Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Big Lost River Subbasin

Subbasin at a Glance

Hydrologic Unit Code 17040218
Size 2,452 square miles (1,569,161 acres)

Water Bodies with EPA-Approved TMDLs (Category 4a)

Antelope Creek, Bear Creek, Big Lost River, Bridge Creek, Cherry Creek, Corral Creek, East Fork Big Lost River, Leadbelt Creek, Lower Pass Creek, North Fork Big Lost River, Sage Creek, Star Hope Creek, Summit Creek, Thousand Springs Creek, Warm Springs Creek, Wildhorse Creek

Beneficial Uses Affected Cold water aquatic life, salmonid spawning, primary and secondary contact recreation, drinking water supply
Major Land Uses Livestock grazing, recreation, agriculture, and transportation (roads)
Date Approved by EPA August 2004
Approval Letter
Addendum Approved by EPA December 2011
EPA Approval Letter

Subbasin Characteristics

The Big Lost River subbasin, isolated from surface connection with the Snake River, is one of four watersheds in central Idaho known as the Sinks Drainages. Surface flow not used for irrigation infiltrates to ground water, which moves southwest toward the Thousand Springs reach of the Snake River near Hagerman, Idaho, where spring flow emerges. Native fish populations, water quality, and riparian habitat conditions are issues of concern in the subbasin. The cumulative effects of irrigation diversion, alteration of vegetation by grazing in riparian areas, human-caused stream alterations, historic mining practices, roads, residential and municipal development, and past timber harvest have combined to impact water quality and aquatic life in the watershed.

2004 Subbasin Assessment and TMDL

Twelve TMDLs were developed to address issues of temperature exceedance of water quality standards on eleven streams (two segments on Antelope Creek). Sediment TMDLs were prepared for the streams with temperature exceedances with the exception of Warm Springs Creek and the main stem Big Lost River from its origin at the confluence of the North and East Forks of the Big Lost River to Chilly Buttes. Sediment TMDLs were prepared for two additional streams that did not have sufficient temperature data to determine TMDLs for thermal loading: Twin Bridges Creek and Thousand Springs Creek.

TMDLs were not prepared for habitat and flow alteration. These are considered "pollution," not "pollutants," and TMDLs are not required for water bodies impaired by pollution. A TMDL is only required when a pollutant can be identified and in some way quantified.

2004 TMDL: Streams and Pollutants for Which TMDLs Were Developed

East Fork Big Lost River
Sediment, temperature
Corral Creek (East Fork Big Lost tributary)
Sediment, temperature
Starhope Creek
Sediment, temperature
Wildhorse Creek
Sediment, temperature
North Fork Big Lost River
Sediment, temperature
Summit Creek
Sediment, temperature
Big Lost River: Source to Chilly Buttes
Temperature
Twin Bridges Creek
Sediment
Thousand Springs Creek
Sediment
Warm Springs Creek
Temperature
Antelope Creek (two segments)
Sediment, temperature
Bear Creek
Sediment, temperature
Cherry Creek
Sediment, temperature

2011 Addendum

This document was developed to address 14 assessment units (AUs) listed in Category 5 for impaired waters on Idaho’s 2010 Integrated Report. Additional unlisted AUs were evaluated for possible temperature violations. Investigation by DEQ showed that excess sediment was determined to be impairing water quality in two reaches of the Big Lost River: the reach above Bartlett Point Road and the reach above Mackay Reservoir. Sediment water quality targets were met in Bear, Pinto, Grant, and Garden Creeks. Bacteria was found to exceed the target for supporting secondary contact recreation as a beneficial use in Sage Creek; Wildhorse Creek was found to be meeting bacteria water quality targets. Investigation also showed that all streams examined for temperature impairment lacked shade to some degree. Potential natural vegetation TMDLs were completed for AUs of the Big Lost River, East Fork Big Lost River, Antelope Creek, Leadbelt Creek, Twin Bridges Creek, and the Thousand Springs Creek tributaries.

2011 Addendum: Streams and Pollutants for Which TMDLs Were Developed

Antelope Creek
          Temperature
Big Lost River
          Sediment, temperature
East Fork Big Lost River
          Temperature
Leadbelt Creek
          Temperature
Sage Creek
          Bacteria
Thousand Springs Creek tributaries
          Temperature
Twin Bridges Creek
          Temperature

Subbasin Documents


Staff Contacts

Water Quality Manager
Troy Saffle
DEQ Idaho Falls Regional Office
900 N. Skyline Drive, Suite B
Idaho Falls, ID 83402
(208) 528-2650
troy.saffle@deq.idaho.gov