About Little Campbell Creek
LITTLE CAMPBELL CREEK
Photo by M. Schroeder (U.S.F.W.S)
The Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) is composed of nearly 20 watersheds. Little Campbell Creek (LCC) is one of the MOA's seven primary urban watersheds, and encompasses about 7,000 acres or about 11 square miles. More than half of the upper LCC watershed is undeveloped, and is comprised of Far North Bicentennial Park and Chugach State Park. The upper reaches of LCC, which are devoid of urbanization, tend to be in an almost pristine condition (at least relative to the lower sections of the drainage). However, by the time the LCC's North and South Forks empty into Campbell Creek near Nathan Drive, the water quality has degraded considerably. Water monitoring by Anchorage Waterways Council's CEMP (Citizen's Environmental Monitoring Program) has collected data from this area, which clearly demonstrate poor quality near this stream confluence.
Why are LCC and these creeks important?
Little Campbell Creek and the other major creeks in Anchorage, i.e. Ship Creek, Fish Creek, Chester Creek, Campbell Creek, Rabbit Creek, and Eagle River, are all important for a variety of reasons. They are areas for recreation, enjoyment, beauty, and habitat for a diverse group of critters including salmon. These creeks are all anadromous - meaning that salmon (and other fish) use them for migration, spawning and rearing, and therefore are protected under Alaska Statute. The creeks also provide flood control through the conveyance of storm water and emerging ground water.
Little Campbell Creek as the "Canary in the Coal Mine"
Over the past few years biologists and other researchers have encountered noticeable fish die-offs, mostly of young salmonid, in various stretches of Little Campbell Creek. The USFWS prepared a summary report of these events titled Frequency and Distribution of Fish Kills in Little Campbell Creek, July - September 2005. One of the most obvious reasons for the fish die-offs is degraded water quality including an increase in turbidity, and there are many reasons for this. Turbidity data was collected and reported in Turbidity Monitoring in Little Campbell Creek, Summer 2005. Some of the most obvious are inputs from the city’s storm water system, stream channelization and its effects, removal of wetland filtering areas, and the impacts of urbanization (building of roads, construction, vegetation removal, increases in impermeable surfaces and the associated run-off of chemicals from various sources, and channeled run-off of storm water into the creek). Another USFWS report, Restoring ecological function and value to aquatic resources in the Little Campbell Creek watershed: Recommendations for the Great Land Trust summarizes the problems and some potential solutions.
Anchorage, a northern city, uses its creeks for storm-water conveyance and general drainage from a variety of sources including car washing and lawn watering. With this type of system many chemical pollutants eventually find their way into our creeks. Exacerbating the problem is the increased volume of run-off from snow melt, high rain events, and other factors, which encourage erosion of stream banks and further contribute to high sediment and turbidity levels in local waterways. Even so, there is much work to be accomplished in order to ascribe these fish die-offs to one or two sources, and it is most likely that there are several contributing factors. Regardless, stream turbidity is not a healthy environment for rearing juvenile salmonids and other species. Because Little Campbell Creek is such a small creek, the impacts on it are most visible, and it is the concern of the Anchorage Waterways Council and others that it is the “Canary in the Coal Mine” or warning for the other creeks in our city.
Some of the dead juvenile salmon and other species picked up in Little Campbell Creek