson Creek is a lowland stream feeding into Lake Whatcom, the drinking water source for City of Bellingham and Whatcom County residents. Anderson Creek originates in Mirror Lake and flows northwest, entering Lake Whatcom along the lake’s southern perimeter. Water is derived from local sources as well as water from the City of Bellingham’s Middle Fork diversion. The Middle Fork diversion transfers water from the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River to Mirror Lake, eventually draining to Lake Whatcom via Anderson Creek. The City has on-going management protocols for the diversion.

Anderson Creek is listed on the Washington State 303(d) list of impaired waters for temperature and bacteria. The receiving water, Lake Whatcom, is listed on the 303(d) list of impaired waters for dissolved oxygen. The primary water quality concern within Lake Whatcom is low dissolved oxygen resulting from elevated levels of phosphorus (Hood, 2014). As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a multi-parameter Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Lake Whatcom in 2016.

In addition to water quality, habitat is also an important aspect of basin management. Anderson Creek and Lake Whatcom provide spawning habitat for a wide variety of fish and wildlife, including important native kokanee (Oncorhynchus nerka) and native cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) populations. Native Lake Whatcom kokanee are used as broodstock in Washington State’s Brannian Creek Hatchery. The hatchery is one of the oldest self-sustaining kokanee hatcheries in the world and Lake Whatcom kokanee stock is the only Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) source of kokanee eggs and fry in the state (WDNR, 1997). Kokanee eggs from this hatchery are used to stock lakes throughout the United States, including two-thirds of Washington State kokanee fisheries. 

Lake Whatcom native kokanee stocks have declined in recent decades. Impacts include floodplain degradations, bank hardening, lack of large woody debris (LWD), low streambed stability, and elevated temperatures (Smith, 2002). Asmentioned above, the City’s water supply system includes conveying water from the diversion pipe through Anderson Creek to Lake Whatcom. Anderson Creek was previously dredged and straightened to facilitate this conveyance. The riparian corridor was also cleared of trees and shrubs. In addition, Anderson Creek experienced occasional and intense flows generated by the City of Bellingham’s diversion pipeline.

The basin analysis and restoration alternatives study identifies, prioritizes, and designs opportunities within the Anderson Creek corridor for improving water quality and habitat for existing native cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon by going beyond TMDL recommendations.

Anderson Creek Restor​ation Project – constructed 2021

This project addresses water quality impairments and improves habitat for existing native cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon by going beyond TMDL recommendations and implementing priority actions identified in the basin analysis:

  1. Reducing stream temperatures through increased riparian cover and conifer succession;
  2. Enhancing bacteria filtration through increased riparian cover;
  3. Minimizing erosion within the Anderson Creek corridor through bank stabilization, channel stabilization, floodplain expansion and reduced stream velocity;
  4. Removing an abandoned creosote bridge which will eliminate toxic chemicals that are detrimental to cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon.
  5. Leveraging $125,000 in recent design funding and over 10 years of prior riparian restoration work in the Anderson Creek corridor.

The goals of this project are to address water quality impairments and habitat conditions in Anderson Creek to benefit Anderson Creek, native cutthroat trout and kokanee populations, and to support Lake Whatcom management efforts. To achieve these goals, the project restores natural processes by building on previous design work and over 10 years of prior restoration work. As recommended in the basin analysis, the proposed activities target Reach 3 of Anderson Creek, the reach with the highest potential for water quality improvements. The improvements directly address 303(d) impairments in Anderson Creek and go beyond TMDL recommendations associated with Lake Whatcom. ​​​

This project was constructed in 2021. Learn more on the project webpage.


Kokanee Salmon in Newly Restored Anderson Creek – November 2021

Photo of kokanee salmon in newly restored Anderson Creek. November 2021.
Video of kokanee salmon in newly restored Anderson Creek. November 2021.