Clark, Cowlitz, SW Lewis GRP

Table of Contents


Site Description

This section provides a description of the physical features, hydrology, climate, winds, tides and currents found in and around the Clark, Cowlitz, and Southwest Lewis planning area and includes an overview of the oil spill risks.  The planning area extends from Vancouver in the south to just north of Winlock, traces US Highway 12 east to Mayfield Lake, and runs in a narrow strip from Kelso/Longview southeastward to Battle Ground. Portions of the Coweeman, Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, and Toutle Rivers flow through this area.  The communities of Battle Ground, Castle Rock, Kalama, La Center, Longview/Kelso, Ridgefield, Toledo, Vader, Vancouver, Winlock, and Woodland are located within the boundaries of this planning area, as well as parts of Lewis, Cowlitz, and Clark Counties.  The Chehalis River and Lower Columbia River GRPs border this planning area to the north and southwest, respectively.

Physical Features

The geographic features of the planning area are defined by their location between the eastern flanks of the Willapa Hills and Columbia River and the western foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range. This geographic depression is a portion of a larger area known as the Willamette Valley-Puget Trough that runs north to British Columbia and south to Oregon. Significant transportation systems in the corridor include highway, rail and pipelines routes, as well as ocean-accessible ports on the Columbia River. The southern portion of the planning area is part of the greater Portland metropolitan area.

Tribes of the Planning Area

Tribes can fill many roles during an oil spill response including full participation in Unified Command, providing resource specialists in the Environmental Unit, monitoring on-scene operations, and more. Information regarding tribal participation in a response is available on the Northwest Area Committee/Region 10 Regional Response Team website. Contact information for the tribes in this planning area can be found in the Resources at Risk section and on the Spill Response Contact Sheet of this GRP.


The Columbia River is the fourth-largest river in North America, draining an area equivalent to France. All the rivers and creeks within the planning area are tributaries of the Columbia River and drain in a southerly or westerly direction. Several organizations, such as the US Geologic Survey, maintain stream gages on some these watercourses. Please visit the USGS National Water Information System for current flow conditions.

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The planning area is set within Water Resource Inventory Areas Cowlitz (WRIA 26), Lewis (WRIA 27), and Salmon-Washougal (WRIA 28). Most of the precipitation falls during the winter months when water demands are the lowest. During the summer, the snowpack is diminished or nonexistent, there is little or no rain, and stream flows are largely dependent on groundwater. This means that water is least available when water demands are the highest. Both extreme high or low flows may limit the deployment of some response strategies.

Climate and Winds

The planning area falls within the East Olympic-Cascade Foothills climate zone of Washington. The average temperatures in January range from a high of 38 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to a low of 25 to 32 degrees F. In July, the average high ranges from 75 to 80 degrees F to a low of around 50 degrees F. Snow accumulation is low, with an average of less than 10 inches annually. However, this total increases greatly in the nearby foothills.

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Prevailing winds are generally from the north to northwest in the summer, and south and south-southeast in the winter. Average wind speed is four to five miles per hour. Monthly averages typically vary by only one mile per hour.

Tides and Currents

Tidal influence is present in the planning area. The force of a flood tide on the Columbia River is experienced far inland. For example, the first three miles of the Kalama River (up to the Modrow Bridge) are subject to this influence. The Lewis River watershed is affected east of I-5 at times. The Cowlitz and the Coweeman Rivers are influenced north of Longview/Kelso.

Currents for the rivers are dictated by the season and precipitation. Dams on the Cowlitz (TPU’s Mayfield), Toutle (USACE’s Mount Saint Helens Sediment Retention Structure), and Lewis Rivers (PacifiCorp’s Merwin) control the flow to some degree.

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Risk Assessment

The planning area has an abundance of natural, cultural, and economic resources, all at risk of injury from oil spills. Potential oil spill risks include facilities, trains, oil pipelines, large commercial vessel traffic, road systems, aircraft, recreational boating, and other oil spill risks. This section briefly discusses these risks and how they could impact the region.

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Oil Types: Both refined petroleum products and crude oils are transported in bulk within this planning area. Crude oils contain a mix of hydrocarbons with a wide range of properties, while a refined product is a single type of oil, such as diesel or gasoline. Depending on the oil and the characteristics of the water the oil is spilled into, some of the oil transported in this planning area may sink or submerge.

Different oils will behave differently when spilled to water. Some heavy oils will sink immediately, some oil suspends in the water column, and lighter oils may stay on the surface and evaporate within hours. Over time, oil that initially floats can weather and mix with sediment, causing it to submerge or sink. Non-floating oils pose a specific risk to the environment because they can harm underwater or bottom-dwelling species that would otherwise be unaffected by a spill of an oil type that remains on the surface.

Traditional response strategies, including the booming strategies in this GRP, are designed to collect or exclude floating oil. However, steps can be taken to plan for and respond to a non-floating oil spill. The Response Options and Considerations section provides an overview of areas where non-floating oil might accumulate if spilled within this planning area, along with information on specific tactics that may be effective during a response. More response options recommended for finding and recovering oil below the surface can be found in the Non-Floating Oil Spill Response Tool (NWRCP Section 9412).

Facilities: There are no large Ecology Spills Program-regulated facilities within the planning area. However, a spill from one of the facilities located at the Port of Vancouver could move down the Columbia River and impact some of the tributaries along its right bank.

Trains: Rail companies transport oil via both unit trains and manifest trains in this area. Unit trains include up to four locomotives, buffer cars, and 118 loaded tank cars transporting oil in 714-barrel (29,998 gallon) capacity USDOT-approved tank cars. Manifest trains include up to four locomotives, a mix of non-oil merchandise cars, and one or more 714-barrel (29,998 gallon) capacity USDOT-approved tank cars carrying refined oil products, such as diesel, lubrication oil, or gasoline. These trains may include emptied tank cars, each with residual quantities of up to 1,800 gallons of crude oil or petroleum products. Every train locomotive typically holds a few hundred gallons of engine lubrication oil, plus saddle tanks that each have an approximate capacity of 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Manifest trains may also transport biological oils and non-petroleum chemicals.

Unit trains carrying crude currently operate on specific routes. Unit trains carrying crude from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota enter Washington State near Spokane, continue along the Columbia River to Vancouver, and then head north along I-5.

Oil Pipelines: One petroleum pipeline passes through the planning area. The 299-mile-long Olympic Pipeline transports products from the four refineries in Whatcom and Skagit Counties to terminals in the Seattle area, as well as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and continues south across the Columbia River, ending at the Portland International Airport. This pipeline transports refined petroleum products, mainly diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel. Being that the pipeline mostly parallels Interstate-5, it crosses many rivers and creeks within the planning area.

Large Commercial Vessel Traffic: Many vessels visit Washington and Oregon ports along the Columbia River. Cargo and passenger vessels had 1,308 entering transits in 2021 (Vessel Entries and Transits). A spill on the Columbia River’s main marine transportation corridor could affect many of the tidally influenced tributaries within this planning area.

Road Systems: Vehicle traffic on roadways pose an oil spill risk in areas where they run adjacent to the shoreline, or cross over lakes, rivers, creeks, and ditches that drain into the Columbia River or their tributaries. Interstate 5 sees the highest volumes, and like the Olympic Pipeline, crosses many rivers and creeks over the 69 miles that run between the northern and southern borders of the planning area. A vehicle spill onto or near one of its bridges or banks could lead to oil reaching a waterbody. Commercial trucks can contain hundreds to thousands of gallons of fuel and oil, especially fully loaded tank trucks, and may carry almost any kind of cargo, including hazardous waste or other materials that might injure sensitive resources if spilled. Smaller vehicle accidents pose a risk as well, a risk commensurate to the volume of fuel and oil they carry.

Aircraft: Several smaller airports are located within the CCSWL planning area including Ed Carlson Memorial in Toledo, Kelso-Longview, Woodland, and Goheen in Battle Ground. Pearson Field in Vancouver is situated just outside the planning area boundary.  Lastly, just across the Columbia River, Portland International sees the highest traffic and the largest airplanes in the area. The potential exists for failures during inbound or outbound flights that could result in a spill with a release of jet fuel to waterbodies in the region.

Recreational Boating: Accidents involving recreational watercraft on rivers and lakes have the potential to result in spills of anywhere from a few gallons of gasoline, up to hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. Examples include collisions, groundings, fires, and sinkings. Bilge discharges and mishaps during refueling operations, are the most common type of spill involving these craft. Incidents like these have a negative impact on resources in waterbodies.

Other Spill Risks: Other potential oil spill risks in the area include dam turbine mechanical failures, road run-off during rain events, land-based or nearshore construction activities where heavy equipment is being operated, and the migration of spilled oil through soil on lands adjacent to the river or along creek or stream banks.

Resources at Risk

This section provides a summary of natural, cultural, and economic resources at risk in the planning area, including those resources at risk from oils with the potential to sink or submerge. It provides general information on habitat, fish, and wildlife resources, and locations in the area where sensitive natural resource concerns have been identified. It offers a summary of cultural resources that include fundamental procedures for the discovery of cultural artifacts and human skeletal remains. General information about flight restrictions, wildlife deterrence, and oiled wildlife can be found near the end of this section. A list of economic resources in the area is provided in the appendix.

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This section is purposely broad in scope and should not be considered comprehensive. Some of the sensitive resources described in this section cannot be addressed in Response Strategies and Priorities because it is not possible to conduct effective response activities in these locations. Additional information from private organizations or federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies should also be sought during spills.

This material is presented with enough detail to give general information about the area during the first phase of a spill response. During an actual incident, more information about resources at risk will be available from the Environmental Unit in the Planning Section.

Note: specific resource concerns related to areas that already have designated protection strategies may be found in the “Resources at Risk” column of the matrix describing the individual strategies.

The information provided in this section can be used in:

  • Assisting the Environmental Unit (EU) and Operations in developing ad hoc response strategies.
  • Providing resource-at-risk “context” to responders, clean-up workers, and others during the initial phase of a spill response in the GRP area.
  • Briefing responders and incident command staff that may be unfamiliar with sensitive resource concerns in the GRP area.
  • Providing background information for personnel involved in media presentations and public outreach during a spill incident.
  • Providing information on benthic and water column species or cultural resources present to assist in planning for oils with the potential to sink or submerge.

Natural Resources at Risk – Summary

This area contains a wide variety of aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats. These habitats support many of Washington’s salmonid species and other wildlife. In addition to those species directly at risk to oil spills, others (due to their life histories and/or behaviors) that are unlikely to become directly oiled during a spill incident may be disturbed by other operations such as cleanup, reconnaissance, or fire suppression activities. Some of the bird species are resident throughout the year, but many others seasonally migrate outside of the area.

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Several of the species found in this area have been classified under the Federal Endangered Species Act or by the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Classification types are:

  • Federal Endangered (FE)
  • Federal Threatened (FT)
  • Federal Candidate (FC)
  • State Endangered (SE)
  • State Threatened (ST)
  • State Sensitive (SS)

Federal and State Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive species that may occur within this area, at some time of the year, include:

  • Common loon [SS]
  • Marbled murrelet [FT/SE]
  • Northern spotted owl [FT/SE]
  • Sandhill crane [SE]
  • Streaked horned lark [FT/SE]
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo [FT/SE]
  • Columbian white-tailed deer [FT/SE]
  • Western gray squirrel [ST]
  • Bull trout [FT]
  • Chinook salmon (Lower Columbia River) [FT]
  • Chum salmon (Columbia River) [FT]
  • Coho salmon (Lower Columbia River) [FT]
  • Eulachon [FT]
  • Sockeye salmon (Snake River) [FE]
  • Steelhead (Lower Columbia River) [FT]
  • Green sturgeon [FT]
  • Northern leopard frog [SE]
  • Oregon spotted frog [FT/SE]
  • Western pond turtle [FE]
  • Bradshaw’s desert-parsley [FE]
  • Golden paintbrush [FT]
  • Kincaid’s lupine [FT]
  • Nelson’s checker-mallow [FT]
  • Water howellia [FT]

Critical habitats:

Critical habitats are the specific areas occupied by an endangered or threatened species at the time it was listed that contain the physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of that species – and that may need special management or protection. Critical habitat may also include areas that were not occupied by the species at the time of listing but are essential to its conservation.

The following species have federally designated critical habitats within this area:

  • Bull trout
  • Chum salmon (Columbia River)
  • Coho salmon (lower Columbia River)
  • Chinook salmon (lower Columbia River)
  • Eulachon
  • Steelhead (lower Columbia River)
General Resource Concerns
  • Wetlands in the lower reaches of this region are freshwater although tidally influenced. These wetlands range from seasonal open marshes to forested swamps along rivers and streams. All wetland types support a diverse array of amphibian, bird, insect, fish, and wildlife species.
  • The rivers and streams throughout this region provide spawning and rearing habitat for various salmonid species. The associated riparian scrub and woodlands play a crucial role in supporting wildlife and an abundant, diverse passerine bird species’ breeding, migrating, and overwintering habitat. Stream mouths are concentration areas for fish and are feeding areas for a variety of birds.
  • Side channels and impounded areas provide feeding and resting areas for waterfowl and herons and are important rearing areas for juvenile fish.
  • Islands provide important nesting habitat for a variety of bird species, as well as habitat for a variety of mammals. Resident fish are likely present in most streams.
  • Shallow subsurface habitats occur in this region, including the delta of the Cowlitz River to the Mayfield dam, the Lewis River from its mouth to the Merwin dam, and all the associated tributaries.
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    • Fine sediments (mud/silt/sand): Associated with slow, still water flows. Aquatic vegetation may be present. Animals associated with these areas tend to be: cold or warm water fishes; birds (dabbling ducks); semi-aquatic mammals (muskrat, beaver, etc.); shellfish (freshwater clams); amphibians and reptiles (frogs, newts, salamanders, turtles, etc.); insects (caddis flies, mayflies, dragonflies, and stoneflies). Many other animals also utilize these areas for foraging.
    • Coarse sediments (gravel/cobble): Associated with moderate water flow. Aquatic vegetation may be present. Animals associated with these areas tend to be: cold or warm water fishes; birds (dippers, harlequin ducks); semi-aquatic mammals (muskrat, beaver, etc.); shellfish (pearlshell mussels, crayfish); amphibians and reptiles (tailed frogs, torrent salamanders); insects (caddis flies, stoneflies). Many other animals also utilize these areas for foraging.
    • Bedrock: Associated with fast water and little or no deposition of loose bed materials. Aquatic vegetation not present. Animals associated with these areas tend to be mostly cold-water fishes, birds (dippers, harlequin ducks), and amphibians (torrent salamanders).
Fish and Shellfish
  • Anadromous fish, including salmonid species are present throughout the basin, including bull trout [FT], coho [FT], chinook [FT], chum [FT], sockeye [FE], steelhead [FT], and coastal cutthroat. Pacific lamprey and eulachon [FT] are also present in the rivers. Sturgeon (white and green [FT]) may also be present in the lower Cowlitz.
  • Resident fish species include brown bullhead, carp, largemouth bass, large scale sucker, dace, mountain whitefish, northern pike minnow, pea mouth, rainbow trout, resident cutthroat, sculpin, and perch.
  • Fresh water mussels, including California floaters, are found throughout most of the region.
  • Wintering waterfowl concentrations, (primarily ducks, geese and swans) are present along the main stem of the Columbia and Cowlitz and adjoining lowlands. Field size, flood conditions, weather, and crop rotations of any given year help to determine the actual waterfowl distribution. Resident and migratory waterfowl heavily utilize the islands, backwaters, wetlands and adjacent uplands of the region from fall through spring. Shorebird concentrations also occur along the lower Cowlitz.
  • Sandhill cranes [SE] congregate in large numbers along the Columbia River, Vancouver Lake, and lower portion of the Cowlitz River.
  • Northern spotted owls [FT/SE] and marbled murrelet [FT/ST] nesting areas are known to be present in the region.
  • Great blue and green herons, along with raptors (including bald eagle, osprey and peregrine falcon) nest and forage year-round along waterways throughout the region.
  • Resident and migratory songbirds heavily utilize riparian habitats year-round and are susceptible to oiling if riparian vegetation and shorelines become contaminated.
  • Mammals common to the region include large managed species (including elk, deer and bear). Columbia white-tailed deer [FT/SE] are also present in this area along the Columbia River. Many semi-aquatic species such as beaver, muskrat, river otter, mink and raccoon also utilize habitats in this area. These small mammals are particularly vulnerable to contact with spilled oil because of their habitat preferences. Seals and sea lions are also present at the mouth of the Cowlitz.

Tributary descriptions within the GRP

Cowlitz River (Columbia River ~RM 68).

  • Coweeman River (Cowlitz River ~RM 1.4): From I-5 upstream to about Coweeman River RM 7, emergent and scrub shrub wetlands in the lower Coweeman River supports large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, herons, and raptors. Off-river channels provide rearing and spawning habitat for salmonid species. Resident fish present.
  • Toutle River (Cowlitz River ~RM 20): Off-river channels provide rearing and spawning habitat for salmonid species. Resident fish present.
  • Olequa and Lacamas Creeks (Cowlitz River ~RM 24.5 to RM 30): Pastures and emergent wetlands in the Cowlitz River floodplain and nearby ponds supports regular large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, geese, and osprey nesting. Off-river channels provide rearing and spawning habitat for salmonid species. Resident fish present.

Vancouver Lake

  • Burnt Bridge Creek (Tributary of Vancouver Lake): Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting near the confluence of Burnt Bridge Creek with Vancouver Lake. Waterfowl concentration between I-5 and Vancouver Lake including Sandhill cranes [SE]. Tundra swans, geese, and ducks in the lowlands immediately upstream from Vancouver Lake. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels and freshwater mussels.

Lake River (Columbia River ~RM 87).

  • Salmon Creek (Lake River ~RM 9): This stream reach includes Salmon Creek/Salmon Creek Greenway, and Salmon Creek County Park. Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting near Salmon Creek RM 3. Waterfowl concentration between I-5 and confluence with Columbia River including Sandhill cranes [SE], tundra swans, geese, and ducks. Mazama pocket gopher [FT/ST] usage near the City of Battle Ground. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels and freshwater mussels.
  • Whipple Creek (Lake River ~RM 7): Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting near Whipple Creek Park. Waterfowl concentration downstream from approximately where the stream crosses NW 179th Street to the confluence with Lake River. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  • Flume Creek (Lake River ~5.5): Waterfowl concentration including Sandhill cranes [SE] and geese near the confluence with Lake Creek both upstream and downstream from the railroad crossing. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. This stream flows to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Lewis River (Columbia River ~ RM 87):

  • Lewis River main stem and tributaries: Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels, resident fish, and freshwater mussels.
  • East Fork Lewis River (Lewis River RM 3.5): Waterfowl concentration including tundra swan, duck, geese from city of La Center upstream to about the East Fork of the Lewis ~RM 7 where the power lines cross the river. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels and resident fish.
  • Staples Creek/Clover Valley area (Lewis River ~RM 12): Sloughs, wetlands, and riparian areas support cavity-nesting ducks at the confluence with Lewis River.

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern

Cowlitz River (Figure 1)

  1. Lewis and Clark State Park: Boone Creek, a salmonid spawning stream, runs through the park and is a tributary to Lacamas Creek. This 621-acre park is in one of the last major stands of old-growth forests in the state. Coniferous trees, streams, wetlands, dense vegetation, and wet prairie comprise the park environment along with a vast stand of rare old-growth forest.
  2. Mouth of Blue Creek and vicinity (Cowlitz ~RM 42-47): Waterfowl concentration area. Cavity-nesting wood ducks and mergansers in old river channels. Beaver dams and flooded willow areas. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  3. Mouth of Olequa and Lacamas Creeks and vicinity (Cowlitz River ~RM 24.5 to RM 30): Pastures and emergent wetlands in the Cowlitz River floodplain and nearby ponds support regular large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, geese, and osprey nesting. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Resident fish.
  4. Toutle River (Cowlitz River ~RM 20/Toutle RM 3 to RM 4.5): Snag rich area used by bald eagles [FCo/SS]. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Resident fish.
  5. Arkansas, Delameter, and Whittle Creeks (Cowlitz River ~RM 17): Wetlands across from Castle Rock provide habitat for cavity-nesting ducks. Emergent and scrub shrub wetlands and flood plains provide regular large concentrations of wintering waterfowl including Canada geese. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  6. Pleasant Hill (Cowlitz River ~RM 8.5): An unnamed stream and associated wetland complex between I-5 and Pleasant Hill Road near the town of Lexington. Wood ducks and other cavity-nesting ducks regularly inhabit these areas.

Columbia River (Figure 2)

  1. Carrolls Channel and Owl Creek Mouth (Columbia River ~RM 69 to 71): Concentrations of waterfowl including swans, ducks, and geese. Seabirds, harbor seals, and California sea lions coincide with winter run of Pacific eulachon smelt [FT] in Carrolls Channel. Heron rookery, small-eared owls, and wetlands in the lower reach of Owl Creek near I-5. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  2. Mouth of Kalama River (Columbia River ~RM 73): Concentrations of waterfowl including swans, ducks, and geese. Seabirds, harbor seals and California sea lions coincide with winter run of Pacific eulachon smelt [FT] near mouth of river. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  3. Martin/Burke Islands and Vicinity (Columbia River ~RM 79-81): Riparian habitat. Juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Concentration area for breeding, migrating and wintering waterfowl. Sandhill crane [SE]. Area supports cavity-nesting ducks.
  4. Horseshoe Lake (and vicinity) near Woodland (Lewis River ~RM 6): Cavity-nesting duck concentration in the slough, wetlands, and riparian areas in this area.
  5. Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Columbia River ~ RM 87-92): Concentration area for migrating and wintering waterfowl, shorebirds, and Sandhill cranes [SE]. Resident nesting songbirds, waterfowl, raptors and herons. Riparian habitat. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Audubon Important Bird Area.
  6. Frenchman’s Bar/Shillapoo Wildlife Area/Vancouver Lake (~RM 96-99): Riparian habitat, pasture, and agricultural land that supports wintering and migrating concentrations of waterfowl, shorebirds, Sandhill cranes [SE], and common loons [SS]. Juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Shillapoo Vancouver Wildlife Area (~2,300 acres) includes one of the largest great blue heron rookeries on the lower Columbia River. Vancouver Lake Regional Park (~190 acres) has 2.5 miles of publicly accessible shoreline and is also used by wildlife and migratory waterfowl.

Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Maps

Figure 1: Cowlitz River.

Figure 2: Columbia River.

Cultural Resources at Risk – Summary

Culturally significant resources are present within the planning area. Information regarding the type and location of cultural resources is maintained by the Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (WDAHP). This sensitive information is made available to the Washington Department of Ecology for oil spill preparedness and response planning. The Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) or Cultural Resource Departments of local tribes (see table) may also be able to provide information on cultural resources at risk in the area and should be contacted, along with WDAHP, through normal trustee notification processes when significant oil spills, or smaller spills above reportable thresholds, occur in the area.

During a spill response, after the Unified Command is established, information related to specific archeological concerns will be coordinated through the Environmental Unit. In order to ensure that tactical response strategies do not inadvertently harm culturally sensitive sites, WDAHP should be consulted before disturbing any soil or sediment during a response action, including submerged soils or sediments.  WDAHP and/or the Tribal governments may assign a person, or provide a list of professional archeologists that can be contracted, to monitor response activities and cleanup operations for the protection of cultural resources at risk. Due to the sensitive nature of such information, details regarding the location and type of cultural resources present are not included in this document.

CCSWL-GRP Cultural Resources Contacts

Contact Phone Email
Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (WDAHP) 360-890-2615
Cowlitz Indian Tribe, THPO 360-353-9924
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, THPO 541-429-7234
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, THPO 503-879-2084
Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, THPO 509-985-7596
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, THPO 541-553-2002

Tribal Resources

Oil spills pose a significant risk to indigenous cultures, indigenous communities, subsistence harvests, and tribal treaty resources when spills impact land and water used for cultural and traditional practices. All Tribes with land, waters, usual and accustomed (U & A) areas, tribal ceded areas, tribal fisheries habitat, archaeological sites, or other interests should be notified of all spills impacting or potentially impacting these areas. The Northwest Regional Contingency Plan provides more information on tribal engagement during a response. Contact information for the tribes in this planning area can also be found in the Spill Response Contact Sheet. If you are unsure of which tribes to involve in the response, then reach out to all of them and allow them to decline participation.

Discovery of Human Skeletal Remains

The finding of human skeletal remains will be reported to the county medical examiner/coroner and local law enforcement in the most expeditious manner possible. The remains will not be touched, moved, or further disturbed. The county medical examiner/coroner will assume jurisdiction over the human skeletal remains and make a determination of whether those remains are forensic or non-forensic. If the county medical examiner/coroner determines the remains are non-forensic, then they will report that finding to the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) who will then take jurisdiction over the remains. The DAHP will notify any appropriate cemeteries and all affected tribes of the find. The State Physical Anthropologist will make a determination of whether the remains are Indian or Non-Indian and report that finding to any appropriate cemeteries and the affected tribes. The DAHP will then handle all consultation with the affected parties as to the future preservation, excavation, and disposition of the remains.

Any human remains, burial sites, or burial-related materials that are discovered during a spill response must be treated with respect at all times (photographing human remains is prohibited to all except the appropriate authorities). Refer to National Historic Preservation Act Compliance Guidelines (NWRCP Section 9403) during an emergency response.

Procedures for the Discovery of Cultural Resources

If any person monitoring work activities or involved in spill response believes that they have encountered cultural resources, all workers must stop immediately and notify the Unified Command and Cultural Resource Specialist. The area of work stoppage must be adequate to provide for the security, protection, and integrity of the material or artifact(s) discovered.

Prehistoric Cultural Resources (may include, but are not limited to, any of the following items):

  • Lithic debitage (stone chips and other tool-making byproducts)
  • Flaked or ground stone tools
  • Exotic rock, minerals, or quarries
  • Concentrations of organically stained sediments, charcoal, or ash
  • Fire-modified rock
  • Rock alignments or rock structures
  • Bone (burned, modified, or in association with other bone, artifacts, or features)
  • Shell or shell fragments
  • Petroglyphs and pictographs
  • Fish weirs, fish traps, and prehistoric water craft
  • Culturally modified trees
  • Physical locations or features (traditional cultural properties)
  • Submerged villages sites or artifacts

Historic cultural material (may include any of the following items over 50 years old):

  • Bottles, or other glass
  • Cans
  • Ceramics
  • Milled wood, brick, concrete, metal, or other building material
  • Trash dumps
  • Homesteads, building remains
  • Logging, mining, or railroad features
  • Piers, wharves, docks, bridges, dams, or shipwrecks
  • Shipwrecks or other submerged historical objects

Economic Resources at Risk Summary

Socio-economic sensitive resources are facilities or locations that rely on a body of water to be economically viable. Because of their location, they could be severely impacted if an oil spill were to occur. Economically sensitive resources are separated into three categories: critical infrastructure, water dependent commercial areas, and water dependent recreation areas. That section provides a list of economic resources for this area.

General Information

Flight Restriction Zones:

The Environmental Unit (Planning Section) may recommend flight restriction zones to minimize disturbance or injury to wildlife during an oil spill. Pilots/operators can decrease the risk of aircraft/bird collisions, prevent the accidental driving of wildlife into oiled areas, and minimize abandonment of nests by keeping a safe distance and altitude from these identified sensitive areas.

The Air Operations Branch (Operations Section) will manage all aircraft operations related to a response and will coordinate the establishment of any Flight Restriction Zones as appropriate. Environmental Unit staff will work with the Air Operations Branch Director to resolve any conflicts that arise between flight activities and sensitive resources.

In addition to restrictions associated with wildlife, Tribal authorities may also request notification when overflights are likely to affect culturally sensitive areas within reservations.  See Oil Spill Best Management Practices (NWRCP Section 9301) for more information on the use of aircraft and helicopters in open water and shoreline responses.

Wildlife Deterrence:

The Wildlife Deterrence Unit within the Wildlife Branch (Operations Section) manages wildlife deterrence operations. These are actions intended to minimize injuries to wildlife by keeping animals away from the oil and cleanup operations. Deterrence activities may include using acoustic or visual deterrent devices, boats, aircraft or other tools. The Wildlife Branch works with state and federal agencies, and the Environmental Unit (Planning Section), to develop deterrence plans as appropriate.

For more information, see the Northwest Wildlife Response Plan (NWRCP Section 9310) and Northwest Area Wildlife Deterrence Resources (NWRCP Section 9311).

Oiled Wildlife:

Capturing oiled wildlife may be hazardous to both personnel and the affected animals. Incident personnel should not try to approach or capture oiled wildlife but should report any observations of oiled wildlife to the Wildlife Branch (Operations Section).

For more information, see the Northwest Wildlife Response Plan (NWRCP Section 9310).

Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness Areas:

The following are located within the planning area:

  • Eagle Island Wildlife Area
  • Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
  • Shillapoo Wildlife Area
  • Vancouver Lake Wildlife Area

Aquatic Invasive Species:

The waters of this region may contain aquatic invasive species (AIS) – species of plants and/or animals that are not native to an area and that can be harmful to an area’s ecosystem. If so, preventative actions may be required to prevent the spread of these species as a result of spill response activities and the Environmental Unit is able to recommend operational techniques and strategies to assist with this issue.

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