GRP Quarterly Newsletter – October, 2022

What are Geographic Response Plans?

Oil spills pose a risk to sensitive environmental, cultural, and economic resources. One important tool in our planning toolbox is the Geographic Response Plan (GRP). GRPs contain pre-identified strategies for specific areas of the state at risk from oil spills. These are pre-approved plans that guide early response actions during oil spills. A list of all Washington State GRPs, including those open for comprehensive updates can be found online at OilSpills101.wa.gov.

GRP Updates:  Comprehensive vs. Interim

GRPs are periodically updated to ensure the information is relevant and up-to-date. These comprehensive updates require a lot of work and often take a year or two to complete. Work is coordinated with other state and federal agencies, tribes, industry partners, oil spill response professionals, and communities. GRPs currently open for comprehensive updates are listed below, along with the contact information if you have questions or want to participate.

Because a lot can change in a GRP planning area between comprehensive updates, Ecology is committed to conducting interim GRP updates when necessary. Examples of interim updates include improvements to response strategies resulting from lessons learned during drills or real spills, updated contact information, changes to driving directions after roadwork, and other response-enhancing edits. Ecology publishes interim updates to GRPs on a quarterly basis.

Interim GRP Updates for Spring 2022

Grays Harbor GRP: LKAB-0.0-N & WEST 0.0-N & CHER-0.15-N.

Central Puget Sound GRP: CPS-150; CPS-40; GRD-0.6.

Middle Columbia River – McNary Pool GRP: M-328.0L; M-326.5L.

Everyone has a Role in Improving the State’s GRPs

The oil industry regularly exercises oil spill contingency plans to ensure their readiness to respond to an oil spill. These exercises often involve the deployment of GRP strategies. Each deployment is an opportunity to validate a response strategy’s effectiveness, and to make improvements if it is necessary.

GRPs also rely on feedback from professional oil spill responders, natural resource agencies, tribes, and the public. This valuable feedback is often reflected in a comprehensive update, or through the interim update process.

If you have information or ideas that can make GRP’s even more effective, Ecology wants to know! Please email GRP feedback to GRPs@ecy.wa.gov.  If you are visiting a response strategy site, you can use our new GRP Strategy Assessment Form to help document your assessment. We thank you in advance for helping the Northwest Regional Contingency Plan and the Area Plans maintain a high level of readiness to respond to oil spills.

 

San Juan Islands GRP Update – May 2022

The comprehensive update of SJI-GRP has finally come to an end.  You can find the new and improved plan on oilspills101.wa.gov.

The plan was opened in May 2019 and after three years a great many changes have been made.  Among other things, many response strategies have been added and the planning area now encompasses the entirety of San Juan County.  Ecology wishes to thank the local experts who shared a lot of excellent information so that the plan could become better than ever.

In the future, this plan will be tested at various oil spill exercises and errors will be corrected as they are discovered.  If you yourself wish to suggest an improvement of some kind, please email GRPs@ecy.wa.gov and our team will be happy to make an interim update.

Updates to Washington’s GRPs

What are Geographic Response Plans?

Oil spills pose a risk to sensitive environmental, cultural, and economic resources. One important tool in our planning toolbox is the Geographic Response Plan (GRP). GRPs contain pre-identified strategies for specific areas of the state at risk from oil spills. These are pre-approved plans that guide early response actions during oil spills. A list of all Washington State GRPs, including those open for comprehensive updates can be found online at OilSpills101.wa.gov.

GRP Updates:  Comprehensive vs. Interim

GRPs are periodically updated to ensure the information is relevant and up-to-date. These comprehensive updates require a lot of work and often take a year or two to complete. Work is coordinated with other state and federal agencies, tribes, industry partners, oil spill response professionals, and communities. GRPs currently open for comprehensive updates are listed below, along with the contact information if you have questions or want to participate.

Because a lot can change in a GRP planning area between comprehensive updates, Ecology is committed to conducting interim GRP updates when necessary. Examples of interim updates include improvements to response strategies resulting from lessons learned during drills or real spills, updated contact information, changes to driving directions after roadwork, and other response-enhancing edits. Ecology publishes interim updates to GRPs on a quarterly basis.

Interim GRP Updates for Spring 2022

Grays Harbor GRP: new information provided by NRCES from a site visit resulted in updates to CHRC-0.1 (site access, site safety, and land owner contact information) and NSKC-0.2 (site access and safety information).

Central Puget Sound GRP: during a recent spill in Elliott Bay, notification strategy CPS-31-N was utilized. New contact information for this strategy has been added.

North Puget Sound GRP: We updated NPS-75, NPS-74, and NPS-73 to remove references to the old refinery name; and updated contact and access information for NPS-07.

Moses Lake/Crab Creek GRP: after lessons learned from a GRP deployment exercise, we moved the location of MOLK-39.3 slightly east so that it is further away from a dam gate and allows for better access, monitoring, and boom maintenance.

Strait of Juan de Fuca GRP: A lot of good work and collaboration with tribes and other stakeholders has been done on this GRP. Equipment, boom, and/or location information has been updated for the following strategies while the rest of the plan is undergoing a comprehensive update: STR-01, STR-02, STR-03, STR-04, STR-05, STR-06, STR-07, and STR-11.

Everyone has a Role in Improving the State’s GRPs

The oil industry regularly exercises oil spill contingency plans to ensure their readiness to respond to an oil spill. These exercises often involve the deployment of GRP strategies. Each deployment is an opportunity to validate a response strategy’s effectiveness, and to make improvements if it is necessary.

GRPs also rely on feedback from professional oil spill responders, natural resource agencies, tribes, and the public. This valuable feedback is often reflected in a comprehensive update, or through the interim update process.

If you have information or ideas that can make GRP’s even more effective, Ecology wants to know! Please email GRP feedback to GRPs@ecy.wa.gov.  If you are visiting a response strategy site, you can use our new GRP Strategy Assessment Form to help document your assessment. We thank you in advance for helping the Northwest Regional Contingency Plan and the Area Plans maintain a high level of readiness to respond to oil spills.

 

GRP Progress Report: January 2022

We are writing to update you on the status of the 11 Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) currently open for updates in Washington. GRPs are planning documents for specific areas of the state at risk from oil spills. They contain contact information, site descriptions, resources at risk, and other response considerations. Each GRP includes pre-designed response strategies that guide early actions during an oil spill. These strategies are designed to minimize impacts to sensitive environmental, cultural, and economic resources. GRPs are part of the Northwest Area Contingency Plan and are co-managed by the EPA, the USCG, and the state.

In addition to the GRP updates described below, Ecology has spent the last year updating all GRPs that may be at risk from spills of non-floating oils (NFOs). This includes the addition of a Non-floating Oil Response Options and Considerations section. More information on the NFO update to GRPs can be found at our NFO Blog here: https://www.oilspills101.wa.gov/blog/

Below you will find a brief status update for the 11 open GRPs. For more information on a specific GRP, please contact the Preparedness Planner noted at the end of each overview. For general information on GRPs, please visit https://www.oilspills101.wa.gov/northwest-area-contingency-plan/geographic-response-plans-grps/

GRPs Open for Update

WRIA 7 (Snohomish Basin)

After meeting with tribes, trustee agencies, oil spill response contractors, and other stakeholders, fieldwork and data entry are complete. Ecology completed an internal review of proposed changes in December 2021. Additional consultation with stakeholders will occur in early 2022. Significant updates to this GRP include changing the name to the Snohomish Basin GRP (a more common term used to describe the planning area), an expansion of the planning area to include the Snoqualmie River, and the creation of new strategies to protect the recent restoration work in the Snohomish Estuary. Look for this GRP to be up for public comment period in spring 2022. It is our goal to finalize these updates and publish the new plan in the summer 2022. For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Nora Haider at nora.haider@ecy.wa.gov.

South Puget Sound

Work on the South Puget Sound GRP continues. Initial land-based fieldwork has been conducted. Additional fieldwork and stakeholder consultation are needed. Keep an eye out for future updates in 2022. For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Kaitlin Lebon at Kaitlin.lebon@ecy.wa.gov.

Lake Chelan

The Lake Chelan GRP opened for a full review in the summer of 2021. Initial fieldwork was conducted in July 2021, with additional fieldwork planned for spring and late summer 2022. A major goal of this update will be to assess strategies for both high and low water scenarios in Lake Chelan. For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Kaitlin Lebon at Kaitlin.lebon@ecy.wa.gov.

Lake Washington

Planning for fieldwork is underway. Coordination with federal, tribal, state, and local partners continues.  For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Sabrina Floudaras at Sabrina.Floudaras@ecy.wa.gov.

Lower Columbia River

This GRP update began in 2020 with a meeting between Washington State ECY, Oregon DEQ and USCG Sector Columbia River. A kick-off message was sent to stakeholders shortly after this initial meeting. We began fieldwork in the Lower Columbia River GRP area in late 2020; this work is ongoing. Fieldwork will continue on the Washington side of the river into 2022. Any interested parties can contact Darcy Bird at darcy.bird@ecy.wa.gov for more information or to coordinate collaboration on this important project.

San Juan Islands

This GRP was created when the formerly combined San Juan Islands/North Puget Sound GRP was divided into two separate plans. The final version of the updated North Puget Sound plan was published separately in June 2021. A draft of the San Juan Islands GRP was posted for a public comment period in early 2021, and valuable feedback created an opportunity to make the plan even better. We are currently working on incorporating the feedback into the plan. The estimated publication date is summer 2022. For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Max Gordon at max.gordon@ecy.wa.gov.

Clark Cowlitz Southwest Lewis

The last of the fieldwork was completed in June 2021. Ecology is now conducting an internal review of the proposed changes to the plan. Following our internal review of the draft update, the GRP will be posted for public comment. The estimated publication date is summer 2022. For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Max Gordon at max.gordon@ecy.wa.gov.

Strait of Juan de Fuca

Fieldwork is nearly complete. We are currently working with local tribes and resource agencies to finalize fieldwork and gather additional information to update remaining strategies. A blog was posted recently with more details on this GRP update: https://www.oilspills101.wa.gov/strait-of-juan-de-fuca-grp-update-progress. For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Wendy Buffett at Wendy.Buffett@ecy.wa.gov.

Snake River GRPs: Lower Monumental Pool, Little Goose Pool, Lower Granite Pool

Fieldwork for the three Snake River GRPs is complete and data entry is underway. Ecology is now conducting an internal review of the proposed changes to the plan. Following our internal panel review of the draft update, the GRP will be posted for public comment. For more information on these GRPs, please reach out to Scott Zimmerman at Scott.Zimmerman@ecy.wa.gov.

Grays Harbor

Work on this plan will begin in late 2022. There is no estimated timeline for publication of this plan at this time. For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Max Gordon at max.gordon@ecy.wa.gov.

Outer Coast

Work on this plan will begin in late 2022. There is no estimated timeline for publication of this plan at this time. For more information on this GRP, please reach out to Scott Zimmerman at Scott.Zimmerman@ecy.wa.gov.

 

Thank you for your continued support and collaboration

The success of a GRP requires the active engagement of the spill response community in the development, maintenance, and review of these documents. With your help, we are dedicated to ensuring the accuracy and effectiveness of our state’s GRPs – protecting the region’s environmental, cultural, and economic resources in the event of a large oil spill.

We greatly appreciate all of our partners – tribes, trustees, the regulated community, oil spill response organizations, and citizens of the state – who help make this work happen.

Strait of Juan de Fuca GRP Update Progress

Background

The Strait of Juan de Fuca Geographic Response Plan (GRP) had its last full-update and review in March, 2003. Since then, the plan has seen interim updates and recently, the addition of a new section concerning the risks posed by spills of non-floating oil.

Update Timeline for the Strait of Juan de Fuca GRP

The Strait of Juan de Fuca GRP was opened for a full update in January of 2018, followed by 14 months of fieldwork and meetings with tribes, ports, federal, state and local agencies, landowners, contractors, and many other interested parties. Fieldwork was conducted on nearly every response strategy in the plan, and proposed updates were designed and drafted. An Ecology review panel in March of 2019 identified the need for further discussions and fieldwork before the plan would be ready to publish. In April 2019, staff turnover paused the update while the plan was reassigned to me, Wendy Buffett.

Ecology conducting fieldwork with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. Near Sequim Bay, November 2018.

In February of 2020, the process continued with meetings between Ecology and representatives of the Makah Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to discuss next steps. A day of field visits was planned for later that spring. On March 13, 2020 the COVID-19 lockdown started and all field work was canceled while both Ecology and the tribes pivoted to supporting emergency COVID response and began working from home. In the meantime, non-floating oil response information was created and added to several GRPs, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to meet a legislative mandate.

NWIFC and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe discussing GRP strategies with Ecology, MSRC, Andeavor, and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. Elwha River estuary, May 2021.

In May 2021, a small group met at the mouth of the Elwha River to discuss issues that had come up during a virtual Worst-Case Drill a few weeks before. Staff from Ecology, Andeavor Port Angeles Terminal, MSRC, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission redesigned draft strategies on the Elwha and discussed next steps for the plan. I also began converting the old plan to the new web format, to allow incremental updates both before and after the full publication. Since vaccinations had eased several group’s safety restrictions, field work was restarted. In July 2021, I conducted a day of field visits with representatives from the Makah and MSRC Neah Bay. A second visit two weeks later was cancelled due to a local COVID outbreak, followed by the tightening of Ecology’s safety protocols in response to the delta variant surge.

Members of the Makah Tribe, who work as oil spill response contractors at MSRC’s Neah Bay office, in the field with a timber company representative and Ecology staff. Near the Pysht River estuary, July 2021.

Current Status

Ecology is currently updating strategies based on recent in-person and virtual consultations with the Makah tribe. Additional consultations with other tribes, agencies, and interested parties will occur over the next several months until all parties are happy with the updated strategies. Some field visits may occur as needed and when possible. During this time, I will continue the GRP update process and some updated strategies will overwrite their older versions in the online plan. Eventually, all older sections of the plan will be replaced with new versions, and the fully updated plan will be posted for a 30 day public comment period. After final edits, the plan will be published.

Questions and Requests for Meetings

If you have questions, or wish to request a virtual meeting, please reach out to me at wendy.buffett@ecy.wa.gov or 360-791-4325 and I will be happy to talk with you or your group.

Interim Update for the North Puget Sound Geographic Response Plan (GRP)

The Washington Department of Ecology made an interim update to the North Puget Sound Geographic Response Plan (GRP). This update included minor revisions to GRP strategies NPS-07, NPS-73, NPS-74, and NPS-75. The updates were due to private property concerns on Gulf Road (NPS-07) and the sale of the Shell Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes, WA to Holly Frontier on November 1st, 2021 (NPS-73-75). These strategies now reflect the correct contact information for responders and clarify points of reference near the Puget Sound Refinery. Those who maintain physical copies of the North Puget Sound GRP should replace the 2-pagers updated and those who maintain electronic copies of the plan should download the newest version.

The updated 2-pagers can be downloaded here: https://www.oilspills101.wa.gov/northwest-area-contingency-plan/geographic-response-plans-grps/north-puget-sound-grp/

Description of the Covered Area

The North Puget Sound GRP boundaries are, generally, Point Roberts and the Canadian Border to the north, Fidalgo Island to the south, Rosario Strait and Orcas Island on the west, and mainland Washington to the East. This region includes Boundary Bay, Semiahmoo Bay, Drayton Harbor, Birch Bay, Lummi Bay, Bellingham Bay, Padilla Bay, Fidalgo Bay, Burrows Bay, Swinomish Channel, and mouths of the Samish, Nooksack, and Lummi Rivers. The communities of Blaine, Birch Bay, Ferndale, Bellingham, the Lummi Indian Nation, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, the Samish Indian Nation, and Anacortes are located within the boundaries of this planning area, as well as portions of Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Island counties in Washington.

What are Interim Updates

Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) are “living documents” and are updated regularly to reflect changes in the environment, resources at risk, contact information, or after deployment exercises. Ecology encourages anyone interested to use our interim update form to improve any portion of the geographic response plan.

What are Geographic Response Plans?

Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) guide early response actions in the event of an oil spill. Ecology develops and updates GRPs in collaboration with state, local and federal agencies and tribes. Each GRP is written for a specific area (for example a river, a lake, or section of Puget Sound), and includes tactical response strategies tailored to a particular shore or waterway at risk of injury from oil.

GRPs have two main objectives:

  • Identify sensitive natural, cultural or significant economic resources at risk of injury from oil spills.
  • Describe and prioritize response strategies in an effort to reduce injury to sensitive natural, cultural, and certain economic resources at risk from oil spills.

More Information

Questions?

Darcy Bird

darcy.bird@ecy.wa.gov

Department of Ecology, Spills Program

PO Box 47600

Olympia, WA 98504-7600