New Year! New Goals!
By Tabitha Gatts, DNR VWQM Coordinator
If you are looking to understand more about your stream and watershed by going in-depth with your monitoring goals and practices, take a look at these five questions you can ask yourself to help guide you through refining your monitoring practices!
1) Why monitor? Understanding why you want to monitor can go a long way in being an effective stream monitor. Do you want to see if changes in the watershed are impacting the water quality of your stream? Are you interested in protecting the aquatic life of your stream or learning more about the aquatic community? Do you want to establish baseline data for a particular stream? Do you want to determine the effectiveness of Best Management Practices in your watershed?
2) What to monitor? Once you understand why you want to monitor—consider how what you monitor aligns with it. Do you want to focus on macroinvertebrates? Assess changes to riparian corridors or stream banks and their impact on aquatic life? Are you interested in water flow and precipitation trends? Maybe you would like to explore the impacts on water quality from alterations occurring in your watershed. Thinking about what you want to monitor will give you clues to how and where you can best focus your monitoring efforts.
3) How to Monitor? We teach volunteers how to monitor stream discharge, macroinvertebrates, water chemistry, and a visual survey of your site, but it’s up to YOU how you want to use these skills to explore your own goals/questions about your watershed! Each parameter that you monitor tells a different part of the story of your site, stream, and watershed.
4) When to Monitor? When and how often you collect data needs to line up with your goals. We encourage folks to monitor for macroinvertebrates and visual assessment twice a year. But, if your goals are related to monitoring water chemistry and discharge, these parameters can be collected more frequently.
5) Where to Monitor? Finding where to monitor can be tricky business! Don’t be afraid to get creative in where you monitor to meet your goals. If you’re trying to determine what’s impacting your stream, try choosing two locations to monitor that are upstream and downstream of the area you believe is impacting the stream quality. We are always here to help you as well! Feel free to reach out to DNR by emailing email@example.com and we’ll do our best to help you brainstorm and find good spots to monitor!
Welcome Cassie Twehus!
Hi! My name is Cassie Twehus, and I am so excited to be joining the Missouri Stream Team as the Volunteer Water Quality Assistant. In this position, I will be assisting volunteers with water quality monitoring efforts, helping to teach at workshops, and fulfilling equipment requests.
I grew up in St. Thomas, Missouri and spent many weekends camping, fishing, hunting, boating, and playing in streams with my family. My dad always said I was born to be outside!
I continued my passion for the outdoors by attending the University of Missouri – Columbia, where I graduated with a B.S. in Natural Resource Science and Management in May 2021. During college, I worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation in various positions to learn as much as I could during that time.
Outside of work, I enjoy camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, and kayaking. I play the acoustic guitar and love to spend time with family and friends. My family and I have a Stream Team and monitor Tavern Creek in Miller County as well as a tributary to the Osage that runs through our family farm in Cole County.
Getting in the Streams
By Laura Richardson, DNR VWQM Coordinator
Are you interested in monitoring but not sure where to get started? We have resources that can help you decide where to monitor and help provide data for stream conditions with data gaps or missing data.
The Stream Team Interactive Map has a black beaker (“bug in a bottle”) icons that symbolize sites created for monitoring or a site that has had data collected on it. The streams on the map that have no icons on them do not have data collected from our program and may have never had data collected on them before. If you’re looking to explore the unknown, collecting data from a stream with no icons can help provide baseline data on a stream with unidentified conditions. Feel free to explore and see if there is access to create a site in these areas! Keep in mind to look for habitat, flow, stream banks that you can carry equipment down, and to request permission to access.
If you are seeing a beaker icons for monitoring sites on a stream near you, you can click on the icon and view the data that has been collected. If you notice that a site hasn’t been monitored in at least 3 years, it can indicate that the previous volunteer is no longer monitoring and that the current conditions of the stream are unknown or can only be interpreted based on historic data. These are great sites to inherit, to help continue the data collection, and help create a trend to see if the conditions of the stream have changed over time.
Another way you can find out where to monitor or where you can help with data gaps is by connecting with a watershed organization to see if they need help with volunteers picking up sites. Stream Teams United has a list of associations based on different watershed areas in Missouri: streamteamsunited.org/associations.html. You can find a local watershed and get in contact with a Stream Team Association near you!
We understand that establishing and picking up sites can be a difficult, we are happy to assist and discuss sites that may need assistance with data collection. Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want input and help regarding this topic!
Since our last issue of Channels, Stream Team members reported:
Check out more highlights below . . .
Team 1293 – Missouri S&T Environmental Federation continues the long tradition of monitoring Beaver Creek south of Rolla since 1995, and offered their monitoring site to VWQM staff to help train new recruits in biological monitoring techniques.
Team 4705 – The Hannibal 1819 Stream Team knocked it out of the park again, literally, with another 2.3 TONS of trash collected from Bear Creek, with 45 volunteers providing the muscle and partnering with General Mills for the third time. Amazing!
Team 4762– Fun in the sun on the beautiful Finley River learning about biodiversity, water chemistry, and the physical characteristics of the stream with the Ozark High School Science Club.
Team 5838 – The River Paddlers make floating and caring for streams they play on a family affair! The Jacks Fork is another 7 bags of trash lighter than before.
Team 5997 – The draw-down of Lake Killarney for dam repair and invasive weed removal revealed a trove of tires and debris that have collected over many, many years! Many thanks to the Rapid Crusaders for their rapid cleanup response.
Team 6253 – A productive day with the Roubidoux Roos collecting five tires, a washing machine barrel, and 4 bags of trash along with miscellaneous pieces of scrap metal. High-Fives all around for a job well done!
Team 6297 – Troop 71988 counted 569+ items on Hinkson Creek in Columbia on their very first Stream Team cleanup, and the colorful shirts made the event more fun, said Lacy Stroessner. Cheers to the smiling faces and their good work!
A Look at Spring 2022 Advocacy Opportunities
By Mary Culler, Stream Teams United Executive Director
The Stream Team Program focuses on three main areas for people to become involved in the care of Missouri’s rivers and streams: Education, Stewardship, and Advocacy. As a non-government organization, Stream Teams United plays a lead role for stream advocacy in Missouri by providing educational information about current aquatic resource issues to Missouri Stream Teams and the public.
The Second Regular Session of the Missouri 101st General Assembly began on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. At that time, our state legislators had already pre-filed over 1,000 bills, and within the first ten days of the legislative session, a total of over 1,500 bills and resolutions had been filed. The process of a bill making its way through the legislative process to become a state law or statute is quite complex, and by the end of state legislative session, only a handful of bills make their way to “the finish line,” which is known as being “Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed.” The bill is then sent to the Governor for approval/signature or disapproval/veto. If you haven’t watched the Schoolhouse Rock video of the lawmaking process recently; it is a great refresher on this process!
As of January 15, Stream Teams United has reviewed the topics of over 1,500 bills and resolutions filed so far by our state legislators to see which bills may be of interest to the Stream Team community. We feature these bills on our Legislative Lookout and notify Stream Teams of public hearings for bills of interest through our website, social media, and weekly #MOwater News e-bulletin.
As we have seen in the great strides made through our nation’s Clean Water Act, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the laws of our nation and state do make a difference, either positively or negatively. And an important part of public policy is participation by the public! Here are a few ways to participate in stream advocacy this spring:
Help be a voice for our rivers and watersheds. Your adopted stream can’t speak, but you can speak up for it.
Sleuthing a Suspected Urban Illicit Discharge Site
By Cori Westcott, Stewards of Grand Glaize Stream Team 4707
Many trained volunteer water quality monitors imagine a day when they will discover something suspicious occurring at their monitoring site. As a VWQM, you might observe conditions that you may not have noticed before.
I’m limiting the scope of this article to the urban stream since that’s what my husband and I are familiar with. Perhaps some rural VWQMs would give us an account of abnormal conditions and the methods you have used to investigate the possible site of the pollution.
On December 2nd, my husband Al and I visited one of our St. Louis monitoring sites on Grand Glaize Creek and were surprised to see a coating of a tan to light brown substance on all dry surfaces stretching a number of feet away from the water line. What appeared to be the same substance coated the stream bed as well. The water was a milky green. Visibility in the water was limited to the shallower zones. The flow of the stream read 0.02 cubic feet per second on the USGS real-time water gage. Whatever this substance was, there had been no rainfall to dilute it and move it downstream.
The first thing we did was pull up a map on our phone that would show us the closest bridge upstream from the Weidman Bridge. We drove there and studied the conditions of the water beneath the bridge. The water was clear and there was no sign of the substance.
The next step was to walk along the creek upstream from Weidman Bridge to find where the substance stopped being present. We found clear water just a few feet upstream of a stormwater drainage pipe. The zone of stream bed surrounding the pipe and its cement standing structure was coated in this substance. Just upstream from the pipe’s location, the water was clear. Downstream just a couple yards on the opposite stream bank was an ephemeral tributary that was bone-dry.
I uploaded the photos to a Google folder I had created for the event. This was a very useful step later.
By taking these two steps, we zeroed in on where the contaminant entered the creek. We still didn’t know the actual site of the suspected illicit discharge. We called DNR, St. Louis Region. After listening to my description of the scene including a mention of the greenish substance coating the stream bed, the DNR representative suggested it was some sort of naturally occurring cyanobacteria.
She said she would contact Metropolitan Sewer District and that they would contact me shortly. In St. Louis, the sewer district operates and maintains both storm sewer and wastewater systems. An MSD employee did call shortly afterward. The DNR representative and MSD staﬀ member had access to my Google Drive folder and both studied the photos.
The following Monday, I received an email from the MSD staﬀ member. She said she visited the site that Saturday and walked up to the inlet (drainage pipe). She said it was likely a type of bacteria and it had probably come from the dry tributary bed. I had strong reservations of her analysis.
I had gently depressed the surface of the substance coating dry creek rock with the tip of my walking stick. It had elastic properties and held together. Its color was tan on the dry stream bed and dull gray underwater, not a vibrant green such as a cyanobacteria or rust-colored like the common iron-oxidizing bacteria of Sphaerotilus–Leptothrix.
I went back to the site, carefully took samples, and studied them under the microscope at home. It was undeniably clay. It had clear, flat crystals and black, iron flecks with other brown flecks, too. There was nothing organic to it at all. Al is a potter and brought a fingernail-sized sample of his potting clay. I set it next to the sample from the creek. They had the same texture. I took photos through a single eye piece and loaded them into the Google Drive folder dedicated to this investigation.
The MSD employee heartily agreed with me that it was indeed clay. She said she would monitor the site regularly in the future for any more sediment-dumping instances.
Someone must have thought it wouldn’t hurt to dump some earth from a construction project of some kind. Little did anyone know there would be no rain. This stuﬀ coated the stream bed 1/8” to 1/4” thick. It probably smothered all living aquatic organisms in that water. We also monitor at the Big Bend Bridge over a mile downstream. No sediment was present there, but the stream still had the same milky green hue that indicated there was a lot of sediment in the water.
I revisited the site after a series of small rain events and the sediment was gone. I walked into the woods farther away from the creek bank and found an opened, empty 55-gallon drum of industrial cement curing compound. I took photos and called DNR’s 24-hour Environmental Emergency Response line, (573) 634-2436, and they planned to retrieve it. Every Stream Teamer should have that number in their mobile device’s contact list. Call them whenever you observe potentially toxic or hazardous items near or in your stream. With what you’re sure is a non-toxic anomaly, call your regional DNR oﬃce.
We didn’t find the source of the dumping, but we did find the site where it entered the stream. We also provided DNR with enough documentation to record the event. Those recorded events may be able to lead to a source sometime in the future.
It will be interesting to see what macroinvertebrates we find in next spring’s monitoring. We hope there will be a successful secondary succession. Keep those fingers crossed!
An Old Stream with a Brand-New Name: Introducing Hoot Owl Creek
Congratulations to Gerry Arb with the South Woods Villa Oakville Stream Team 6212 for the success in establishing a name for the previously un-named stream in his neighborhood! Now known as Hoot Owl Creek, this small stream now provides a sense of ownership and pride for Oakville community residents in Saint Louis County.
Did you know that anyone can pursue naming an unknown stream to be federally recognized and designated on local, state, and national maps? With just a little ingenuity, determination, and patience, you can apply to name your un-named adopted stream by contacting the Board on Geographical Names BGN) to begin the process. Visit the BGN information page on naming un-named natural features at https://www.usgs.gov/us-board-on-geographic-names/how-do-i. The entire process may take up to a year and require involvement from multiple stakeholders, but the effort is well worth the wait to have a permanent mark on the map!
Some may remember when the City of Wentzville (Team 4096) introduced their efforts to name several streams in their area with the article “What’s in a (Stream) Name?” submitted to Channels newsletter back in 2013. This innovative team offered the naming process to the community as a contest, which brought in numerous creative offerings from the community to be selected by a judging panel and submitted to the BGN. After a bit of a wait, it was well worth the prize of having nine newly named streams in the Dry Branch Watershed. You can learn some tips and tricks for implementing a stream naming contest by checking out the January/February 2013 issue of Channels.
Congrats again to Stream Team 6212, and an inaugural cleanup of the new Hoot Owl Creek will occur in late February. Find out more details by visiting the Stream Team calendar.
New Year! New Goals!
Welcome Cassie Twehus!
Save the Dates
Sleuthing a Suspected Urban Illicit Discharge Site
An Old Stream with a Brand-New Name: