Clark, Cowlitz, SW Lewis GRP

  • Open for full review: May 2020
  • Tentative publish date: Summer 2022
  • Interim update: 2015
  • Last full updated: 2003
  • Public Comment:

Table of Contents


Site Description

This section provides a description of the area’s physical features, hydrology, climate, and winds. It includes an overview of oil spill risks in vulnerable sections of Clark and Cowlitz Counties and a portion of southwestern Lewis County. The planning area extends from Vancouver, WA to just north of Winlock (following the border of HWY 12) and inland of the Lower Columbia River from Longview southeastward to Battle Ground. In the northern half of the planning area, the GRP also follows the Cowlitz River from near its confluence with the Columbia River to the Mayfield Dam. North to South, the planning area includes the towns or cities of Winlock, Castle Rock, Kelso, Longview, Kalama, Woodland, La Center, Ridgefield, Battle Ground, and Vancouver. Portions of Water Resource Inventory Area 23 (WRIA-23, Upper Chehalis), WRIA 25 (Grays/Elochoman), WRIA 26 (Cowlitz), WRIA 27 (Lewis), and WRIA 28 (Salmon-Washougal); and includes the Coweeman, Cowlitz River, Kalama, Lewis, Little Kalama, and Toutle Rivers, as well as a number of smaller tributary streams. The Clark, Cowlitz, and SW Lewis GRP planning area are bordered by the Chehalis GRP to the north and the Lower Columbia River GRP to the south and southwest.

Physical Features

The geographic features of the land in the Clark, Cowlitz, and SW Lewis planning area are defined by their location between the eastern flanks of the Willapa Hills/Columbia River and the western foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range. This geographic depression is a portion of the larger corridor that is part of the larger area known as the Willamette Valley-Puget Trough that runs north to British Columbia, Canada, and south to Oregon. Significant transportation systems in the corridor include highway, rail, and pipelines routes, as well as ocean accessible ports on the Columbia River. The southern portion of the planning area is part of the greater Portland metropolitan area, other industrial centers include Longview and Kelso, surrounding industrial terrain is primarily forested with mixed farmland.

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The Puget Lowland was shaped by the Cordilleran Ice Sheet, of which the Puget Lobe stretched to just south of Olympia. Since the extent of the glacier was located north of the planning area, the impacts of glacial retreat created a distinguishing mark between the planning area and the Puget Lowland. This is predominately noted by the beginning of the glacially carved Puget Sound to the north.

Glacial activity also played a prominent role in shaping the southern portion of the GRP area in the Portland Basin. The floods resulting from the breaking of the ice dam of ancient Lake Missoula 12,700 to 15,300 years ago (which carved out the Columbia River Gorge) also impacted the area. Through multiple cataclysmic flood events, water inundating the land and deposited large swaths of sand, clay, and gravel. As a result, the topography of the land in this section of the planning area is made up of ancient flood plains, which are tiered from the multiple events.

Another major catalyst for geomorphology in the area is the historical impact of the volcanoes (in particular, Mount St. Helens). Volcanic events have resulted in much sediment distribution in the planning area through lahar flows along the rivers that run from the Cascades to the Columbia. The most recent example of this was the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, of which the impacts of the alluvial deposits are still being mitigated.


The planning area is predominantly rain-dependent, with the major river systems described below all being tributaries and sub-tributaries to the Columbia River.

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Toutle River is a 17.2 mile long tributary of the Cowlitz. Beginning at the confluence of the North and South forks of the river at an elevation of 440 feet, it flows into the Cowlitz by Castle Rock having dropped to an elevation of 46 feet. The average discharge is 2,095 cubic feet/second (USGS). The river and its upstream headwaters were significantly impacted by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, which resulted in massive sediment displacement. A sediment retention dam was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers following the eruption. This installation reduces alluvial deposits downstream and addresses the increased flood and navigational risks as a result of the deposits (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

Cowlitz River encompasses the northern half of the planning area, running on a north-south axis along the Interstate 5 corridor. The planning area for this GRP begins upstream of the river at the Mayfield Dam. The water from the dam’s reservoir (when full) starts at an elevation of 425 feet (Tacoma Public Utilities). After its confluence with the Toutle, the Cowlitz further drops to an elevation of 10 feet where it meets the Columbia River at Longview/Kelso (USGS). Average discharge at the Castle Rock monitoring station is at 9,122 cubic feet/second (USGS). As a tributary of the Cowlitz, sediment from the Toutle River creates a significant impact downstream. It was reported that after 33 years, 2013 marked the first year the Cowlitz flushed out more sediment than was introduced to it by the Toutle since the Mount St. Helens eruption. Despite this, sediment flow management will be an ongoing issue as the sediment loads are not expected to decline significantly in the future (Stepankowsky).

Coweeman River is a tributary that joins the Cowlitz just upstream of its confluence with the Columbia. The headwaters for the river are at Coweeman Lake, located just to the west of Mount St. Helens at an elevation of 3,965 feet. At its confluence with the Cowlitz, the river’s elevation is 23 feet (USGS). The average discharge is 603 cubic feet/second. While the Coweeman is not sediment-laden like the Toutle, its mouth has the potential to be impacted by sediment through its confluence with the Cowlitz.

Kalama River is a tributary of the Columbia. The river’s confluence is located south of the Cowlitz’s mouth and just north of the town of Kalama. Its headwaters originate in the Cascade Mountains in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Since the river originates at the Kalama Spring (elevation 2,890 ft) on the south side of Mount St. Helens, it does not experience the same sediment issues as the north side tributaries (due to impact from the north side lateral volcanic blast). The river’s mouth meets the Columbia at an elevation of 10 feet.

Lewis River is a tributary of the Columbia originating in the Cascade Mountains. It drains into the Columbia north of Vancouver across the river from the town of St. Helens in Oregon. The GRP planning area covers the Lewis River upstream to the Merwin Dam. Just upstream of the confluence with the Columbia, the East Fork Lewis River meets the Lewis River. The East Fork heads upstream southeast towards Battle Ground. The Lewis River has an average discharge of 6,125 cubic feet/second.

Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs): Portions of WRIA 25 (Grays-Elochman), WRIA 26 (Cowlitz), WRIA 27 (Lewis), and WRIA 28 (Salmon-Washougal) fall within the planning area. Most of the precipitation within all four WRIAs 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.

Climate and Winds

The Clark, Cowlitz, and SW Lewis GRP planning area falls within the East Olympic-Cascade Foothills climate zone of the state. The average temperatures in January range from a high of 38 to 45 degrees (F) to a low of 25 to 32 degrees (F). In July, the average high ranges from 75 to 80 degrees (F) to a low of around 50 degrees (F). Snowfall is generally low, with an average of fewer than 10 inches annually in the valley. This total increases greatly with altitude in the surrounding foothills and mountains.

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Prevailing winds in the area are generally from the north to northwest in the summer, and south and south-southeast in the winter (WRCC). Average wind speed for the airports in the area is 4-5 mph. There is little variation throughout the year with monthly averages staying generally within a 1 mph gradation.

Tides and Currents

Flow in some sections of the rivers and streams in this plan are impacted by tides, such as the Kalama River which is tidally influenced up to Modrow Bridge (River Mile 2.8). The Lewis River and the East Fork Lewis River are also tidally influenced inland of Interstate-5. The Cowlitz and the Coweeman Rivers are tidally influenced from their mouths up through downtown Longview/
Kelso. Currents for the rivers are dictated by the season, precipitation and flow control (as is the case of the dams on the Cowlitz, Toutle, and Lewis rivers).

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Risk Assessment

The Clark, Cowlitz, and SW Lewis planning area is plentiful in natural, cultural, and economic resources, all at risk of injury from oil spills. Potential oil spill risks include, but aren’t 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 area if a spill were to occur.

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Road Transportation: Vehicle traffic on roadways pose an oil spill risk. Commercial trucks can contain hundreds to thousands of gallons of fuel and oil, and almost any kind of hazardous waste or material. An accident involving a fully loaded tank truck on Interstate-5 or on one of the numerous bridge crossings in the area could result in a substantial oil spill. Smaller vehicle accidents pose a similar risk, commensurate to the volume of fuel and oil they carry. Spills from vehicles onto roadways could cause fuel or oil to flow from ditches or harden surfaces into streams, creeks, wasteways, or stormwater systems, ultimately impacting the local rivers and streams. Highway bridges, such as those on Interstate 5 in Centralia/Chehalis, pose the greatest risk of road spills due to the number of vehicles and speed of travel. However, accidents can also occur on smaller roads, particularly during extreme weather. In the upper watershed, logging and tanker truck accidents are the most likely source of a significant spill.

Rail Transportation: BNSF owns tracks that enter the planning area from the north and pass through Winlock, Vader, Castle Rock and Kelso, following and crossing the Cowlitz River. From the confluence of the Cowlitz and the Columbia Rivers, the tracks run along the Columbia through Kalama, Woodland, Ridgefield and Vancouver. This area is a section of a larger rail transportation corridor, which stretches between Canada to the north and Oregon to the south, generally parallel to Interstate 5. This area is at risk from trains carrying crude oil, refined oil and other hazardous materials.

Trains loaded with crude from the Bakken Formation in South Dakota or Alberta Oil Sands in Canada travels west from Spokane, along the Columbia River to Vancouver at the Oregon border before heading north along I-5 to refineries in Tacoma, Anacortes, Ferndale, and Blaine. Trains carrying Alberta Tar Sands oil can also cross the Canadian border in Blaine and travel south to Tacoma or beyond. Each loaded tank car typically contains 30,000 gallons of crude oil. Unit trains typically carry 100 or more of these tank cars of crude. Therefore, each full unit train poses a spill risk of 3 million gallons of crude oil and as much as 10,000 gallons of fuel for each diesel locomotive. Tanker cars carrying crude oil are also transported in smaller numbers, mixed among boxcars and tankers carrying other products. In May 2015, BNSF reported 8 to 12 trains carrying one million gallons or more of Bakken crude traversing Clark, Cowlitz, and Lewis counties each week.13   Union Pacific and other railroads often have track-sharing rights and also run their trains along this length of the track. In June 2014 Union Pacific reported that they do not run unit trains of crude in Washington State.

Oil Pipelines: Much of the Olympic Pipeline runs either through or along the extent of the planning area on its north-south axis. The pipeline carries a range of petroleum products including gasoline, diesel, and aviation turbine fuel. The pipeline has a pumping station in Castle Rock  and several valve control structures in or near the planning area. If the pipeline were to leak or rupture, impact to sensitive resources in the area could be substantial. Oil spill control points previously identified by the Olympic Pipeline Company were visited during the GRP update process, and many are now included in this plan as GRP response strategies.

Aircraft: There is always a potential for aircraft failures during inbound and outbound flights that could result in fuel releases to water. State managed, general aviation airports within the planning area include Ed Carlson Memorial Field – South Lewis (near Toledo), Southwest Washington Regional Airport (near Kelso), and Woodland State Airport. All three are immediately adjacent to either the Cowlitz or Lewis rivers. In addition, the planning area includes at least a dozen small, private, unpaved airstrips which are frequently near or adjacent to waterways.

Recreational Boating: Accidents involving recreational boats and other craft on local rivers, creeks, or streams could result in spills of a few gallons of fuel to several dozen gallons. Accidents could include a vessel grounding, fire, sinking, or explosion. The unintentional discharge of oily bilge waste is also a concern and could impact sensitive resources in the planning area if released.

Other Spill Risks: Other potential oil spill risks in the area include road run-off during rain events, on-shore or near-shore construction or farming activities where heavy equipment is being operated, and the migration of spilled oil through soil on lands adjacent to the rivers or along creek/stream banks.

Resources at Risk

This section provides a summary of natural, cultural, and economic resources at risk in Clark County in the vicinity of the Cowlitz and Lewis Rivers. It provides general information on habitat, fish, and wildlife resources, and locations in the area where sensitive natural resource concerns exist. It offers a summary of cultural resources that include fundamental procedures for the discovery of cultural artifacts and human skeletal remains. A list of cultural and economic resources in the area is in Sections 6.3 and 6.4. General information about flight restrictions, wildlife deterrence, and oiled wildlife is in Section 6.5.

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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 Section 4 (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 intended to provide 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.

Specific resource concerns related to areas that already have designated protection strategies (see Section 4) may be found in the “Resources Protected” column of the matrix describing individual strategies.

The information provided in this section may be useful in:

    • Assisting the Environmental Unit (EU) in identifying resources at risk during a spill response and in developing additional response strategies beyond those found in Section 4.
    • 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.

Natural Resources at Risk – Summary

This area contains a wide variety of aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats. These habitats support many of Washington’s salmonid species as well as a complex diversity of other wildlife. In addition to those species directly at risk to oil spills, others (due to their life histories and/or behaviors) are unlikely to become 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 of the area.

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Several of the species found in this area have been classified under the Federal Endangered Species Act or by the Washington State Fish and Wildlife commission.

Classification types are:

  • Federal Endangered (FE)
  • Federal Threatened (FT)
  • Federal Candidate (FC)
  • State Endangered (SE)
  • State Threatened (ST)
  • State Sensitive (SS)

Federal and State listed species that may occur within this area include:

  • common loon [SS]
  • marbled murrelet [FT/SE]
  • northern spotted owl [FT/SE]
  • sandhill crane [SE]
  • steaked horned lark [FT/SE]
  • yellow billed cuckoo [FT/SE]
  • Columbian white-tailed deer [FT/SE]
  • western gray squirrel [ST]
  • bull trout [FT]
  • chinook salmon (Lower Col. R.) [FT]
  • chum salmon (Col. R.) [FT]
  • coho salmon (Lower Col. R.) [FT]
  • eulachon [FT]
  • sockeye salmon (Snake R.) [FE]
  • steelhead (Lower Col. R.) [FT]
  • green sturgeon [FT]
  • Oregon spotted frog
  • western pond turtle [FE]
  • Bradshaw’s desert-parsley [FE]
  • golden paintbrush [FT]
  • Kincaid’s lupine [FT]
  • Nelson’s checker-mallow [FT]
  • water howellia [FT]

Critical habitats are the specific areas, occupied by an endangered or threatened species at the time it was listed, that contain the physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of that species – and that may need special management or protection. Critical habitat may also include areas that were not occupied by the species at the time of listing but are essential to its conservation.

The following species have federally designated critical habitats within this area:

  • bull trout
  • chum salmon (Col. R.)
  • coho salmon (lower Col. R.)
  • chinook salmon (lower Col. R.)
  • eulachon
  • steelhead (lower Col. R.)
  • General Resource Concerns
General Resource Concerns
  • Wetlands in the lower reaches of this region are freshwater although tidally influenced. These wetlands range from seasonal open marshes to forested swamps along rivers and streams. All wetland types support a diverse array of amphibian, bird, insect, fish, and wildlife species.
  • The rivers and streams throughout this region provide spawning and rearing habitat for various salmonid species. The associated riparian scrub and woodlands play a crucial role in supporting wildlife and a large diversity and abundance of passerine bird species as breeding, migrating, and overwintering habitat. Stream mouths are concentration areas for fish and are feeding areas for a variety of birds.
  • Side channels and impounded areas provide feeding and resting areas for waterfowl and herons and are important rearing areas for juvenile fish.
  • Islands provide important nesting habitat for a variety of bird species, as well as habitat for a variety of mammals. Typical resident fish are likely present in most streams.
  • Subsurface Habitats
    • Shallow subsurface habitats occur in this region, extending from the delta of the Cowlitz River to the Mayfield dam, the Lewis River from its mouth to the Merwin dam and all of the associated tributaries.
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    • 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 or warm water fishes; birds (dippers, harlequin ducks); semi-aquatic mammals (muskrat, beaver, etc.); shellfish (pearlshell mussels, crayfish); amphibians and reptiles (tailed frogs, torrent salamanders; insects caddis flies, stoneflies). Many other animals also utilize these areas for foraging.
    • Bedrock – Associated with fast water with little or no deposition of loose bed materials. Aquatic vegetation not present. Animals associated with these areas tend to be mostly cold-water fishes, birds (dippers, harlequin ducks), and amphibians (torrent salamanders).
Fish and Shellfish
  • Anadromous fish, including salmonids species are present throughout the basin, including bull trout [FT], coho [FT], chinook [FT], chum [FT], sockeye {FE], steelhead [FT], and coastal cutthroat. Pacific lamprey and eulachon [FT] are also present in the rivers. Sturgeon (white and green [FT]) may also be present in the lower Cowlitz.
  • Resident fish species include brown bullhead, carp, largemouth bass, large scale sucker, dace, mountain whitefish, northern pike minnow, pea mouth, rainbow trout, resident cutthroat, sculpin, and perch.
  • Fresh water mussels, including California floaters, are found throughout most of the region.
  • Wintering waterfowl concentrations, (primarily ducks, geese and swans) are present along the main stem of the Columbia and Cowlitz and adjoining lowlands. Field size, flood conditions, weather, and crop rotations of any given year help to determine the actual waterfowl distribution. Resident and migratory waterfowl heavily utilize the islands, backwaters, wetlands and adjacent uplands of the region from fall through spring. Shorebird concentrations also occur along the lower Cowlitz.
  • Sandhill cranes [SE] congregate in large numbers along the Columbia River, Vancouver Lake and lower portion of the Cowlitz River.
  • Northern spotted owls [FT/SE] and marbled murrelet [FT/ST] nesting areas known to be present in this area.
  • Great blue and green herons, along with raptors (including bald eagle, osprey and peregrine falcon) nest and forage year-round along waterways throughout the region.
  • Resident and migratory songbirds heavily utilize riparian habitats year-round and are susceptible to oiling if riparian vegetation and shorelines become contaminated.
  • Mammals common to the region include large managed species (including elk, deer and bear). Columbia white-tailed deer [FT/SE] are also present in this area along the Columbia River. Many semi-aquatic species such as beaver, muskrat, river otter, mink and raccoon also utilize habitats in this area. These small mammals are particularly vulnerable to contact with spilled oil because of their habitat preferences. Seals and sea lions are also present at the mouth of the Cowlitz.

Tributary descriptions within the GRP

Cowlitz River (Columbia River ~RM 68).

  • Coweeman River (Cowlitz River ~RM 1.4): From I-5 upstream to about Coweeman River RM 7 emergent and scrub shrub wetlands in the lower Coweeman River regularly provide large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, herons, and raptors. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Resident fish.
  • Toutle River (Cowlitz River ~RM 20): Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Resident fish.
  • Olequa and Lacamas Creeks (Cowlitz River ~RM 24.5 to RM 30) Pastures and emergent wetlands in the Cowlitz River floodplain and nearby ponds supports regular large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, geese, and osprey nesting. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Resident fish.

Vancouver Lake

  • Burnt Bridge Creek (Tributary of Vancouver Lake): Bald eagle nesting near the confluence with Vancouver Lake. Waterfowl concentration between I-5 and Vancouver Lake including sandhill cranes [SE]. tundra swans, geese and ducks in the lowlands immediately upstream from Vancouver Lake. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels and freshwater mussels.

Lake River (Columbia River ~RM 87).

  • Salmon Creek (Lake River ~RM 9): This stream reach includes Salmon Creek/Salmon Creek Greenway, & Salmon Creek County Park. Bald eagle nesting at ~ Salmon Creek RM 3. Waterfowl concentration between I-5 and confluence with Columbia River including sandhill crane [SE], tundra swan, geese and ducks. Mazama pocket gopher [FT/ST] usage near the City of Battle Ground. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels and freshwater mussels.
  • Whipple Creek (Lake River ~RM 7): Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting near Whipple Creek Park. Waterfowl concentration downstream from approximately where the stream crosses NW 179th Street to the confluence with Lake River. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  • Flume Creek (Lake River ~5.5): Waterfowl concentration including Sandhill crane [SE] and geese near the confluence with Lake Creek both upstream and downstream from the railroad crossing. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. This stream flows to the Ridgefield Wildlife Area.

Lewis River (Columbia River ~ RM 87):

  • Lewis River main stem and tributaries: Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels, resident fish and freshwater mussels.
  • East Fork Lewis River (Lewis River RM 3.5): Waterfowl concentration including tundra swan, duck, geese from city of La Center upstream to about the East Fork of the Lewis ~RM 7 where the power lines cross the river. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels and resident fish.
  • Staples Creek/Clover Valley area (Lewis River ~RM 12): Sloughs, wetlands and riparian areas support cavity nesting ducks at the confluence with Lewis River.

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern-Overview

Cowlitz River (Figure 1)

  1. Lewis and Clark State Park: Boone Creek, a salmonid spawning stream, runs through the park and is tributary to Lacamas Creek. This 621-acre park is in one of the last major stands of old-growth forests in the state. Coniferous trees, streams, wetlands, dense vegetation, and wet prairie comprise the park environment along with a vast stand of rare old-growth forest.
  2. Mouth of Blue Creek and vicinity (Cowlitz ~RM 42-47): Waterfowl concentration area. Cavity nesting wood ducks and mergansers in old river channels, beaver dams and flooded willow areas. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  3. Mouth of Olequa and Lacamas Creeks and vicinity (Cowlitz River ~RM 24.5 to RM 30): Pastures and emergent wetlands in the Cowlitz River floodplain and nearby ponds support regular large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, geese, and osprey nesting. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Resident fish.
  4. Toutle River (Cowlitz River ~RM 20/Toutle RM 3 to RM 4.5): Snag rich area used by bald eagles. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Resident fish.
  5. Arkansas, Delameter, and Whittle Creeks (Cowlitz River ~RM 17): Wetlands across from town of Castle Rock provide habitat for cavity nesting ducks. Emergent and scrub shrub wetlands and flood plains provide regular large concentrations of wintering waterfowl including Canada geese. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  6. Pleasant Hill (Cowlitz River ~RM 8.5): An unnamed stream and associated wetland complex between I-5 and Pleasant Hill Road near the town of Lexington. Wood ducks and other cavity nesting ducks regularly inhabit these areas.

Columbia River (Figure 2)

  1. Carrolls Channel and Owl Creek Mouth (Columbia River ~RM 69 to 71): Concentrations of waterfowl including swans, ducks, geese. Seabirds, harbor seals and California sea lions coincide with winter run of Pacific eulachon smelt [FT] in Carrolls Channel. Heron rookery, small-eared owls, and wetlands in the lower reach of Owl Creek near I-5. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  2. Mouth of Kalama River (Columbia River ~RM 73): Concentrations of waterfowl including swans, ducks, geese. Seabirds, harbor seals and California sea lions coincide with winter run of Pacific eulachon smelt [FT] near mouth of river. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels.
  3. Martin/Burke Islands and Vicinity (Columbia River ~RM 79-81): Riparian habitat. Juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Concentration area for breeding, migrating and wintering waterfowl. Sandhill crane [SE]. Area supports cavity nesting ducks.
  4. Horseshoe Lake (and vicinity) near Woodland (Lewis River ~RM 6): Cavity nesting duck concentration in the slough, wetlands, and riparian areas in this area.
  5. Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Columbia River ~ RM 87-92): Concentration area for migrating and wintering waterfowl, shorebirds and sandhill cranes [SE]. Resident nesting songbirds, waterfowl, raptors and herons. Riparian habitat. Salmonid spawning stream and juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Audubon Important Bird Area.
  6. Frenchman’s Bar/Shillapoo Wildlife Area/Vancouver Lake (~RM 96-99): Riparian habitat, pasture and agricultural land that supports wintering and migrating concentrations of waterfowl, shorebirds and sandhill cranes [SE]. and common loon [SS]. Juvenile salmonid rearing habitat in off-river channels. Shillapoo Vancouver Wildlife Area (~2,300 acres) includes one of the largest great blue heron rookeries on the lower Columbia River. Vancouver Lake State Park (~190 acre) has 2.5 miles of publicly accessible shoreline and is also used by wildlife and migratory waterfowl.

Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Maps

Figure 1: Cowlitz River.


Figure 2: Columbia River.

Cultural Resources at Risk – Summary

Numerous culturally sensitive areas exist along the shorelines of the region. A qualified archaeologist must approve any land-based spill response work that involves soil or sediment disturbance prior to initiation. Land-based spill response equipment, such as vacuum trucks, must stay on hardened surfaces until the area has been evaluated by an archaeologist.

Additional historic, cultural, or socio-economic resources, including other public parks and beaches will be identified via stakeholder input to the Liaison Officer.

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.  Appendix “6A” of this section provides a list of economic resources for this GRP area.

General Information

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

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.

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.

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).

Wilderness Areas: There are no federally designated wilderness areas present in this GRP 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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