Grays Harbor GRP

Table of Contents


Further Reading

Site Description

This section provides a description of the area’s physical features, hydrology, climate and winds, and tides and currents. An oil spill risk assessment for Grays Harbor is also provided in this section. The area covered includes shorelines of the Pacific Coast adjacent to Grays Harbor, the Grays Harbor entrance, Oyhut Sink, Grays Harbor, North Bay, South Bay, Bowerman Basin, and the rivers and creeks in the area that drain into Grays Harbor.

Developed Areas

The communities of Aberdeen, Cosmopolis, Hoquiam, Ocean Shores, and Westport are located within this planning area, as well as portions of Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties.

Tribes of Grays Harbor

Grays Harbor is within the usual and accustomed territories of several American Indian Tribes. The reservation of the Quinault Indian Nation is north of the City of Ocean Shores. The reservation of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe is south of the City of Westport. The Chehalis Confederated Tribes may have interest in the area’s resources as well.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.


Physical Features

The Grays Harbor estuary is approximately 13 miles across at its widest point and narrows in some places to less than 100 yards; its entrance from the Pacific Ocean is approximately 2.5 miles wide. Grays Harbor is the estuary of the Chehalis River Valley and it is continually filled in with upriver sediments as well as marine deposits. These build up as intertidal mud and sand flats (the area’s predominant physical feature). The three corners of the estuary are defined by the mouth of the Chehalis River to the east, the North Bay, and the South Bay. The North Bay receives waters from the Humptulips River; South Bay marks the end of the Elk and Johns Rivers and numerous tributaries. The major islands within the harbor are Goose and Sand Islands in North Bay; Whitcomb, Grass, and Laidlaw Islands in South Bay; and Rennie Island near the mouth of the Chehalis River. Bowerman Basin (Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge) is located at the west edge of the City of Hoquiam. It is somewhat sheltered from Grays Harbor by a large peninsula (Moon Island) occupied by the Port of Grays Harbor’s Bowerman Airport. Shorelines inside Grays Harbor consist primarily of marsh and sheltered tidal flats, while coastal shorelines along the Pacific Ocean west of Grays Harbor are mainly fine-grained sandy beaches.



Grays Harbor is a large estuary fed by a 2,550 square mile drainage basin. Water depths throughout most of Grays Harbor are usually less than 20 feet. However, depths up to 80 feet have been measured at the mouth of the estuary. Dredging of the harbor floor provides a narrow navigation channel that can range in depth from 46 feet at the bar crossing to 32 feet as it approaches Cosmopolis. Grays Harbor has three main channels: North Channel, Middle Channel, and South Channel. Presently, the North Channel is the only one dredged for navigation; the middle and south channels contain shoals created through erosion and sedimentation. Numerous shallow channels made by ebb tide flows and river discharges are present throughout the area.

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Net surface flow in this system is seaward. Winter storms increase the flow in rivers and streams that feed Grays Harbor, while flows decline during the summer. Seasonal freshwater input creates a range of salinity from 5 parts per thousand during the winter to 20 parts per thousand in the summer. The largest source of freshwater into Grays Harbor is from the Chehalis River. Other significant sources of freshwater into Grays Harbor from the north include all forks of the Hoquiam River, the Humptulips, and Wishkah Rivers, as well as Chenois and Grass Creeks. The major freshwater sources in the south are Elk River and Johns River (and tributaries), and Andrews, Barlow, Gold, O’Leary, Stafford, and Chapin Creeks.

Near the entrance into the Grays Harbor estuary from the Pacific Ocean, less buoyant saltwater (from the ocean) flows beneath more buoyant freshwater (from the numerous rivers and streams that drain into Grays Harbor). During ebb tide, buoyant freshwater at the ocean/estuary interface expands. Wave conditions near the entrance to Grays Harbor can be intense when coupled with high winds brought on by severe winter storms. Storms can also surge water toward the shore, resulting in water levels above predicted tide levels. The low atmospheric pressure that accompanies storm events can sometimes cause the ocean to mound, raising water levels even further.

Portions of Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA) for Queets/Quinault (WRIA 21), Lower Chehalis (WRIA 22), and Willapa (WRIA 24) fall within the geographic boundaries of this plan.


Climate and Winds

Summer temperatures in Grays Harbor are usually in the upper 60’s (F).  Winter lows are generally in the upper 30’s (F) to low 40’s (F).  Annual precipitation varies throughout the area from 69 inches in Hoquiam to 83 inches in Aberdeen. Precipitation usually reaches its monthly maximums in December; Hoquiam 10 inches, Aberdeen 13 inches. Annual snowfall is typically light; Hoquiam 4.8 inches, Aberdeen 6 inches (WRCC).

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Winds in the Grays Harbor area, measured at Bowerman Field Airport in Hoquiam, blow toward the west in April through September and toward the east in October through March. In the summer months, average wind speed is 8.5 mph. During the winter months, average wind speed is 10.2 mph. December is typically the windiest month; average wind speed is 11.1 mph, blowing in an easterly direction (WRCC).

Tides and Currents

The Grays Harbor estuary experiences semidiurnal tides which move slowly inward up the estuary, causing Aberdeen to experience high tide later than the mouth of the harbor. Grays Harbor has 53 miles of intertidal lands, with tidal influences reaching as far as Montesano, 32 miles from the harbor entrance. High and low tide levels fluctuate between -2.0ft and 11.2ft at Westport, and -1.4ft and 12.1ft at Aberdeen.

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Surrounding the entrance of Grays Harbor is a shallow bar where inward-flowing ocean swells converge with outward-flowing river currents. Currents in the vicinity of the bar can occasionally be erratic. At the harbor entrance, current velocities can reach 5 knots, but the average current velocity is usually about 1.9 knots at flood tide and 2.8 knots at ebb tide. In channels through the bay, current velocities seldom exceed 3 knots (NOAA CO-OPS).

Risk Assessment

Grays Harbor is plentiful in natural, cultural, and economic resources, all at risk of injury from oil spills. Potential risks to these resources include large commercial vessels, challenging navigation, waterfront facilities, rail transportation, and other oil spill risks such as natural disasters. This section briefly discusses these risks in the planning area.

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Large Commercial Vessel Traffic: Grays Harbor has experienced significant economic growth in recent years, leading to increased tanker and cargo and passenger (C&P) transport. The state’s vessel entry and transit data shows that 20 tank ships and  43 C&P ships called Grays Harbor in 2022 (VEAT). Bulk exports are the largest commodity handled at port facilities. Shipments of grains, soybeans, and other agricultural products are expected to increase further over the next few years. Roll-on-roll-off imports/exports and commercial tank ship traffic are also likely to increase. For example, the port’s Terminal 4 Expansion & Redevelopment Project received federal funding in late 2022 (Port of Grays Harbor) and should be operational in 2026. Large commercial vessels typically carry significant amounts of heavy and blended fuel oils and other petroleum products, raising the potential for sensitive resources to be impacted if an oil spill incident were to occur.

Navigation: Due to shoals (accumulated sediments) and flats, the navigable channel into Grays Harbor narrows to 0.6 miles wide with several turns where well-judged course changes are required. A breaking bar at the entrance to Grays Harbor, coupled with strong and sometimes erratic currents, can present a navigational challenge to commercial and recreational vessels entering or leaving port. Periods of limited visibility (fog, rain, and darkness) can add to this challenge. Submerged sections of the north and south jetties at the Grays Harbor entrance extend seaward about 0.2 and 0.9 miles, respectively. Hazardous breakers can occasionally be present near these jetties, especially during periods of heavy weather.

Facilities: REG Grays Harbor, a Class 1 facility, is in Hoquiam. This terminal has a daily throughput (in 2013) of 135,000 gallons of biodiesel. Three other oil-handling facilities (one Class 3 and two Class 4) are located in Westport (Spills Story Map).

Rail Transportation: Rail companies transport oil via manifest trains. 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.

Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad delivers oil to the REG Grays Harbor facility and other locations on its westerly route from Centralia. It transports over 49 tank cars per year of non-crude petroleum refined products and biological oils.

Other Oil Spill Risks: Other potential sources that add to oil spill risks in Grays Harbor include (in general) recreational watercraft, commercial fishing vessels, and charter boats anchored in the area, operating in Grays Harbor or offshore, or moored at local docks or marinas. Spill risks include but are not limited to boat refueling accidents, the unintentional pumping of bilges, boat fires, and the grounding of vessels during periods of heavy weather. Land-based sources of spills that might impact Grays Harbor include road run-off and the migration of spilled oil through soil, ditches, and storm drain systems.

Natural Disasters:

Winter Storms: Severe storms hit Washington’s coast during the winter, bringing heavy rains, strong winds, and high waves. Coastal storm winds regularly top 40 mph. The annual peak speed of 55 mph can topple chimneys, utility lines, and trees. The entire county is vulnerable to wind storms though wind speeds are highest along the Pacific Ocean. There is typically at least one damaging wind event every year in the county.

Earthquakes: Grays Harbor County is particularly vulnerable to damaging earthquakes due to its proximity to the Cascadia Subduction Zone (DNR). The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Grays Harbor County has a 40% to 50% chance of experiencing an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 within the next 50 years. The probability of a M7 earthquake is 12% to 15% during this same period. Damage can occur to structures in areas subject to liquefaction where soil, especially sandy soils saturated with water, behaves less like a solid. Of special concern are structures located on steep slopes (WEMD).

Tsunamis: They may have occurred along the Washington coast in the past, but there is no or little documentation describing these events. Considerable evidence suggests a large earthquake in Japan created a tsunami with wave heights of 20’ just over 300 years ago. Historical records reported tsunamis occurring along the Pacific Northwest coast at Astoria in 1853, 1868, and 1872. The 1960 Chilean Tsunami, generated by a 9.5 magnitude earthquake, resulted in small waves within Grays Harbor and two-foot waves in Tokeland. The 1964 Alaskan earthquake generated the nearly three-foot waves at Ocean Shores but resulted in relatively minor damage and deposition of debris (WEMD).

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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 another section.

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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.

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Natural Resources at Risk – Summary

This area contains a wide variety of benthic, aquatic, riparian, upland habitats, and nearshore marine (outer coast from Grayland to Copalis Beach and Grays Harbor Bay) areas. These habitats support many of Washington’s salmonid species as well as a complex diversity of other wildlife. Species may be directly at risk to oil spills or, due to their life histories and/or behaviors, may be disturbed by other operations such as cleanup, reconnaissance, or fire suppression activities. Some of the bird species listed are resident throughout the year, but many others seasonally migrate through this area.

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Portions of the estuary are under active commercial shellfish aquaculture (primarily oysters). While much of tidelands are privately owned, commercial shellfish beds provide much the same habitat as natural beds to benefit native fish and shellfish.

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:


  • American white pelican [SS]
  • common loon [SS]
  • marbled murrelet [FT/SE]
  • northern spotted owl [FT/SE]
  • sandhill crane [SE]
  • short-tailed albatross [FE]
  • streaked horned lark [FT/SE]
  • tufted puffin [SE]
  • western snowy plover [FT/SE]
  • yellow billed cuckoo [FT/SE]


  • blue whale [FE/SE]
  • fin whale [FE/SE]
  • fisher [FC/SE]
  • gray whale (eastern north Pacific) [SS]
  • gray whale (western North Pacific) [FE/SS]
  • humpback whale (Central American population) [FE/SE]
  • humpback whale (Mexican population) [FT/SE]
  • killer whale (southern resident) [FE/SE]
  • right whale (north Pacific) [FE/SE]
  • sei whale [FE/SE]
  • sperm whale [FE/SE]


  • bull trout [FT]
  • eulachon [FT]
  • green sturgeon [FT]
  • Olympic mudminnow [SS]


  • green sea turtle [FT/ST]
  • leatherback sea turtle [FE/SE]
  • loggerhead sea turtle [FE/SE]


  • Oregon silverspot butterfly [FT/SE]

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:

  • bull trout
  • green sturgeon
  • leatherback sea turtle
  • western snowy plover
  • streaked horned lark
  • humpback whale (Central American population)
  • humpback whale (Mexican population)


General Resource Concerns


  • A large portion of the bay is composed of intertidal and shallow subtidal mud/sand flats. These habitats are rich in benthic organisms, creating important foraging areas for salmon and other fishes, crabs, and shorebirds.
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  • Extensive eelgrass beds in the bay serve as important nursery and foraging areas for crab, salmonids, other fishes, and waterfowl.
  • Oyster beds/reefs and surface deposits of shell fragments from oysters and soft-shell clams support high densities of crabs, epibenthic invertebrates, and fishes.
  • Extensive areas of salt marsh occur throughout the bay, predominantly in association with stream and river mouths. Salt marshes support a diverse array of birds, insect, fish, and wildlife species.
  • Several rivers and smaller tributary streams flow into this estuary. These act as important salmon migration routes and spawning areas, as well as providing rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids.  The associated riparian scrub and woodlands play a crucial role in supporting a large diversity and abundance of songbird species as breeding, migrating, and overwintering habitat.
  • Offshore waters (between the 20 m and 200 m isobaths) of the region seasonally support extremely large numbers of seabirds. These waters are important to marine fish and support both resident and migrating marine mammals. Regional and localized oceanographic conditions can greatly influence the temporal distribution and abundance of these resources.
  • Sand beaches, the primary habitat type along the south coast, provide habitat for razor clams, as well as for the vast numbers of shorebirds that stop over to feed and rest on the outer coast and its estuaries during the spring and fall migrations.
  • The subtidal habitats in this area consist primarily of:
    • Soft sediments, such as clay, mud, sand, and gravel. These areas are broad flat and relatively level. Animals that tend to live on the surface of these habitats may include sea cucumber, 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. The burrowing or foraging activities of these animals may penetrate up to one meter below the subsurface bottom.
    • Nutrient rich nearshore waters (from the shoreline out to the 20 m isobath) sustain a highly productive food web that includes fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. These areas also serve as habitat for wide-ranging fish such as salmon, forage fish (herring, smelt, and sandlance), sharks, and a large number and variety of birds that utilize this habitat as foraging areas. These waters also support both resident and migrating marine mammals. Regional and localized oceanographic conditions can greatly influence the distribution and abundance of all these resources.

Fish and shellfish:

  • The estuary is important nursery and foraging area for juvenile salmonids including stocks of coastal cutthroat trout, winter and summer steelhead, fall, spring, and summer chinook, fall chum, and coho.
  • Herring spawning occurs within eelgrass beds at several locations within the estuary.
  • The estuary provides important habitat for several marine fishes, including juvenile English sole and lingcod, white and green sturgeon, and starry flounder.
  • The estuary is a major nursery area for juvenile stages of Dungeness crab population. Crabs that rear in this bay contribute significantly to the adult population along the outer coast and to the coastal crab fishery.
  • Portions of the estuary are under active commercial shellfish aquaculture. While much of tidelands and oysters are privately owned, commercial oyster beds provide much the same habitat benefits as natural beds to native fish and shellfish.
  • Other shellfish occur throughout this area. Razor clams occur along the outer sand beaches and along the entrance to the bay. Eastern softshell clams, horse clams, Manila clams, and cockles are found at various locations throughout the bay.


  • Grays Harbor is a shorebird site of world significance, supporting up to one million birds during the spring migration, as well as large numbers of fall-migrating and wintering shorebirds. The Oyhut/Damon Point area is one of only three nesting areas in Washington for the listed western snowy plover.
  • Concentrations of brown pelicans feed and roost in the bay from mid-to-late summer. American white pelicans may also be found in the area.
  • Waterfowl concentrations occur from fall through spring, especially in North Bay.
  • The waters at the entrance to Grays Harbor are a regular feeding area for migrating and resident seabirds and marine waterfowl. The South jetty is a favorite roosting site for many species of marine birds and those shorebirds that rely on rocky habitats.
  • Bald eagles nest throughout the region and forage throughout the bay. Peregrine falcons are common during peak shorebird abundance in spring.
  • Resident and migratory songbirds heavily utilize riparian habitats year-round. Songbirds are susceptible to response activities in riparian vegetation, as well as oiling or oil ingestion if riparian vegetation and shorelines become contaminated.
  • Grays Harbor is home to thousands of harbor seals from mid-spring through early fall and is one of the largest seal pupping areas in the state. Pupping occurs throughout the bay with concentrations around Sand Island and within North Bay.
  • Various species of whales and dolphins regularly occur in this region’s nearshore zone. The entire U.S. population of gray whales migrates through Washington waters in the spring and fall, with many animals stopping to feed in shallow coastal waters during the northward migration in spring. Some individuals will typically leave the main migration and inhabit Washington’s nearshore waters throughout the summer. Humpback whales [FE] are coastal residents during the summer months, tending to concentrate in feeding areas offshore of Washington’s north coast. Killer whales (Orca) sighted off the outer coast are most commonly transient or offshore pods, but southern resident killer whale [FE] pods may also be seen in the area. Harbor porpoise are common year-round and may be found from the surf zone out to several miles offshore. Both minke whales and Dall’s porpoise occasionally occur in nearshore waters. Numerous other species of whales or dolphins occur further offshore.


Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Overview

      1. North Bay: Waterfowl and shorebird concentrations. Extensive eelgrass beds. Major harbor seal pupping area.
      2. Bowerman Basin: This basin comprises the majority of the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, which provides critical feeding habitat for both migrating and overwintering shorebirds.
      3. Johns River: Saltmarsh habitat. Waterfowl and shorebird concentrations. Salmon. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Wildlife Area.
      4. South Bay (Elk River estuary): Concentrations of waterfowl and shorebirds from fall through spring. Herring spawning area. Saltmarsh and eelgrass habitats. State Park (Bottle Beach).
      5. Mouth of Grays Harbor: Significant concentration area for feeding seabirds. Migrating gray whales frequently feed just inside entrance to bay. Jetties are heavily used as roosting areas for pelicans, other seabirds, and some species of shorebirds.
      6. Oyhut/Damon Point: Snowy plover nesting area. Concentration area for waterfowl and shorebirds. Saltmarsh habitat. WDFW Wildlife Area (Oyhut).
      7. Sand Island(s): These two islands provide the greatest roost sites for shorebirds in Grays Harbor. Large numbers of shorebirds roost there during high tides year-round. Harbor seal haul out and a significant pupping site. Bald eagles are attracted in large numbers to the pupping areas. Brants use the islands during higher tides. Red Knot roosts on the islands during spring migration.

Grays Harbor Specific Geographic Areas of Concern

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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.

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During a spill response, after the Unified Command is established, information related to specific archeological concerns will be coordinated through the Environmental Unit. 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.

Table 1: GH-GRP Cultural Resource Contacts

Contact Phone Email
Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (WDAHP) 360- 586-3065
Chehalis Confederated Tribes, THPO 360‐709‐1747
Quinault Indian Nation 360‐276‐8215 x 520
Shoalwater Bay Tribe 360‐267‐0731 edavis@shoalwaterbay‐

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

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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. Another section lists economic resources for this planning 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.

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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).

Wilderness Areas and Wildlife Refuges: There are no federally designated wilderness areas present in this planning area. The USWFS manages the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge.

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.