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Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5001

Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation

Sediment Loading from Crab Creek and Other Sources to Moses Lake, Washington, 2007 and 2008

By Christopher S. Magirl, Stephen E. Cox, Mark C. Mastin, and Raegan L. Huffman

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (10.4 MB)Abstract

The average sediment-accumulation rate on the bed of Moses Lake since 1980, based on the identification of Mount St. Helens ash in lakebed cores, was 0.24 inches per year. Summed over the lake surface area, the average sediment-accumulation rate on the lakebed is 190,000 tons per year. Based on USGS stream-gaging station data, the average annual sediment load to Moses Lake from Crab Creek was 32,000 tons per year between 1943 and 2008; the post Mount St. Helens eruption annual load from Crab Creek was calculated to be 13,000 tons per year. The total mass input from Crab Creek and other fluvially derived sediment sources since 1980 has been about 20,000 tons per year. Eolian sediment loading to Moses Lake was about 50,000 tons per year before irrigation and land-use development largely stabilized the Moses Lake dune field. Currently, eolian input to the lake is less than 2,000 tons per year. Considering all sediment sources to the lake, most (from 80 to 90 percent) of post-1980 lakebed-sediment accumulation is from autochthonous, or locally-formed, mineral matter, including diatom frustuals and carbonate shells, derived from biogenic production in phytoplankton and zooplankton.

Suspended-sediment samples collected from Crab Creek and similar nearby waterways in 2007 and 2008 combined with other USGS data from the region indicated that a proposed Bureau of Reclamation supplemental feed of as much as 650 cubic feet per second through Crab Creek might initially contain a sediment load of as much as 1,500 tons per day. With time, however, this sediment load would drop to about 10 tons per day in the sediment-supply-limited creek as available sediment in the channel is depleted. Sediment loads in the supplemental feed ultimately would be similar to loads in other bypass canals near Moses Lake. Considering the hydrology and geomorphology of the creek over multiple years, there is little evidence that the proposed supplemental feed would substantially increase the overall sediment load from Crab Creek to Moses Lake relative to natural, background conditions. Also, because Moses Lake is relatively shallow and subject to significant wind-driven circulation currents, mixing would redistribute some of the fluvial sediment load deposited from Crab Creek throughout Parker Horn and the rest of Moses Lake, further mitigating the local effect of Crab Creek sedimentation near the City of Moses Lake.

For additional information contact:
Director, Washington Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
934 Broadway, Suite 300
Tacoma, Washington 98402

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Suggested citation:

Magirl, C.S., Cox, S.E., Mastin, M.C., and Huffman, R.L., 2010, Sediment loading from Crab Creek and other sources to Moses Lake, Washington, 2007 and 2008: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5001, 20 p.




Description of Study Area


Fluvial Sediment Load in Channels Feeding Moses Lake

Eolian Inputs

Lakebed Accumulation

Implications for Sedimentation from Crab Creek Bypass

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

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