Samish River GRP

  • Interim update: April 2023
  • Last full updated: 2017
  • Public Comment: 

Table of Contents


Site Description

This section provides an overview of the area’s physical features, hydrology, climate and winds, and tides and currents in the Samish River GRP planning area, and an oil spill risk assessment in Section 2.6. The Samish River GRP boarders the San Juan Islands/North Puget Sound GRP to the west, and the Lower Skagit River GRP to the south. From a point on the Samish River about 4 miles upstream of Samish Bay, the planning area extends northeastward about 24 miles, across the Interstate 5 and Highway 9 corridors, to a point just upstream from the community of Saxon. The planning area also follows Friday Creek from its confluence with the Samish River, northward along the Interstate 5 corridor for about 13 miles, to Lake Samish. All of Lake Samish is included in this planning area. The planning area covers about 102 square miles and resides within Water Resource Inventory Area Nooksack (WRIA 1) and Lower Skagit/Samish (WRIA 3). The communities of Alger, Allen, Bow, Saxon, Sedro-Woolley, and Wickersham are located within the boundaries of this planning area, as well as the Upper Skagit Indian Reservation, and portions of Skagit and Whatcom counties.


Physical Features

The Samish River runs approximately 28 miles from the wetlands along Highway 9 near the community of Saxon, downstream to its mouth at Samish Bay in north Puget Sound. The upper reaches of the river are in a broad, nearly flat valley east of Anderson Mountain, near the Whatcom/Skagit county line. There are dozens of small streams draining steep hills with thick forest cover, joining the river as it winds slowly through small farms and a series of densely vegetated wetlands.

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Around river mile 18, Thunder Creek joins the river from the east, the slope of the valley floor steepens and the speed of the river flow increases. The valley opens up into larger agricultural areas as the river snakes through what were once known as Warner Prairie and Jarman Prairie. During the last ice age this area was underwater, and what were once islands in Puget Sound are now forested hills jutting up sharply from the valley floor (HSRG 2004). One of these former islands is Butler Hill, which separates the Samish River from most of Thomas Creek, its southern tributary.

Near river mile 10, Friday Creek enters the Samish River from the north, just upstream of a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon facility. The facility has a small dam and spillway to ensure a water supply when fish are being kept in the ponds.

Friday Creek drains Lake Samish, an 809-acre lake in Whatcom County near the Skagit County border. Located along Interstate 5 just south of Bellingham, the lake is surrounded by Chuckanut Mountain to the west and Lookout Mountain to the northeast. The lake arcs from a small deep pool at its western end, through a narrow “neck” traversed by the Lake Samish road bridge, then curves southeast to where Friday Creek drains from the southernmost point. Friday Creek begins northwest above Lake Samish on the hillside of Chuckanut Mountain, so Lake Samish is one section of Friday Creek, not its source. Many small drainage streams, most unnamed, empty into the lake from the surrounding hills. Fifteen creeks in total, including Bear, Butler, Silver, and Wildes drain into the thirteen miles of Friday Creek between Lake Samish and the Samish River.

The lower ten miles of the Samish River flow south along I-5, joining with Thomas Creek at river mile 8.5, then cut west through yet more agricultural land and the small community of Allen.  There are occasionally diked banks between river miles 12 and 5, but the lower five miles are completely diked, and there is tidal influence in the lower four miles.  The river heads north for its final three miles to empty into Samish Bay.  The Samish River used to drain due west into Padilla Bay, but was blocked by construction of a road to Samish Island (now a peninsula) in 1932 (Anderson 2012).  Edison Slough, just north of the Samish River, also drains the coastal agricultural flats near the town of Bow and empties into Samish Bay at Edison.  It was once a fork of the Samish River but the two were separated by the construction of flood dikes in the 1930s (HSRG 2004).

The economy of this area is almost completely dependent on agriculture.  Skagit County is America’s largest producer of bulbs for irises, daffodils and tulips.  The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival draws 300,000 visitors every April to the flower fields lying between the Skagit and Samish rivers.  The county also produces a quarter of the world’s supply of beet and cabbage seeds, and three-quarters of the seeds for spinach grown in the United States.  There is a significant amount of acreage devoted to dairy production, as well as potatoes, berries and vineyards (WSU 2014).



The upper reaches of the Samish River drain the foothills of the Cascade Range and so receive more precipitation than the coastal areas. Sedro-Woolley’s weather station, a few miles south of the Samish River, has an average total annual precipitation of 46.6”, with the lowest monthly rainfall in July and August at less than two inches, and highest at 6.5” in November (WRCC 2016). As with most of Western Washington, the rainy season is considered to begin in October and end in May or June. In non-glacially fed areas like the Samish, during the summer months the amount of water in the system drops considerably, flows decrease, and temperatures increase. Because of the agricultural nature of the Samish watershed, water levels are further drawn down by irrigation in the summer. There is one USGS station tracking velocity and river height, located at the WDFW facility at river mile 10.3. This gage shows that highest flows are from December to February, averaging about 400 to 500 cubic feet per second (cfs), with lows of 40 to 60 cfs between July and September. During summer droughts the river has dropped below 20 cfs (USGS). During these dry periods, some areas will not have enough depth to support boating activities on the river.

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The planning area resides within Water Resource Inventory Area Nooksack (WRIA 1) and Lower Skagit/Samish (WRIA 3).

Nooksack (WRIA 1): The Nooksack watershed comprises the western portion of Whatcom County, as well as small portions of Skagit County and British Columbia, Canada. It is bounded by Bellingham Bay and the Strait of Georgia on the west and its east side includes portions of the Cascade Mountain range, including Mt. Baker. This watershed has a mix of urban, agricultural, and rural land uses. The watershed consists of the Nooksack River, which originates in the Cascade Mountains, and its numerous tributaries. It also includes the Sumas River (tributary to the Fraser River), and coastal drainages including the Lummi River, and Dakota, California, Terrell, Squalicum, Whatcom, Padden, and Chuckanut Creeks. The Nooksack River is a source of drinking water for the city of Bellingham, and several other cities in Whatcom County (WA Dept. of Ecology 2012).

Lower Skagit/Samish (WRIA 3): The Lower Skagit Watershed is situated in the northern part of Puget Sound east of the San Juan Islands. It comprises the western part of Skagit County and small portions of Snohomish and Whatcom Counties. Fidalgo, Guemes, Cypress and other smaller offshore islands are also included in the WRIA 3 watershed. In addition to the Skagit River and its delta, the watershed includes Lake Samish and the Samish River watersheds. Water from the Skagit River basin supports a robust agricultural economy, hydroelectric generation and growing cities and towns (WA Dept. of Ecology 2016).


Climate and Winds

The temperatures in the Samish area remain mild year round, with average winter lows above freezing, and highs in the low-to-mid 70s from June to September. Sedro-Woolley records between 1 and 3 inches of snowfall on average in the winter months, but no accumulation (WRCC).

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Winds near Sedro-Woolley tend easterly, switching towards the southeast in the summer and northeast in winter, usually staying below 2 mph but with gusts reaching 40 to 60 mph during spring and winter storms (NOAA). The winds on Lake Samish tend to blow north or northeast in the winter. Skagit County has experienced several major windstorms, typically between November and February, with wind gusts reaching 90 mph.  In December 1996 and January of 1997, one of these windstorms was accompanied by heavy snowfall of three to five feet, collapsing roofs of homes, warehouses and marinas.  Another combined wind and snowstorm in December 2007 caused landslides in eastern Skagit County.


Tides and Currents

The tidal influence on the Samish ends at river mile 4, at the downstream edge of the planning area. The tides may still impact the river up to river mile 7 by slowing the speed of flow during an incoming tide, and king tides during low summer flows will have effects further inland than usual.

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The currents on Lake Samish tend to flow slowly towards the drainage at the southern end of the lake into Friday Creek. In the summer, lake levels will drop alongside precipitation levels. On Friday Creek at the Nulle Road Bridge, a combination of steel beams and removable wood planks controls stream flow and guides fish into a trap installed seasonally between the planks.  Friday Creek has a minimum instream flow of 2 cubic feet per second (cfs), so planks may be removed to drain the lake faster if that minimum is not met. This sudden drainage will increase the speed of the lake current headed south, and quickly affect lake levels.

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Risk Assessment

The Samish River area 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, road transportation, rail transportation, oil pipelines, aircraft, recreational boating, and other oil spill risks. This section briefly discusses these risks and how they could impact the GRP planning area.

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Oil Types: Both refined petroleum products and crude oil are transported in bulk within this planning area.

Crude oil and refined products contain a mix of hydrocarbons with varying properties; different types of crude oil and refined products will behave differently when spilled. Recent changes in oil production have led to an increase in the movement of Bakken light crude transported through the planning area via rail, and diluted bitumen from Canada transported through the planning area via pipeline and, to a lesser extent, rail.

Crude oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota has properties similar to gasoline or diesel, and poses a higher risk of fire because much of it will evaporate quickly into flammable vapors. Unlike gasoline, the heavier hydrocarbons in the crude will persist in the environment after the light ends evaporate or burn. Bitumen from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, is heavy, almost asphalt-like, until it is mixed with lighter oil products known as diluents to create diluted bitumen. Once mixed, the diluted bitumen will initially float on water after being spilled.  Environmental conditions, such as the density of the receiving waters and sediment load of the receiving waters, will affect how long diluted bitumen floats. As the light diluents evaporate, the remaining heavy constituents may sink into the water column (NASEM 2016). There are specific response actions recommended for non-floating oils, detailed in the Non-Floating Oil Spill Response Tool in the Northwest Area Contingency Plan (NWACP), Section 9412.

Road Systems: Vehicle traffic on roadways pose an oil spill risk in areas where they run adjacent to shorelines, or cross over lakes, rivers, creeks, and ditches that drain into the Samish River. In the lower Samish area most roads are low-speed roads connecting farm communities, although Chuckanut Drive is a popular scenic route between Bellingham and Mount Vernon. Interstate 5 carries West Coast traffic between Canada and Mexico and poses the most significant risk of highway spills, due to the frequency of large tanker trucks carrying a number of fuel types. State Highway 9 does not have the traffic capacity of I-5 but is more convenient to move fuel between smaller upland communities. Highway 9 starts in Sedro-Woolley and leads due north, following the upper reaches of the Samish River starting around river mile 19 and continuing past the headwaters. Highway 9 continues north through central Whatcom County to the Canadian border and beyond, so there is potentially high use by logging trucks and local fuel trucks serving the inland communities in the area.

A vehicle spill onto one of these bridges or roadways can cause fuel or oil to flow from hardened surfaces into the Samish 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.

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

Unit trains carrying crude currently operate on specific routes. Unit trains carrying crude from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota enter Washington State near Spokane, continue along the Columbia River to Vancouver, and then head north along I-5. This main rail line enters Skagit County from the south near I-5 and meets a junction just south of the planning area in the City of Burlington, about three miles southwest of Sedro-Woolley. Here, the tracks split into thirds. Unit trains deliver crude to the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes along the rail spur leading west from Burlington along State Highway 20. The remaining loaded trains remain on the Bellingham line and continue north out of the planning area. Unit trains of Canadian diluted bitumen are also transported south through the planning area on these tracks, heading to Tacoma. The third line is the Sumas subdivision, which also splits from the main tracks in Burlington, follows Highway 20 east along the Skagit River through Sedro-Woolley, and then parallels Highway 9 north to Canada. Unit trains are not currently transported on these tracks.

BNSF owns nearly all commercial railroad track within the Samish River GRP area. In Wickersham, near the headwaters of the Samish River, a local short line provides historic steam engine rides and tours to Lake Whatcom as part of a railroad museum. These historic engines pose a risk of spills commensurate to the amount of petroleum oils they carry for steam generation or engine lubrication (WA Dept. of Ecology).

Oil Pipelines:  There are two pipelines carrying petroleum products through the Samish River area: the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, importing crude oil from Canada, and the BP Olympic Pipeline, distributing gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from the refineries at Cherry Point and Ferndale.

The Trans Mountain Puget Sound pipeline system is operated by Kinder Morgan Canada. It carries crude oil products via the Trans Mountain pipeline from Abbotsford, British Columbia, for delivery to four refineries in Whatcom and Skagit counties in Washington State. The system capacity is approximately 180,000 barrels (7.5 million gallons) per day.

The BP Olympic Pipeline travels 400 miles from the Cherry Point refinery northwest of Bellingham to Portland, Oregon, with additional input lines from the refineries at Phillips 66 Ferndale, Tesoro Anacortes, and Shell Anacortes. It delivers product to terminals at Harbor Island in Seattle, SeaTac airport, and Tacoma before exporting 1.3 billion gallons per year across the Columbia River to Oregon.

Aircraft:  There are no airports within the planning area; however, seaplanes and floatplanes use Lake Samish as a landing site (Whatcom Boat Inspections).  Most seaplanes carry about 20 gallons of gasoline or aviation fuel. The potential exists for seaplane failures to occur during takeoffs or landings, failures that could result in an oil spill on Lake Samish, Friday Creek, or tributary streams.

Recreational Boating: Lake Samish is the only location in the planning area where recreational boating poses a notable risk of oil spills.  Accidents involving recreational watercraft on Lake Samish have the potential to result in spills of a few to several dozen gallons of gasoline or diesel fuel.  Examples of such accidents might include recreational vessel collisions, allisions, groundings, fires, sinking, or explosions.  There are no boat launches on the Samish River and it’s not common for motorized boats to frequent the river in large numbers.

Other Spill Risks: Other potential oil spill risks in the area include fuel storage areas (including waste oil storage), road run-off during rain events, on-shore or near shore activities where heavy equipment is being operated or stored, and the migration of spilled oil through soil on lands adjacent to the river or its tributary streams.

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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 table of contents.

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

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

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

The information provided in this section can be used in:

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

Providing information on benthic and water column species or cultural resources present to assist in planning for oils with the potential to sink or submerge.


Natural Resources at Risk – Summary

This area contains a wide variety of 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:


  • No listed species are likely to be impacted in this area.


  • common loon [SS]
  • marbled murrelet [FT/SE]
  • streaked horned lark [FT/SE]
  • yellow-billed cuckoo [FT/SE]


  • bull trout [FT]
  • chinook salmon (Puget Sound) [FT]
  • coho salmon (Puget Sound) [FC]
  • steelhead [FT]


  • Oregon spotted Frog [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 designated critical habitat within this area.

  • bull trout
  • chinook salmon (Puget Sound)
  • steelhead (Puget Sound)
  • Oregon spotted frog

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General Resource Concerns


  • The Samish river delta and associated sloughs provide a variety of important habitats for fish (including juvenile salmon), shellfish, waterfowl, herons, and other species.
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  • The salt marsh located in sheltered areas of the Samish River delta supports a diverse array of fish and wildlife species.
  • The rivers and streams throughout this region act as important salmon migration routes and spawning areas, as well as providing rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids.
  • Side channels and stream mouths are concentration areas for fish and provide feeding and resting areas for a variety of birds. 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.
  • 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 raptors and haulout areas for seals.
  • Lowland lakes serve as foraging areas for wintering waterfowl concentrations. Western grebes, mergansers, cormorants, coots and Canada geese are the most numerous species. These areas also support the breeding activities of freshwater resident species such as mallards, pintail, etc.
  • Wetlands in this region are freshwater and include seasonal open marshes, forested areas along rivers and streams, and ponds and lakes. All wetland types support a diverse array of amphibian, bird, insect, fish, and wildlife species.
  • Steep forested hill slopes in developed areas along river valley. These areas provide wildlife habitat and migration corridors.
  • Subsurface Habitats
  • Fine sediments (mud/silt/sand) – Associated with slow/still water flows. May have aquatic vegetation present.
    • Animals associated with these areas tend to be: cold or warm water fishes; birds (dabbling ducks); semi-aquatic mammals (muskrat, beaver, etc.); shellfish (freshwater clams); amphibians and reptiles (frogs, newts, salamanders, turtles, etc.); insects caddis flies, mayflies, dragonflies, and stoneflies). Many other animals also utilize these areas for foraging.
  • Coarse sediments (gravel/cobble) – Associated with moderate water flow. May have aquatic vegetation present.
    • Animals associated with these areas tend to be: cold and/or warm water fishes; birds (dippers, harlequin ducks); semi-aquatic mammals (muskrat, beaver, etc.); shellfish (freshwater mussels, crayfish); amphibians and reptiles (tailed frogs, torrent salamanders; insects caddis flies, stoneflies). Many other animals also utilize these areas for foraging.


  • All northwest salmonid species, including the listed bull trout [FT], chinook [FT], coho [FC], and steelhead trout [FT], are present in the river system throughout the year. Spawning occurs throughout the system and juvenile salmonids use backwaters, nearshore areas, and protected bays as rearing and foraging areas prior to migration into the ocean. Returning adult salmonids support significant tribal, commercial, and recreational fisheries.
  • Resident fish are present year-round and include various species such as cutthroat and rainbow trout, stickleback, sculpin, sucker, and lamprey. These species all provide important contributions to stream ecology.


  • Waterfowl concentrations of various species may be found throughout the region in lowland lakes and ponds, wetlands, and agricultural fields near water bodies. Concentrations especially prevalent from fall through spring.
  • Nesting raptor species, throughout the region include bald eagles, osprey, and peregrine falcons.
  • Great blue heron nest throughout the region and forage in intertidal and nearshore waters year-round. Peregrine falcons occur along the lower river and delta.
  • Resident and migratory songbirds heavily utilize riparian habitats year-round and are susceptible both to oil and to response activities that disturb riparian vegetation
  • Mammals common to the region include deer and elk, bats, and various semi-aquatic species such as muskrat, beaver, river otter, etc. throughout the basin. In general, this last group is dependent on riverine areas, ponds, tributaries, and riparian forests for den sites and foraging areas.
  • The federally threatened Oregon spotted frog may be present in the shallow lakes, emergent wetlands, and seasonally flooded fields associated with the Samish River, its tributaries and ditches, and in the river itself. These frogs use the seasonally flooded pastures and fields adjacent to the Samish River and its tributaries for breeding and rearing. The frog is particularly vulnerable in its breeding and larval period between February and July. Where there are wetlands, they will remain in the permanent waters of the wetland year-round. However, in many areas of this system, the permanent water is the Samish River, which is used by both adult frogs and tadpoles as they mature and metamorphose into frogs.

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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.

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The number that precedes the area name in the list (below) corresponds to the numbered area on the map.

  1. Lake Samish: waterfowl concentrations (especially diving ducks), eagles, Townsend’s big-eared bats, salmonids and freshwater mussels. Occasional loon presence [SS]. Lake, riparian, and wetland habitats.
  2. Lower Samish River: waterfowl and shorebird concentrations, juvenile salmonid habitat.
  3. Upper Samish River (between the towns of Prairie and Doran): Upper Samish River Wetland Habitat. Off channel and floodplain wetlands and sluggish streams and ditches are likely to contain the state and federally listed Oregon spotted frog. Take care working in shallow waters and aquatic edges at all times of year. Salmonids, elk, and marbled murrelet presence.

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Maps

Figure 1: Specific geographic areas of concern for the Samish GRP.

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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
Lummi Nation (360) 312-2257,
(360) 961-7752
Muckleshoot Tribe (253) 876-3272
Nooksack Indian Tribe (360) 592-5176,
(360) 305-9126
Samish Indian Nation (360) 293-6404 x126
Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe (360) 436-0347
Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians (360) 652-3687 x14
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (360) 466-7352
Tulalip Tribes (425) 239-0182
Upper Skagit Indian Tribe (360) 854-7009

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 watercraft
  • 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.  The appendix provides a list of economic resources for this GRP area.

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Table 6.2: Fish hatcheries and infrastructure

General information

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

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

In addition to restrictions associated with wildlife, Tribal authorities may also request notification when overflights are likely to affect culturally sensitive areas within reservations.  See Oil Spill Best Management Practices (NWACP 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 (NWACP Section 9310) and Northwest Area Wildlife Deterrence Resources (NWACP 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 (NWACP Section 9310).

Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness Areas: There are no federal wildlife refuges or wilderness areas within this region.

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

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