Spokane River GRP

  • Interim update: October 2023
  • Last full update: October 2020
  • 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 along the Spokane River and includes an overview of the oil spill risks in the region.  The Spokane River travels nearly 112 miles, flowing out of Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho and running through part of eastern Washington before joining with the Columbia River.  The western boundary of the Spokane River Geographic Response Plan (SPR-GRP) is at the confluence and the eastern boundary lies at Post Falls, Idaho located at river mile 105.0.

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The SPR-GRP encompasses nearly the entirety of the river, and covers a 105 mile-reach of the Spokane River, running in an easterly direction from Fort Spokane (located near river mile 2.0) to Post Falls, Idaho (located at river mile 103.0).  In Washington, the planning area resides within Water Resource Inventory Areas Lower Spokane (WRIA 54), Little Spokane (WRIA 55), Hangman (WRIA 56), and Middle Spokane (WRIA 57).  In Idaho, it includes a portion of the Upper Spokane and Fish Lake watersheds.  The communities of Airway Heights, Liberty Lake, Medical Lake, Spokane, and Spokane Valley are located within the boundaries of this planning area, as well as portions of Lincoln, Spokane, and Stevens Counties in Washington and Kootenai County in Idaho.

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Physical Features

The Spokane River subbasin is a tributary of the Columbia River basin.  Basalt flows during the tertiary (Miocene epoch) period and glacial activity during the quaternary (Pleistocene epoch) period define the land formation and geological characteristics of the Columbia Plateau.  Periodic floods from glacial Lake Missoula had the most significant impacts on the formation and shaping of the scablands characteristic of the plateau.  Vegetation in the area ranges from shrub-steppe in the far west to open dry crops (especially wheat, barley, and legumes) and grass prairies in the rolling Palouse Hills.  The vegetation transitions with increased elevation into mountainous coniferous communities closer to the City of Spokane.  The high-quality arable land owes much to the most recent geologic deposit of unconsolidated matter known as “loess”.

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Humans have also had an impact on the Spokane River.  Four Native American tribes (the Spokane Tribe of Indians, the Coeur D’Alene Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Nez Perce Tribe) have deep and lasting ties to the river and the larger region.  In the last few centuries, Europeans and their descendants explored and settled throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The utility Avista and the City of Spokane harnessed the river through the construction of seven dams, beginning with the Monroe Street Dam (completed in 1890), the Upriver Dam (1894), the Post Falls and Nine Mile Dams (1908), the Little Falls Dam (1911), the Long Lake Dam (1915), and finishing with the Upper Falls Dam (1922).  The dams tamed the river’s once notorious rapids and created the sub-sectional pools of the area.  These projects powered the growth of Spokane as well as surrounding towns.

Major crops are grain, hay, pasture, and mint above SVRP.  In addition, the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, renowned for its stunning beauty and spectacular history, supports tourism in the area, providing a wealth of recreational opportunities for hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and kayaking.

River terrain consists mainly of fine to medium-grained sand beaches, gravel beaches, or cobble beaches.  Portions of the riverbank are steep, completely inaccessible unvegetated banks or steep vegetated banks.  There are also areas of exposed rock shores and sheltered vertical rock shores.  Other portions are relatively flat sandy beaches.  Roads run along the river in many places and the shoreline at these locations is generally riprap or hard man-made structures.  In a few places there are marshes and sheltered vegetated low bank areas.  In the areas of the river that have become reservoirs, such as Long Lake, the shoreline consists of residential property with boat docks.

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Hydrology within this geographic response plan area includes the greater Spokane-Coeur d’Alene watershed which encompasses about 6,600 square miles in parts of northeastern Washington and Idaho.  For management purposes, the Washington portion of the Spokane River watershed has been divided into the Middle Spokane (WRIA 57), Hangman (WRIA 56), Little Spokane (WRIA 55), and Lower Spokane (WRIA 54) Water Resource Inventory Areas.

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The main stem of the Spokane River flows in a westerly direction for nearly 112 miles from Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho to the confluence with the Columbia River in Washington.  Source surface waters originate from Lake Coeur d’Alene while groundwater from the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie (SVRP) aquifer recharges the Spokane River through hydraulic conductivity or cavities in the substrate, over an area of approximately 320 square miles.  The upper Spokane River is a relatively low gradient river characterized by a wide valley and marginal channel entrenchment.  Channel characteristics consist of an unembedded boulder substrate and stable banks.  Spokane Falls, located near downtown Spokane, marks a point on the river’s main stem where the stream gradient changes.  The falls are comprised of Miocene basalt flows with a channel that is highly entrenched.  Bedrock is the dominant substrate.  Below the falls, the channel is deeply entrenched with a relatively narrow valley floor dominated by unembedded cobble to boulder substrate in areas not affected by reservoir conditions (ECY).

Flow conditions on the Spokane River fluctuate greatly between peak and base flows due to the gaining and losing effect that dams inherently have on riverine systems.  Historically, peak flows have occurred between December and June, with the majority occurring in May, based on timing of rain and snow events.  Peak discharge has ranged from 7,610 to 49,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), while base flow during August and September averages approximately 1,750 cfs (USGS).

Seven hydroelectric dams are located on the main stem of the Spokane River, six of which are managed by Avista Utilities.  From east to west they are the Post Falls Dam (River Mile 102), Upriver Dam (RM 80), Upper Falls Dam (RM 76), Monroe Street Dam (RM 74), Nine Mile Falls Dam (RM 58), Long Lake Dam (River Mile 34), and Little Falls Dam (River Mile 29).  Of these, Post Falls Dam located downstream from the outlet of Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho has the greatest control over summer flows in the river.  One hydroelectric dam, the Upriver Dam near Felts Field in Spokane, is owned and operated by the City of Spokane.

Long Lake (aka Lake Spokane) is a 24-mile long reservoir that extends from the downstream side of the Nine Mile Falls Dam to the Long Lake Dam.  It was created when Long Lake Dam impounded the Spokane River in 1915.  The reservoir has a maximum depth of 175 feet, a mean depth of 50 feet, and useable storage capacity of 105,000 acre-feet.  Lake Spokane is currently operated in the summer within 1 foot of full pool elevation.  Under Avista Corporation’s existing operating license, the maximum drawdown level is 25 feet, attempting to limit fluctuations of the reservoir levels to a maximum of 14 feet.

In Washington, the planning area resides within Water Resource Inventory Areas Lower Spokane (WRIA 54), Little Spokane (WRIA 55), Hangman (WRIA 56), and Middle Spokane (WRIA 57).

Lower Spokane (WRIA 54): The watershed includes a portion of the Spokane River, and its numerous tributary creeks and streams, that lie between the point where it joins with the Columbia River and the City of Spokane.  The annual precipitation in the watershed ranges from 10 inches per year near to where it joins with the Columbia River, to 20 inches in the higher elevations north of the river.  Most of the precipitation arrives during the winter months, when water demands are the lowest.  During the summer, the snowpack is gone, there is little rain, and naturally low stream flows are dependent on groundwater.  This means that groundwater and surface water are least available when water demands are the highest (ECY).

Little Spokane (WRIA 55): The watershed includes the Little Spokane River and its numerous tributary creeks and streams.  The annual precipitation in the watershed ranges from 17 inches per year where it joins with the Spokane River in the City of Spokane to 40 inches in the higher mountainous areas.  Most of the precipitation arrives during the winter months, when water demands are the lowest.  During the summer, the snowpack is gone, there is little rain, and naturally low stream flows are dependent on groundwater.  This means that groundwater and surface water are at their lowest when water demands are the highest (ECY).

Hangman (WRIA 56): The watershed includes Hangman Creek and its numerous small tributary creeks and streams.  The annual precipitation in the Hangman Watershed ranges from 17 inches per year around the City of Spokane to 25 inches in the higher elevations in the eastern portion of the watershed.  Most of the precipitation arrives during the winter months, when water demands are the lowest.  During the summer, the snowpack is gone, there is little rain, and naturally, low stream flows are dependent on groundwater inflow.  This means that groundwater and surface water are least available when water demands are the highest (ECY).

Middle Spokane (WRIA 57): It includes a portion of the Spokane River and its numerous tributary creeks and streams, lying between the City of Spokane and Idaho.  The annual precipitation in the Middle Spokane Watershed ranges from 17 inches per year in the area around the City of Spokane to 35 inches in the higher mountainous area.  Most of the precipitation arrives during the winter months, when water demands are the lowest.  During the summer, the snowpack is gone, there is little rain, and naturally, low stream flows are dependent on groundwater.  This means that groundwater and surface water are least available when water demands are the highest (ECY).

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Climate and Winds

The Spokane area has a warm, arid climate during the summer months and a cold and moist climate in the winter.  Fall provides a quick transition from summer to wintry climates.  Average temperatures range from 34°F to 23°F in January, and from 85°F to 55°F in July.  Fog is persistent in the area from November through February.  Annual precipitation is usually less than 17 inches; November, December, and January are historically the wettest months.  Most snow falls between December and February; annual accumulation is about 46 inches.  March and April are usually the windiest months; southwesterly winds can average nearly nine mph. Winds throughout the area are typically south or southwesterly (WRCC).

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Tides and Currents

There are no tidally influenced areas within the planning area.  The river’s flow is governed strictly by the various dams, with Avista and the City of Spokane determining exactly when and how much water is allowed to pass through the spillways.  While the lowest dam on the river, Little Falls, is located at river mile 29.0, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River regulates the water on the lower Spokane River.

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Risk Assessment

The Spokane River 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, rail transportation, 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.

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The Spokane River, its tributaries, and Lake Spokane are important resources in the production of hydroelectricity, irrigation for agriculture, and recreation.  The SVRP aquifer is located in this region and provides drinking water for thousands of people.  Oil spills could potentially contaminate the aquifer because there is interchange between the waterbodies.

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 by a slick that remained on the 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).

Rail Transportation: 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 (ECY).

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 Spokane River to Vancouver, and then head north along I-5.  Like the highway system in the planning area, railroads closely parallel the river.  BNSF Railroad’s Spokane Subdivision runs along the Spokane River.

Rail lines cross over the Spokane River in three locations: two above the Upriver Dam upstream from the Highway 290 Bridge in Spokane Valley, and the other downstream from Mission Park in Spokane.

Oil Pipelines: There are two pipelines in the planning area.  They transport thousands of gallons of refined petroleum products (mainly diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel) each year.  If these pipelines were to leak or rupture, the impact to natural, cultural, and economic resources could be significant.

The Tesoro pipeline crosses over the Spokane River on the western side of the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility seven miles below the Monroe Street Dam.  Phillips 66’s Yellowstone Pipeline crosses under the river in two locations: one immediately upstream of the Highway 290 bridge in Spokane Valley and the other immediately below the Upriver Dam in Spokane.

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 Spokane River.  Interstate 90 and Highway 290 run parallel to the river throughout the planning area.  Large bridges over the Spokane River include the Interstate 90 bridge, the Highway 290 bridge in Spokane Valley, the Highway 290 bridge in Spokane, and the Highway 395 bridge in Spokane.

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

Aircraft: Several airports are located within the SPR area including the Spokane International Airport, Fairchild Air Force Base, Felts Field, and Mead Flying Service.  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 spill with a release of jet fuel to the Spokane River or its tributaries.

Recreational Boating: Accidents involving recreational watercraft on the Spokane River have the potential to result in spills of anywhere from a few gallons of gasoline, up to hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel.  Examples of such accidents include collisions, a vessel grounding, catching on fire, sinking, or exploding.  These types of accidents, as well as problems with bilge discharges and refueling operations, the most typical types of spills to occur, have a negative impact on sensitive river resources.

Other Spill Risks: Other potential oil spill risks in the area include dam turbine mechanical failures, 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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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:


  • Columbia sharp-tailed grouse [ST]
  • Common loon [SS]
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo [FT/SE]


  • Gray wolf [SE]


  • Bull trout [FT]


  • Northern leopard frog [SE]


  • Spalding’s catchfly [FT]
  • 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.

No federally-designated critical habitat areas are present within the planning area.

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General Resource Concerns


The Spokane River sub-basin provides a wide range of wildlife-habitat types, including grasslands, shrub-steppe, ponderosa pine woodlands, wetlands, and interior mixed coniferous forests.

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Areas of particular concern with regards to wildlife include:

  • Wetlands in this region occur along the main stem and along many tributaries of the river.  All wetland types support a diverse array of bird, insect, fish and wildlife species.
  • Islands provide important nesting habitat for a variety of bird species and habitat for a variety of mammals.
  • Stream mouths tend to be concentration areas a variety of wildlife, especially fish and birds.
  • Riparian vegetation is heavily used by a variety of wildlife and improves nearshore fish habitat.  Riparian scrub and woodlands support a disproportionately high diversity and abundance of birds that depend on this habitat for nesting and rearing young, as well as for forage and cover during migration and overwintering.
  • Human-made structures such as pilings and rock jetties may be used as roosting or nesting areas for a variety of birds.
  • Cliffs, bluffs, and rock outcroppings provide roosting or nesting habitat for various birds of prey, upland birds, and bats.
  • The riverbed habitats in this area consist primarily of soft sediments, such as clay, mud, sand, and gravel and support a variety of aquatic, semi-aquatic, and bottom-dwelling organisms such as the invertebrate larvae of insects (caddis flies, mayflies, dragonflies, and stoneflies), mollusks (snails and freshwater mussels), and crayfish.  Many species of amphibians and bottom-dwelling fish also rely on this habitat, as do other animals that forage there.


  • There are seven dams on the Spokane River, from Post Falls Dam at the outlet from Lake Coeur d’Alene to Little Falls Dam at river mile 29.  None of these dams provide fish passage and therefore no migrating anadromous fish species exist in the Spokane River sub-basin.
  • Trout (including brown, bull, cutthroat, eastern brook, and rainbow trout are present in the river system throughout the year.  Most trout species migrate between lakes and streams to spawn.  For species other than bull trout, spawning typically occurs spring through early summer.  Bull trout, listed as federally threatened species, typically spawns in late fall or early winter.
  • Kokanee (landlocked sockeye salmon) are also present in this system.  They are typically found in deeper lakes but migrate into shallow waters and tributary streams to spawn.
  • Several other species of resident fish (including large and smallmouth bass, burbot, crappie, catfish, suckers, walleye, and whitefish) exist within this river system.  These species all contribute to recreational fisheries and provide important contributions to stream ecology.
  • Freshwater mussels are present in this general area.


  • Various raptors, including bald eagles, osprey, and peregrine falcons nest throughout this area and may be found in region year-round.
  • Breeding and foraging areas for great blue herons and cavity nesting waterfowl are found in wetland areas associated with Long Lake and the lower section of the Little Spokane River.
  • Important western grebe breeding areas are present along Long Lake.  Nesting typically occurs May through July.
  • Concentrations of migratory and wintering waterfowl occur throughout the area.  Riparian habitat along the Spokane River and its tributaries provide stopover habitat for birds migrating to and from summer habitats in Canada and Alaska.  There are also significant resident populations of waterfowl in these areas.  Larger concentrations typically occur in winter and spring.
  • Resident and migratory songbirds utilize riparian habitats year-round and are susceptible to oiling or oil ingestion if riparian vegetation and shorelines become contaminated, and are vulnerable to disturbance from response activities during the nesting season.
  • Mammals common to the area include deer, elk and moose, bats, and various semi-aquatic species such as muskrat, beaver, river otter, etc.  Semi-aquatic mammals are largely dependent on riverine areas, ponds, tributaries, and riparian forests for den sites and foraging areas.
  • Amphibians and reptiles are found throughout this area.

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Overview

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

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  1. Fisk State Park (~RM 40-42, south): Raptors (bald eagle and osprey), trout and other resident fish, deer and elk, amphibians and reptiles.  Riparian habitat.  State Park.
  2. McLellan Conservation Area (~RM 44-46, south): Raptors (bald eagle and osprey), trout and other resident fish, deer and elk, amphibians and reptiles.  Riparian habitat.
  3. Agricultural area (~RM 50-52, south): Waterfowl concentration area.  Trout and other resident fish.    Amphibians (northern leopard frog).  Riparian and wetland habitats.
  4. Van Horn, Edburg, & Bass conservation area/Little Spokane River Natural areas (LSR ~RM 0-6) and Hwy 291 Riverside State Park (~RM 57-58): Nesting and brooding area for waterfowl and western grebes.  Wintering area for waterfowl concentrations and bald eagles.  Cavity nesting ducks and great blue heron nesting area.  Trout and other resident fish.  Moose, deer, and semi-aquatic mammals.  Riparian and wetland habitats.
  5. Hayes Estate Conservation Area (~RM 13, south): Cavity nesting ducks and great blue heron nesting area.  Moose, deer, and semi-aquatic mammals.  Kokanee, trout and whitefish.  Riparian and wetland habitats.
  6. Riverside State Park (~RM 59-61): Nesting and brooding area for waterfowl and western grebes.  Wintering area for waterfowl concentrations and bald eagles.  Cavity nesting ducks and great blue heron nesting area.  Moose, deer, bats, and semi-aquatic mammals.  Riparian and wetland habitats.
  7. Lower Hangman Creek (~RM 0-4): Raptors (peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks, and wintering bald eagle concentrations).  Trout and other resident fish.  Bats, deer, elk, and semi-aquatic mammal presence.  Riparian and wetland habitats.

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Maps

Figure 1: Spokane River geographic areas of concern.

Figure 2: Additional geographic areas of concern, including Lower Hangman Creek.

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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 6‑1) 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.  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.

Table 6-1: SPR-GRP Cultural Resources Contacts

Contact Phone Email
Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (360) 586-3080 Rob.Whitlam@dahp.wa.gov
Coeur D’Alene Tribe, THPO 208-686-1572 jwagner@cdatribe-nsn.gov
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, THPO 509-634-2695 guy.moura@colvilletribes.com
Kalispel Tribe of Indians 509-445-1147 x275 kjlyons@knrd.org
Nez Perce Tribe
Spill Response and Water Quality
208-621-3893 keithb@nezperce.org
Spokane Tribe of Indians, THPO 509-258-4315 randya@spokanetribe.com
Upper Columbia United Tribes 509-838-1057 Lori@ucut-nsn.org

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 village 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.  The “Economic Resources At Risk” summary section provides a list of economic resources for this planning area.

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General Information

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.

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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).

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