Central Puget Sound GRP

  • Interim Update: 2024
  • Last Full Update: 2021
  • Public Comment: GRPs@ecy.wa.gov

Table of Contents


Site Description

This section provides a description of the physical features, hydrology, climate, and winds found in the Central Puget Sound (CPS) planning area and includes an overview of the oil spill risks in the region.  The CPS-GRP boundary spans the marine waters between Norma Beach in Snohomish County to the north, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the south, the Montlake Bridge to the east, and Dyes Inlet to the west. It shares borders with several other GRPs, including Admiralty Inlet, Hood Canal, Lake Washington, Green River/Duwamish, Puyallup/White Rivers, and South Puget Sound. The larger communities include Lynnwood, Edmonds, Shoreline, Indianola, Poulsbo, Bainbridge, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Silverdale, Seattle, Burien, Vashon, Federal Way, Tacoma, and Gig Harbor, as well as portions of Snohomish County, King County, Kitsap County, and Pierce County.

Physical Features

Puget Sound was sculpted by thick and extensive glaciers that advanced south to just beyond Olympia. Glacial sediments (glacial till and outwash) were deposited during the last 2 million years by numerous glacial advances, the most recent of which was around 15,000 years ago. Glaciers covered the area in several thousand feet of ice. As glaciers moved, sediment was transported by the ice and deposited along the way. This created many of the long and narrow hills and lakes within the planning area (WDNR).

Open to read more

The bays that comprise Central Puget Sound are generally characterized by sand and gravel beaches, sand and cobble beaches, and some areas of exposed tidal flats. Inlets that are adequately sheltered from Puget Sound itself have protected tidal flats and marshes. Manmade features, including docks, wharves, piers, riprap and other hard armoring, waterways, and marinas, also occupy much of the shoreline. The area contains marine and estuarine waters that are biologically rich and sensitive. A wide diversity of shoreline and marine habitats (estuaries, rocks, reefs, and islands) and abundant food resources contribute to making the area home to a range of fish and wildlife.

Since the ice retreated from the lowlands, the area has been in continuous use by the Coast Salish peoples and their ancestors. Their annual movements and villages were often planned around seasonal salmon runs, which remain central to their cultural celebrations, spiritual beliefs, and economy (WRIA 9 Salmon Habitat Plan).

Today, much of the Puget Sound is characterized by dense human population and developed areas. Commercial and ferry traffic dominate the area surrounding Edmonds, Bainbridge Island, Seattle, Vashon Island and Tacoma. Naval bases are located at Keyport and Bremerton.

^ top



Puget Sound is a complex estuarine system of four major interconnecting basins, three of which have fjord-like characteristics. The principal entrance from the Strait of Juan de Fuca is at the northern end of Admiralty Inlet, with a much smaller connection through Deception Pass. The three major fjord-like basins include the Main Basin, with an entrance sill located at the northern portion of Admiralty Inlet near Port Townsend; Hood Canal, with its entrance sill at the northern end near the location of the Hood Canal floating bridge; and Southern Sound, which is a complex of two large inlets and numerous smaller inlets and connecting channels. The Southern Sound entrance sill is at The Narrows. In each case sill depths are approximately 73 meters (40 fathoms) and basin depths generally are near or exceed 180 meters (100 fathoms). The fourth basin is the Whidbey Basin, comprised of Possession Sound, Port Susan, Saratoga Passage, and Skagit Bay. Deception Pass is the northern terminus of the Whidbey Basin (Encyclopedia of Puget Sound).

Open to read more

This plan includes the local Central Puget Sound watershed, plus portions of larger inland systems that drain into the marine area.  Most of the annual precipitation in these watersheds arrives during the winter months when water demands are the lowest, and only a fraction becomes available for human and economic uses. During the summer, the snowpack is gone and there is little rain, so stream flows are dependent on groundwater inflow. This means that groundwater and surface water are least available when water demands are the highest.

Cedar-Sammamish (WRIA 8): This watershed includes the Cedar River, which originates in the Cascade Mountains, and the Sammamish River, sometimes called “the Slough”, which connects Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish. The watershed includes various smaller creeks such as Swamp, Bear, Evans and North creeks. Average precipitation is 30-35 inches per year.

Duwamish-Green (WRIA 9):  The watershed is situated in southern Puget Sound and comprises most of southern King county, including south Seattle and its adjacent suburban areas of Kent, Des Moines, Covington and other cities. On its west side it is bounded by Puget Sound and its east side includes portions of the Cascade Mountain range. This watershed has a large amount of urban development and high population density on its west side. This watershed includes only one major river, the Duwamish-Green River, which originates in the Cascade Mountains. The Green River is the source for much of the drinking water for the Tacoma area and includes the Howard A. Hanson Dam, which is used for flood control and reservoir purposes. The watershed includes various smaller streams such as Jenkins, Little Soos, Newaukum and Boundary creeks. Average precipitation ranges from 30-35 inches per year in the coastal areas to 70 inches in the mountains.

Puyallup-White (WRIA 10): The Puyallup-White watershed is located in western Washington and includes three major rivers: the Puyallup, White, and Carbon, all of which originate from glaciers on Mt. Rainier. The annual precipitation in the Puyallup-White watershed ranges from 30 to 40 inches per year in the greater Tacoma area, to over 120 inches in the Cascade Mountains.

Chambers-Clover (WRIA 12): This watershed consists of Chambers, Clover, and Spanaway Creeks and numerous tributary creeks and streams. This watershed is one of the most intensely populated basins in western Washington. Annual precipitation in the Chambers-Clover Watershed ranges from 40 to 60 inches per year.

Kitsap (WRIA 15): The Kitsap Watershed is situated in southern Puget Sound and comprises all of Kitsap county, plus the northeastern part of Mason and the northwestern part of Pierce counties. This watershed is comprised mostly of rural development, but also includes the city of Bremerton and its suburbs. This watershed lacks any major rivers but includes numerous smaller streams. Average precipitation is 30-70 inches per year.

^ top


Climate and Winds

The lowlands of western Washington enjoy a maritime climate of cool summers, mild winters, and abundant rainfall. Summer highs are usually in the low-to-mid seventies, with winter lows near freezing. Heat waves up to the 90s typically last only a few days, although they are becoming longer and more frequent.  Annual precipitation averages 35 inches, with November, December, and January historically the wettest months.  Most snow falls between December and February, commonly with light and brief accumulation, for annual totals of 10 to 20 inches.  During the summer months, due to the “rain shadow” effect from the coastal Olympic Mountains, precipitation in the summer drops to almost nothing.

Open to read more

Average winds are 10 mph, usually towards the south or southwest, with northwesterly winds in summer. Northwest winds in the upper atmosphere become split by the Olympic Mountains, then re-converge over Puget Sound, causing updrafts. Those updrafts can lead to convection and more active weather in an area known as the Puget Sound Convergence Zone.  (WRCC)

^ top


Tides and Currents

Puget Sound tides are mixed semi-diurnal, with two daily high tides and two low tides of varying heights. The tide range in many of the urban waterfronts, including Seattle, Bremerton, and Tacoma, averages over 11 feet in one 6-hour cycle. In constrained waterways, such as the Duwamish or Commencement Bay, this can create strong currents. In shallow bays or estuaries, large areas of mudflats are exposed and flooded twice daily. These locations may require non-standard equipment considerations over the course of a spill response.

Open to read more

Currents in this area are highest at the Tacoma Narrows, the southern terminus of the planning area, at 5.5 knots. Daily currents throughout the Sound are generally strongest at mid-tide. Current direction may reverse dependably with the tides, or may travel in a set direction due to movement around islands and through constricted passages. For instance, currents reliably travel clockwise around Vashon Island, while Colvos Passage maintains a greater flow to the north and East Passage generally flows south. (Encyclopedia of Puget Sound)

^ top


Risk Assessment

The Puget Sound is plentiful in natural, cultural, and economic resources, all at risk of injury from oil spills.  Potential oil spill risks include, but are not limited to: oil facilities, large commercial vessel traffic, rail transportation, oil pipelines, road systems, aircraft, recreational boating, and other oil spill risks.  This section briefly discusses these risks and how they could affect the planning area.

Open to read more

Oil Types: Both refined petroleum products and crude oils are transported in bulk within this planning area. Crude oil contains 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 not float.

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 remain 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 during an oil spill that remained floating on the water’s surface.

Traditional response strategies, including the booming strategies in this GRP, are designed for floating oil. However, there are steps we can take 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 water’s surface can be found in the Non-Floating Oil Spill Response Tool (NWACP Section 9412).

Facilities: Ten Class 1 regulated bulk petroleum facilities are located in Central Puget Sound, all of which transfer large volumes of oil over water. Most of these large facilities are also storage terminals, housing millions of gallons of refined or crude oil in clusters of storage tanks. Several smaller facilities that transfer oil over water in lesser volumes, known as Class 3 and Class 4, also operate throughout Puget Sound. These include fueling the fishing fleets based out of Seattle and Tacoma, as well as pleasure craft at marinas. These regulated petroleum facilities, and the products they handle, can be viewed on the Ecology Spills Map.

Large Commercial Vessel Traffic:  Bulk vessels transport crude and refined oil throughout Central Puget Sound, each carrying millions of gallons as cargo plus hundreds of thousands of gallons of engine fuel for ocean crossings. Bulk oil is also moved by tug and barge, including crude and other potentially non-floating oils.

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma have combined into the Northwest Seaport Alliance, creating the fourth-largest container facility in North America. Large commercial vessels typically carry significant amounts of heavy fuel oils and other refined products.

Washington State Ferries operate multiple routes across Puget Sound, with passages many times daily. Currently the majority of ferries use diesel fuel, but are in the process of transitioning to an all-electric fleet. Private ferry and tour companies, international cruise ships, and offshore fishing fleets also fuel and berth in Seattle and Tacoma.

Rail Transportation: Rail companies transport bulk 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 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 tank cars carrying refined oil products.  These trains may also 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 a capacity of 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel.  Manifest trains may also transport vegetable oils as bulk cargo (Ecology).

Unit trains carrying crude oil currently operate on specific routes.  Unit trains carrying crude from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota enter Washington State near Spokane, continue to the Tri-Cities, then follow the Columbia River to Portland or Vancouver before proceeding north along I-5 to refineries near Anacortes and Bellingham. Less often, crude oil unit trains may move south from British Columbia, carrying Albertan crude over the border at Blaine and following the Puget Sound shoreline south to Pierce County (Ecology Spills Map).

Regulated rail companies transporting crude in this area include BNSF Railway, Union Pacific, and Tacoma Rail. Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad operates a spur along the Kitsap Peninsula to Bremerton and Bangor, but does not transport oil in bulk in this planning area.

Oil Pipelines: There are two refined petroleum pipelines in the planning area.  If these pipelines were to leak or rupture, the impact to natural, cultural, and economic resources could be significant.

The Olympic Pipeline distributes refined products from the northern refineries to the majority of the terminals and refineries in this area, as well as SeaTac airport, and continues south into Oregon.  This pipeline transports refined petroleum products, mainly diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel.  Although the main line travels east of Lake Washington, a delivery extension to Harbor Island crosses rivers and streams that empty into Puget Sound near Seattle. South of Tukwila, it crosses the Puyallup River in Fife, and an extension connects to several facilities in Tacoma. Control points previously identified by the Olympic Pipeline Company were visited during the creation of the plan, and many of those sites were selected to be included in this GRP.

The McChord Pipeline, operated by US Oil, distributes jet fuel from the refinery in Commencement Bay to the airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It crosses the Puyallup River just downstream of the Olympic Pipeline. Some of the company control points were selected to be included in this GRP.

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 Puget Sound. The largest risk is the high volume of commercial traffic on I-5, which connects Canada to Mexico through Seattle and Tacoma. Additional major roadways include State Highways 305, 99, 16, and 3, with particular risks from heavily used bridges such as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to Gig Harbor and the Agate Pass Bridge to Bainbridge Island.

A vehicle spill onto one of these bridges or roadways can cause fuel or oil to flow from hardened surfaces into the Sound or its tributaries.  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, commensurate to the volume of fuel and oil they carry.

Aircraft: SeaTac International Airport, McChord Air Force Base, Boeing Field, several smaller municipal airports, and some seaplane bases are located within the planning area.  Landing strips at these airports are used for recreational, commercial, and transit purposes.  With airports in the area, the potential exists for aircraft failures during inbound or outbound flights that could result in a release of jet fuel to the Sound or its tributaries.

Recreational Boating: Accidents involving recreational watercraft in the planning area have the potential to result in spills of a few gallons up to hundreds of gallons of various petroleum products (e.g., gasoline, diesel, lubricants).  Examples of such accidents include vessels colliding, grounding, catching on fire, or sinking.  Faulty bilge discharges and refueling operations, the most typical types of spills to occur, also have a negative impact on sensitive resources.

Other Spill Risks: Other potential oil spill risks in the area include commercial and industrial facilities, road run-off during rain events, and the migration of spilled oil through soil on lands adjacent to the river or along creek or stream banks.

^ top

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 available for download.

Open to read more

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 beyond those found.
  • 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.

^ top


Natural Resources at Risk – Summary

This area contains a wide variety of benthic, aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats that support a complex diversity of wildlife including birds, mammals, fish, and amphibians.  Due to their life histories and/or behaviors, some of these species are unlikely to be directly oiled during a spill incident but 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 the basin.  A number of the species found in this area are classified as threatened or endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act or Washington State guidelines.

Open to read more

Classification types are listed below:

  • 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]
  • sand hill crane [SE]
  • yellow-billed cuckoo [FT/SE]


  • humpback whale (Central American DPS) [FE/SE]
  • humpback whale (Mexican DPS) [FT/SE]
  • killer whale (southern resident) [FE/SE]
  • gray whale (eastern north Pacific) [SS}
  • gray whale (western north Pacific) [FE/SS]


  • bull trout [FT]
  • Chinook salmon [FT]
  • bocaccio rockfish [FE]
  • canary rockfish [FT]
  • eulachon [FT]
  • yelloweye rockfish [FT]
  • steelhead [FT]


  • Oregon spotted frog [FT/SE]
  • Western (Pacific) Pond turtle [SE]


  • Marsh sandwort [FE]
  • Water howellia [FT]

Critical habitats:

Critical habitats are the specific areas occupied by an endangered or threatened species 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:

  • bocaccio rockfish
  • bull trout
  • canary rockfish
  • Puget Sound Chinook
  • Puget Sound steelhead
  • southern resident killer whale
  • yelloweye rockfish

^ top


General Resource Concerns


Open to read more
  • Intertidal and shallow subtidal mud/sand flats occur in most of the larger bays in the region (e.g. Sinclair Inlet, Dyes Inlet, Liberty Bay, Eagle and Blakely Harbors). These habitats are important rearing areas for Dungeness crab, hardshell clams, and other fish and shellfish.  These habitats are also important feeding areas for marine birds, shorebirds and herons.
  • Eelgrass beds occur extensively throughout the region. These habitats provide critical nursery areas for salmonids, crabs, rockfish and a variety of other fish/shellfish species, as well as foraging areas for waterfowl and marine birds.
  • Kelp beds scattered throughout the region are important fish rearing areas.
  • Salt marshes occur in sheltered areas throughout the region. These habitats support many fish and wildlife species.
  • Mixed sand/gravel beaches serve as spawning habitat for forage fish and support large numbers of hardshell clams.
  • Many rivers and streams throughout this region provide spawning and rearing habitat for various salmonid species (including Chinook, pink, chum, and coho). Riparian scrub and woodlands play a crucial role for a disproportionately large diversity and abundance of songbird species as breeding, migrating, and overwintering habitat.
  • Wetlands in this region range from freshwater emergent, freshwater forested, freshwater ponds and lakes. All wetland types support a diverse array of bird, insect and fish and wildlife species.
  • Human-made structures such as pilings, rock jetties or log rafts may be used as roosting or nesting areas for a variety of birds and as haulout areas for seals.
  • Restoration sites areas where significant efforts have occurred to restore natural functions in a degraded habitat.
  • A variety of subtidal habitats exists within this area, each of which supports a different assemblage of wildlife species as generally described below.
    • Soft sediment: This category includes areas of clays, mud, sand and gravel which typically possess relatively low vertical relief. Animals that tend to live on the surface in these habitats can include sea cucumbers, sea stars, crustaceans such as crab and shrimp, and bottom fish such as skate, cod, and the flat fishes.
    • These soft sediment habitats also support shellfish and other invertebrates including bivalves, worms, brittle stars, shrimplike crustaceans whose burrowing or foraging activities can penetrate up to one meter below the subsurface bottom. In deeper waters, this habitat type may also include the deep sand fields that are necessary overwintering habitat for sand lance, an environmentally critical forage fish.
    • Rock reefs: These areas serve as important habitat for a wide range of species including mobile invertebrates (e.g. snails, sea slugs, sea cucumbers, sea stars, etc.) and immobile species (e.g. anemones, barnacles, shellfish, sponges, tubeworms, etc.). Macro algae and kelps also widely utilize the structure that this type of habitat provides. The crevices and overhangs associated with these reefs serve as valuable habitat for a wide variety of other species such as crabs, shrimp, octopus, wolf eel, rockfish, and lingcod. If located within their capabilities to dive, these areas may also serve as important foraging areas for birds and marine mammals.
    • Boulder and cobble fields: Larger, relatively stable boulders provide many of the same ecological functions described for rock reefs while the spaces between boulders offer enhanced refuge areas for bottom dwelling invertebrates and fish.
    • The relative instability of the smaller cobble makes them less valuable than reefs or boulders to immobile marine life. Nonetheless, many marine organisms may live on or between the cobblestones and predatory species often utilize these habitats as foraging areas. As with the rocky reefs, these habitats may also serve as important foraging areas for birds and marine mammals as well if they are located within a species ability to dive. Depending on how much sediment the currents move through the area, the spaces between the rocks may be filled with sediment that can also support bottom dwelling life forms.
    • Non-hard rock walls: As a result of the glacial origin of the Puget Sound basin, there are numerous areas of steep consolidated glacial deposits, particularly in the vicinity of the Tacoma Narrows and Colvos Passage.  These structures function much like rock reefs but have a more permeable surface as animal activity and erosion creates temporary pockets in the surface.  The biota of these habitats is similar to that of rock reefs except that long-lived, immobile life forms (such as sea anemones) may be less abundant due to the sloughing of the wall surface.
    • Water column: Much of the primary marine productivity in this region occurs in the upper 30 meters of the water column due to limited light penetration and nutrient availability. As a result of this, this upper part of the water column tends to concentrate the planktonic larval forms of fish and a wide range of invertebrates, particularly during the spring plankton blooms. The deeper water column also serves as habitat for wide-ranging fish such as salmon, forage fish (herring, smelt, and sandlance), sharks, as well as a wide variety of birds and marine mammals that utilize this habitat as foraging areas.


  • Northwest salmonid species are present throughout this region, with spawning occurring in rivers (Duwamish, Cedar, Green, Puyallup, and Sammamish) and numerous smaller streams. Juvenile salmonids use shallow nearshore areas for feeding, rearing, and migration corridors.
  • Diverse marine habitats in the region also support a variety of species of other marine fish, including rockfish, flatfish, sole, cabezon, and lingcod.
  • Forage fish spawning occurs throughout the region. Major herring spawning areas are located within the semi-protected bays and inlets of Port Orchard, Port Madison and Quartermaster Harbor.  Surf smelt and sandlance spawn on intertidal sand and gravel beaches throughout the region.
  • Dungeness crabs are widely distributed throughout the region, with shallow subtidal habitats providing critical habitat for all life stages of this species.
  • Hardshell clams are found intertidally throughout the region, with geoducks occurring in the deeper subtidal areas.


  • Seabird concentrations can occur year-round (especially fall through spring) in areas such as Colvos Passage and the Tacoma Narrows. Seabird nesting in this region is characterized by small, widely scattered nesting groups comprised primarily of gulls, cormorants and pigeon guillemots.
  • Waterfowl concentrations may be found throughout the region from fall through spring, especially within Quartermaster Harbor, lower Sinclair Inlet, and the entrance to the Port Washington Narrows (near Bremerton).
  • Sensitive nesting species in the region include bald eagles, ospreys, peregrine falcons and great blue herons. Purple martins are also present throughout the area.
  • A few small harbor seal haulouts are scattered throughout the region. California (and occasionally Steller) sea lions may occasionally be found hauled out on navigation and mooring buoys, or on log rafts found throughout the region.
  • Whales, including both southern resident and transient killer (aka “orca”) pods, humpback, gray occasionally visit this region along with other cetaceans.
  • Reptiles and amphibians may be found in freshwater systems throughout the region.

^ top


Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Overview

Areas of concern include shorelines with natural riparian vegetation, islands, wetlands, stream and river mouths, and shallow water areas – especially adjacent to natural shorelines. Public parks, private lands, and recreational areas also surround the planning area. The number that precedes the area name in the list (below) corresponds to the numbered area on the map.

Open to read more

Northern part of GRP (Figure 1) 

  1. Cultus Bay (S. Whidbey Island): Please reference the Admiralty Inlet GRP if a spill approaches this area. Eelgrass, intertidal mudflat and saltmarsh habitats.  Dungeness crab and hardshell clam.  Waterfowl concentrations (fall through spring).
  2. Port Madison area: Eelgrass habitat.  Important spawning area for herring, sandlance and surf smelt.  Dungeness crab, hardshell clams, and geoducks.  Adjoining bays support seasonal waterfowl concentrations and provide feeding areas for resident herons and eagles.
  3. Liberty Bay: Intertidal mudflat habitat.  Surf smelt and sandlance spawning habitat.  Numerous small salmonid spawning streams.
Map of northern section of Central Puget Sound GRP with numbers corresponding to the locations noted above
Figure 1 – Northern Part of GRP

Central Part Of GRP (Figure 2)

  1. Port Orchard: Eelgrass habitat.  Important spawning area for herring and surf smelt.  Hardshell clams.  Waterfowl concentration area (fall through spring).
  2. Dyes Inlet: Eelgrass and intertidal mudflat habitats. Herring, surf smelt and sandlance spawning areas. Numerous small streams support salmonid spawning.  Waterfowl concentrations (fall through spring).
  3. Sinclair Inlet: Eelgrass, intertidal mudflat and saltmarsh habitats.  Surf smelt and sandlance spawning beaches. Salmonid spawning streams.  Hardshell clams. Large waterfowl concentrations (fall through spring).
  4. Eagle Harbor: Eelgrass and intertidal mudflat habitats.  Surf smelt spawning habitat.
  5. Blakely Rocks (off mouth of Blakely Harbor): Intertidal and subtidal rocky reefs.  Eelgrass and kelp beds.    Harbor seal haulout area and seabird roosting area.
  6. Orchard Rocks (Rich Passage): Intertidal and subtidal rocky reefs.  Large kelp beds.  Rockfish and lingcod.  Marine Protected Area.
  7. Yukon Harbor to Manchester: Eelgrass habitat.  Sand lance and surf smelt spawning beaches.  Waterfowl concentrations (fall through spring).
  8. Blake Island: Eelgrass habitat.  Surf smelt spawning.  State Park.
  9. Elliott Bay/Duwamish River: Major estuary for salmonids from Duwamish River system.  Kelp and eelgrass beds in bayHabitat restoration areas.
Map of central section of planning area with numbers corresponding to list above
Figure 2 – Central Part of GRP

Southern part of GRP (Figure 3)

  1. Colvos Passage: Eelgrass and kelp habitats.  Surf smelt and sandlance spawning beaches.  Marine bird concentration area (fall through spring)
  2. Quartermaster Harbor: Eelgrass and saltmarsh habitats.  Important spawning area for herring and surf smelt.  Shorebird and waterfowl concentrations (fall through spring)Salmonid spawning stream.
  3. Commencement Bay: Eelgrass habitat.  Rearing area for salmonid stocks from Puyallup River. Seasonal (fall and spring) waterfowl and marine bird concentrations.  Habitat restoration sites.
  4. Tacoma Narrows: Kelp habitatRockfish and ling codMarine bird concentration area (fall through spring). Point Defiance Park.
  5. Wollochet Bay: Please reference the South Puget Sound GRP if a spill approaches this area. Eelgrass habitat.  Spawning habitat for herring and surf smelt.  Dungeness crab.  Salmonid spawning stream.
Map of southern portion of GRP with numbers corresponding to list above
Figure 3 – Southern Part of GRP


^ top

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 below) 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.

Open to read more

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.

CPS-GRP Cultural Resources Contacts
Contact Phone Email
Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (WDAHP) 360-586-3080 Rob.Whitlam@dahp.wa.gov
Muckleshoot Indian Tribe 253-876-3272 Laura.Murphy@muckleshoot.nsn.us
Nisqually Tribe 360-456-5221 x1106 bullchild.annette@nisqually-nsn.gov
Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe 360-979-9485 THPO@pgst.nsn.us
Puyallup Tribe of Indians 253-573-7986 brandon.reynon@puyalluptribe-nsn.gov
Squaxin Island Tribe, THPO 360-432-3850 rfoster@squaxin.us
Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians 360-652-3687 x14 KLyste@stillaguiamish.com
Suquamish Tribe 360-394-8529 dlewarch@suquamish.nsn.us
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community 360-466-7352 lcampbell@swinomish.nsn.us
Tulalip Tribes 425-239-0182 ryoung@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov
Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation 509-985-7596

509-865-5121 x4840


Discovery of Human Skeletal 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 (NWACP 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

^ top


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.  Download a list of economic resources for this GRP area (PDF).

^ top


General Information

Sites Recommended for alternative shoreline protection

The following sites have identified sensitive resources but traditional booming strategies may not be effective or practical in most circumstances. Alternative options, such as sorbent, enhanced on-water skimming nearby, or other strategies should be considered for these sites.

Open to read more
Name City/Area Lat Long Resource at Risk Operational Challenges
Edmonds Beaches Marine Sanctuaries Edmonds 47.811






Forage Fish, Eelgrass, Kelp Beds, Shellfish, Marine Sanctuary Long shorelines, active rail lines
Richmond Beach Saltwater Park >Richmond Beach 47.764 -122.388 Forage Fish, City Park Large tideflats
Agate Pass Port Madison Reservation 47.692 -122.602 Tribal Resources, Shellfish Beds, Eelgrass Swift currents, large tideflats
Liberty Bay Poulsbo 47.717 -122.641 Eelgrass, Marsh Habitat Swift current, large area
Ship Canal, Gasworks Park Seattle 47.652 -122.359 National Historic District, City Park Armored banks, long shoreline
Blakely Harbor Bainbridge 47.595 -122.504 Eelgrass, Forage Fish, Kelp, Tideflats, City Park Long shoreline, limited anchoring
Fort Ward Park Bainbridge 47.583 -122.529 Historic District, Eelgrass, City Park Long shoreline
Illahee Creek Salt Marsh Illahee 47.61 -122.596 Salt Marsh, Salmon Stream Shallow, large tideflats
Illahee State Park Illahee 47.601 -122.596 Forage Fish, State Park,  Tideflats Shallow, large tideflats
Vashon Island Beaches Vashon Island 47.509






Forage Fish Long shorelines
Ross Point Tidelands Port Orchard 47.54 -122.662 Forage Fish, Tideflats, Wintering Waterfowl Large tideflats, swift current
Phinney Bay Bremerton 47.589 -122.659 Eelgrass, Forage Fish, Wintering Waterfowl Long shoreline
Seahurst (Ed Munro) Park Seahurst 47.478 -122.364 City Park, Eelgrass, Forage Fish, Tideflats Shallow, long shoreline
Point Robinson Maury Island 47.388 -122.374 Historic Register, City Park, Forage Fish Natural Gas Pipeline
Cold Creek Des Moines 47.343 -122.334 Salmonids, Forage Fish Shallow, road traffic hazards
Fisher Creek Tideflats Quartermaster Harbor 47.384 -122.479 Eelgrass, Forage Fish, Tideflats No anchoring, shallow
Burton Acres Park Quartermaster Harbor 47.33 -122.446 Eelgrass, Forage Fish, Tideflats No anchoring, shallow


Flight Restriction Zones: Flight restriction zones may be recommended by the Environmental Unit (Planning Section), in consultation with the Wildlife Branch, for the purpose of reducing disturbances that could result in injury to wildlife during an oil spill.  By keeping a safe distance or altitude from identified sensitive areas, pilots/operators can lessen the risk of aircraft/bird collisions, prevent the accidental hazing of wildlife into oiled areas, and avoid causing the abandonment of nests.

Implementation of Flight Restriction Zones will take place within the Air Operations Branch (Operations Section) after the Unified Command is formed.  The Planning Section’s Environmental Unit will work with the Air Ops Branch Director to resolve any potential conflicts with flight activities that are essential to the spill response effort.  Typically, the area within a 1,500-foot radius and below 1,000 feet in altitude is restricted to flying in areas that have been identified as sensitive; however, some areas have more restrictive zones.  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 (NWACP Section 9301) for more information on the use of aircraft and helicopters in open water and shoreline responses.

Wildlife Deterrence: The Wildlife Branch (Operations Section), in consultation with the appropriate trustee agencies and the Environmental Unit, will evaluate wildlife deterrent options for the purpose of keeping wildlife away from oil and cleanup operations and will manage any such activities during a response.  Deterrence options might include the use of acoustic or visual deterrent devices, boats, aircraft or other situation-appropriate tools.  For more information see the Northwest Wildlife Response Plan (NWACP Section 9310) and Northwest Area Wildlife Deterrence Resources (NWACP Section 9311).

Oiled Wildlife: Attempting to capture oiled wildlife can be hazardous to both personnel and the affected animals.  Response personnel should not approach or attempt to recover oiled wildlife.  Responders should report their observations of oiled wildlife to the Wildlife Branch so appropriate action can be taken.  Information provided should include the location, date, and time of the sighting, and the estimated number and kind of animals observed.  Early on in the response, before a Unified Command is established, oiled wildlife sightings should be reported to Washington Emergency Management Division.  For more information see the Northwest Wildlife Response Plan (NWACP Section 9310).

^ top