Chehalis River GRP

  • Interim update: N/A
  • Last full updated: 2015
  • Public Comment:

Table of Contents


Site Description

This section provides a description of the area’s physical features, hydrology, climate and winds, and includes an overview of oil spill risks in the Chehalis River area. The planning area begins on the Chehalis River, upstream of Cosmopolis at River Mile (RM) 4. It follows the river southeast to the city of Chehalis (RM 70), and then west to Pe Ell (RM 110). The plan also covers the lower few miles of tributaries, including the South Fork Chehalis River, Newaukum River, Skookumchuck River, Black River, Satsop River and Wynoochee River, and many other creeks and streams. The lower 4 miles of the Chehalis River, from Cosmopolis to the river mouth, is included in the Grays Harbor GRP.

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Along the river, in order from the mouth to the headwaters, the Chehalis passes by the communities of Cosmopolis, Central Park, Montesano, Satsop, Fuller, Elma, Malone, Porter, Oakville, Rochester, Gate, Grand Mound, Littlerock, Maytown, Tenino, Fords Prairie, Centralia, Chehalis, Adna, Curtis, Dryad, Doty and Pe Ell. The planning area fully resides within the limits of Grays Harbor, Lewis, Thurston, and Pacific counties. Portions of Water Resource Inventory Area 14 (Kennedy-Goldsborough), WRIA-22 (Lower Chehalis), WRIA-23 (Upper Chehalis), WRIA-24 (Willapa), and WRIA-26 (Cowlitz) are included within the boundaries of the planning area.

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Physical Features

The upstream boundary of the GRP planning area is near the river’s source in the Doty Hills, northeast of Willapa Bay, and along the South Fork of the Chehalis in the Boistfort Prairie, west of Winlock. This area is a mix of forested hills and agricultural valleys, from 99% forest cover along Elk Creek near Doty, to 17% agriculture between Curtis and the Newaukum (Chehalis Basin Partnership). Throughout the watershed, “principal crops include hay and silage, with some vegetables and small grains. Land is also used for pasture” (Chehalis Basin Partnership). The area upstream of Pe Ell is covered by large swaths of forest, most of it owned by Weyerhaeuser and harvested for lumber.

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The major population center in the planning area is spread between the cities of Chehalis (population 7,345) and Centralia (pop. 16,670), along the Interstate 5 corridor (Office of Financial Management). This area includes the lower sections of the Newaukum and Skookumchuck Rivers and their many tributaries. Forest cover here drops to 69%, with approximately 25% of the land devoted to farming and the remaining 6% used by industry and cities (Chehalis Basin Partnership). Several miles outside of the planning area, the Skookumchuck Dam provides water to a steam power plant and some flood control for the city of Centralia.

North of Centralia, along I-5, is a valley of large creek complexes, including Beaver Creek and Scatter Creek. These creeks flow through protected prairies that are unique to this part of Washington and home to many endangered species, including butterflies, gophers, toads and birds. Salmon also use these areas for spawning and rearing.
The area around Grand Mound, where Highway 12 splits west from I-5, is a wide, flat valley filled with a mix of farming and small communities along the river. The Black River passes along the northwest edge of this valley and is fed by a mix of creeks, as well as Black Lake in Olympia. Bordering the Black and then Chehalis River to the northeast is the Capitol State Forest, a state-protected area with no development, used for hiking and camping. The Black River also has large wetland complexes near Rochester, with large buffers of dense riparian vegetation between agricultural fields and the river channel.

The Black River crosses under Highway 12 and empties into the Chehalis River downstream of Rochester, cutting through the middle of the Chehalis Indian Reservation. The valley downstream of Oakville becomes narrower, with the Chehalis River edging close to the steep slopes of the Capitol Forest to the east, while the western side of the floodplain is covered in farms. The river in this area has changed course over the years, with side channels, oxbows and other wetlands scattered along its banks.
In Elma, Highway 12 meets Highway 8, running east to west between Olympia and Aberdeen. The river also changes course here, from northwest to due west. Cloquallum Creek, fed by Wildcat Creek and other streams that crisscross under Highway 8 to drain the Black Hills and Olympic foothills, passes through Elma to meet the Chehalis in a series of wetlands and oxbows. From here to Cosmopolis, a buffer of farms and wetlands separates the main highway from the river.

A few miles west of Elma is the Satsop River, a major tributary that drains the Olympic mountains. Past the Satsop is the city of Montesano and the Wynoochee River, another large watershed flowing from the Olympics. From Montesano downstream the river has noticeable tidal influence.
Between river mile 10 near Montesano and the edge of the planning area in Cosmopolis lies the Chehalis River Surge Plain, a complex of sloughs, islands and wetlands that is prime salmon and waterfowl habitat. The majority of the land here is managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, although the northern riverbank includes homes, farms and railroad properties.

The planning area ends just upstream of Cosmopolis, where the Grays Harbor GRP begins. The Chehalis River empties into Grays Harbor at the city of Aberdeen, and from there to the Pacific Ocean.

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The majority of the watershed is rain-dependent, with only the Wynoochee and Satsop Rivers having some summer impact from delayed snowmelt in the Olympic mountains. As with the rest of Western Washington, summer is considered the ‘dry season’ with precipitation dropping close to zero and flows averaging less than 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Montesano from June through October. The rainy season usually begins in November, increasing average flow to 8,000 cfs, and increasing to 13,000 cfs from December through February. Spring flows steadily drop through May (Chehalis Basin Partnership).

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Rainfall is lowest in the prairies near Centralia, with a minimum of 40 inches annually, and highest in the Olympic Mountains, at up to 220 inches annually. Streams draining the central prairies vary considerably in width and flow depending on rainfall, sometimes running dry, other times flooding their banks into the fields beyond.

Since there are no dams on the Chehalis River, and very few of its tributaries, some flooding is common and very large floods have occurred historically. The most recent was December 2007, which washed away a number of bridges in the upper portion of the watershed and flooded cities along the river. Some of the bridges have not been rebuilt, and there have been proposals of building a dam near the headwaters to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding. However there is significant resistance to a dam, due to expected negative impacts on salmon and wildlife habitat.

The majority of the planning area is split between Water Resource Inventory Area 22 (WRIA-22), Lower Chehalis, and WRIA 23, Upper Chehalis. Most of the precipitation arrives during the winter months when water demands are the lowest. During the summer, there is little rain so low stream flows are dependent on groundwater inflow. This means that groundwater and surface water are least available when water demands are the highest. The amount of permitted water rights in the summer often exceeds the flow of the river; though the river never runs dry, the levels can drop significantly, creating poor conditions for salmon.

WRIA 14 (Kennedy-Goldsborough): This watershed consists of the Kennedy, Skookum, Mill/Gosnell, Goldsborough, Johns creeks and other creeks and streams. Annual precipitation in the Kennedy-Goldsborough Watershed ranges from 40 to 80 inches per year with highest water demand and lowest water availability in the summer months (WA Dept. of Ecology).

WRIA 22 and WRIA 23 (Lower Chehalis and Upper Chehalis): These watersheds include the Chehalis, Newaukum, Skookumchuck, Satsop, Wynoochee, and Wishkah rivers, and numerous tributary creeks and streams. Annual precipitation in the Lower and Upper Chehalis Watersheds ranges from 40 inches in the lowland valleys to over 100 inches in the Cascade and Willapa foothills (WA Dept. of Ecology).

WRIA 24 (Willapa): The Willapa Watershed is located on Washington’s south coast and includes the Johns, Elk, North, Nemah, Naselle, and Bear River drainages. Annual precipitation in the Willapa Watershed ranges from 60 inches per year along the coastal lowlands to 140 inches per year in the Willapa Hills. The highest water demand and lowest water availability occurs in the summer months (WA Dept. of Ecology).

WRIA 26 (Cowlitz): The Cowlitz Watershed includes the Cowlitz River and numerous tributary creeks and streams, several of which originate in the Cascade Mountains and Willapa Hills. The annual precipitation in the Cowlitz Watershed ranges from 40 inches in the lower Cowlitz Valley to over 120 inches in the Cascade Mountains. The highest water demand and lowest water availability occurs in the summer months (WA Dept. of Ecology).

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Climate and Winds

The Chehalis area, as with most of western Washington, enjoys mild weather:

“During January average temperatures range from 38° to 40° F; in July temperatures range from 59° to 64° F. As a result of these temperatures, except for mountainous locations, the frost-free season varies from 163 to more than 190 days and snow rarely accumulates over any prolonged period of time” (Chehalis Basin Partnership).

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Prevailing winds near the coast are from the west in April through September, and east in October through March (Western Regional Climate Center). Average wind speed at the Hoquiam Airport is 9.3 mph. The lightest winds are usually in September, with the lowest monthly average of 7.5 mph. Winds are typically strongest in January and December, at 11 mph (Western Regional Climate Center).

Winds in the rest of the basin are much calmer than the areas near the coast. The Chehalis-Centralia airport, located in the north-south valley between the Cascade and Olympic ranges, records winds usually from the south and averaging between 3 and 6 mph. In summer, the wind often blows from the north (Weather Spark).

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Tides and Currents

The lower fifteen miles of the Chehalis are tidally influenced, but during extreme (“king”) tides there is anecdotal evidence of tidal variation as far as Porter, 30 miles upstream of the mouth. On incoming tides with eastern winds, the surface water can reverse course and head upstream, particularly when the river is low in the summer. Tidal variations at Montesano range from lows of -2.4 feet in June and July to highs of 10.6 in January (NOAA).

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The overall river current is controlled by the natural slope of the river from the foothills and input from tributaries, especially during heavy instances of precipitation. The area between the Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers, known as “the Chehalis Reach”, has a nearly flat slope and water movement is significantly slower than in the rest of the watershed. On the main Chehalis river, flows in the upper watershed near Doty range from lows of under 100 cfs between July and September to highs of 1300 cfs in December and January. The Newaukum has similar patterns and capacity, while the Skookumchuck varies between 120 cfs in the dry season to 800 cfs in the winter. By the time the Chehalis River reaches Grand Mound, the flow is five or six times higher than it was in Doty. In Porter, with the additional waters of the Black River added, flows vary from 419 in August up to 9,500 cfs in January. The Satsop carries volumes between 330 and 4300 cfs, and the Wynoochee contributes an additional 240 to 2700 cfs. By the time the Chehalis reaches Aberdeen it has a volume of at least 1000 cfs in August up to 16,300 cfs in January (USGS). The seasonal variation of the river is intense and will have a significant impact on spill response.

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Risk Assessment

The Chehalis River 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, facilities and oil pipelines, aircraft, and recreational boating,. This section briefly discusses these risks and how they could impact the Chehalis River GRP planning area.

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Road Transportation: Vehicle traffic on roadways pose an oil spill risk throughout the area. 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 the various roads and highways that border the river and its tributary creeks 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 pavement into streams, creeks, wasteways, or stormwater systems, ultimately impacting the Chehalis or other tributaries in the area.
Highway bridges, such as those on Interstate 5 in Centralia/Chehalis and Highway 12 from Aberdeen to Centralia, pose the greatest risk of road spills due to the quantity 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 and Facilities: The Port of Chehalis owns tracks that run from city of Chehalis, near the Newaukum Confluence, west along the river, crossing just past the South Fork and then slightly south into Curtis. Although historically this line ran to South Bend near Willapa Bay, and was the most productive lumber rail spur in the country, the decline of the logging industry has vastly reduced rail traffic in the area (Chehalis Basin Partnership). Much of the old rail grade is now the Willapa Hills Trail, maintained by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. The active rails between Curtis and Chehalis has been most popular as the route for a recreational passenger steam train, but the Western Washington Railroad recently began using the tracks to load freight in the Boistfort Valley and transfer it to major rail yards in Chehalis. These freight locomotives pose the greatest spill risk in this area, as they typically hold several thousand gallons of diesel fuel.

BNSF owns tracks that enter the planning area from the south in Napavine, following the Newaukum River to Chehalis. The tracks pass through Centralia, then veer east, following the Skookumchuck River up to Bucoda, north through Tenino and out of the planning area. 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 travel 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 Oil Sands oils can also cross the Canadian border in Blaine and travel south to Tacoma or beyond. Each loaded tanker car typically contains 30,000 gallons of crude oil. Unit trains typically carry 100 or more of these tanker cars of crude. Therefore, each full unit train poses a spill risk of 3 million gallons of crude oil, plus up to 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel in the locomotives. Tanker cars carrying crude oil are also transported in smaller numbers, mixed among boxcars and tankers of other products. In September 2014 BNSF reported 11-16 trains carrying one million gallons or more of Bakken crude traversing Thurston and Lewis counties each week (WA Military Department). Union Pacific and other railroads often have track-sharing rights and also run their trains along this length of track. In June 2014 Union Pacific reported that they do not run unit trains of crude in Washington State (WA Military Department).

Tacoma Mountain Railway (a division of Tacoma Rail) operates a line between Chehalis and Olympia that closely parallels Interstate 5. In June 2014 Tacoma Rail reported that it did not move unit trains of crude within the Chehalis planning area (WA Military Department).

Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad (PSAP), purchased by Genesee and Wyoming in 2012, operates a line between Centralia and Hoquiam that closely parallels Highway 12. Currently this line moves biodiesel to and from Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel facility in Hoquiam, along with other freight goods and chemicals. At the time of this writing, there are three proposed projects in the Grays Harbor area for crude oil terminals that, if approved, could result in daily unit trains of crude oil running between Centralia and Hoquiam.

PSAP also operates a spur that splits off from the main Chehalis-Hoquiam line at Elma and follows Highways 8 and 108 northeast to Shelton, and then on to the Kitsap Naval Base in Bremerton and Bangor. There are no plans for this spur to haul bulk oil, so diesel from locomotives and small quantities of tanker cars in mixed load trains create the largest risk in this area.

Oil Pipelines: The Olympic Pipeline does not directly cross the Chehalis River. It does cross several tributaries, specifically the Newaukum River, Berwick Creek, Dillenbaugh Creek, Salzer Creek, Hanaford Creek and the Skookumchuck River, in addition to smaller creeks and streams. This pipeline transports refined petroleum products, mainly diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel. If the pipeline were to leak or rupture, impact to sensitive resources in the area could be significant due to the volume of product.

Aircraft: The Chehalis-Centralia Airport handles 48,000 annual operations and is bordered by the Chehalis River on two sides, with a gap of less than a half-mile between the runway and the water (WA Dept. of Transportation). Elma Municipal Airport handles 12,000 annual operations and is also within a half-mile of the river, and less than 1,000 feet from a tributary (WA Dept. of Transportation). There is always a potential for aircraft failures during inbound and outbound flights that could result in fuel releases to water.

Recreational Boating: Accidents involving recreational watercraft on the Chehalis could result in spills between a few gallons to several dozen gallons of fuel oil. Accidents could include a vessel grounding, fire, sinking, or explosion. Bilge discharges and refueling operations could also occur (and are most common) and also have the potential to impact sensitive resources on the river. The majority of commercial boat traffic ends downstream of the planning area, but commercial barges can travel upstream to at least RM 15, past Montesano. The Chehalis is considered a navigable waterway up to mile 68 in Centralia (USCG). Recreational vessels upstream of the Newaukum River confluence tend to be hand-launched rafts, canoes, or kayaks.

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

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Resources at Risk

This section provides a summary of natural, cultural, and economic resources at risk in the Chehalis River area. 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. General information about flight restrictions, hazing, and oiled wildlife can be found near the end of this section. A list of economic resources in the area is provided in the section’s appendix.

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This section is purposely broad in scope and should not be considered comprehensive. Some of the sensitive resources provided in this chapter are listed because they could not be addressed in Section 4 (Response Strategies and Priorities). Additional information from private organizations or federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies should also be sought during spills and considered.

The information provided in this chapter can be used in:

  • Assisting the Environmental Unit (EU) and Operations 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.

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Natural Resources at Risk – Summary

Most biological communities are susceptible to the effects of oil spills. Plant communities on land, eelgrass and marsh grasses in estuaries, and kelp beds in the ocean; microscopic plants and animals; and larger animals, such as fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds, mammals, and a wide variety of invertebrates, are all potentially at risk from smothering, acute toxicity, and/or the chronic long-term effects that may result from being exposed to spilled oil.

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The Chehalis River subbasin affords a wide variety of aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats. These varied habitats support a complex diversity of wildlife species, including large and small mammals; songbirds, birds of prey, upland birds, and waterfowl; reptiles; and amphibians. Some species are resident throughout the year; others are migratory either within the subbasin or, in many cases, seasonally migrate outside the subbasin. Many wildlife species found in the sub basin are classified as threatened, endangered, sensitive, or of special concern under the federal Endangered Species Act or Washington State guidelines.

Classification types are listed below, with the abbreviation of each type provided in the brackets (to the right of the classification):

  • Federal Endangered (FE)
  • Federal Threatened (FT)
  • Federal Candidate (FC)
  • Federal Species of Concern (FCo)
  • State Endangered (SE)
  • State Threatened (ST)
  • State Candidate (SC)
  • State Monitored (SM)
  • State Sensitive (SS)

Sensitive species that may occur within this area, at some time of year, include the following federal and state listed species:


  • Bald eagle [FCo/SS]
  • Black swift [FCo]
  • Caspian tern [FCo]
  • Fox Sparrow [FCo]
  • Golden eagle [SC]
  • Long-billed curlew [FCo/]
  • Marbled godwit [FCo]
  • Marbled murrelet [FT/ST]
  • Northern spotted owl [FT/SE]
  • Olive-sided flycatcher [FCo]
  • Oregon vesper sparrow [FCo]
  • Peregrine falcon [FCo/SS]
  • Purple finch [FCo]
  • Purple martin [SC]
  • Rufous hummingbird [FCo]
  • Short-billed dowitcher [FCo]
  • Short-eared owl [FCo]
  • Steaked horned lark [FT/SE]
  • Vaux’s swift [SC]
  • Western grebe [SC]
  • Willow flycatcher [FCo]
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo [FT/SC]


  • Mazama pocket gopher (including Olympic, Tenino and Yelm subspecies) [FT/ST]
  • Townsend’s big-eared bat [SC]
  • Western gray squirrel [ST]


  • Bull trout [FT/SC]
  • Olympic mudminnow [SS]


  • Dunn’s salamander [SC]
  • Oregon spotted frog [FT/SE]
  • Western toad [SC]


  • Mardon skipper [FCo/SE]
  • Taylor’s checkerspot [FE/SE]
  • Valley silverspot [SC]


  • Golden paintbrush [FT]
  • Kincaid’s lupine [FT]
  • Nelson’s checker-mallow [FT]
  • Water howellia [FT]

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General Resource Concerns


  • Riparian areas serve as transitional zones between the uplands and the rivers and consequently are heavily used by a variety of wildlife. They also contribute to fish habitat by providing shade, cover, and food.
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  • 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.
  • Stream mouths are concentration areas for fish and are important feeding areas for a variety of birds.
  • Wetlands in the lower reaches of this region are tidally influenced. Freshwater 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.

Fish and Shellfish:

  • Salmonids species are present throughout the basin, including Bull trout [FT/SC], Coho, spring/summer/fall Chinook, fall chum, Rainbow, Summer/winter steelhead, Coastal/resident cutthroat trout.
  • Various resident fish present in rivers, lakes, and streams, including Bridge lip sucker, Crappie, Largemouth bass, Northern pike minnow, Olympic mud minnow [SS], Pacific/western brook lamprey, Perch, Redside shiner, Sculpin, Speckled dace, and Starry flounder (in tidally influenced waters.
  • Fresh water mussels (Western floaters, Western pearlshell, and Western ridgemussel) are found throughout most of the region.


  • Wintering waterfowl concentrations, (primarily ducks, geese and swans) are present along the main stem of the Chehalis. Field size, flood conditions, weather, and crop rotations of any given year help to determine the actual waterfowl distribution.
  • Great blue and Green herons, along with Bald eagles [FCo/SS] and Ospreys, nest and forage year-round along waterways throughout the region.
  • Marbled Murrelet [FT/ST] nesting areas known to be present in vicinity of river and associated uplands.
  • Mammals common to the region include beaver, muskrat, river otter, mink and raccoon. All of these small mammals are vulnerable to contact with spilled oil because of their habitat preferences. Western gray squirrel [ST] and Mazama pocket gopher [ST/ST] presence documented at locations throughout drainage. Larger mammals (deer, elk, etc.) are also present throughout this area.

Chehalis River Tributaries:

  • Wynoochee River (~ Chehalis RM 13). Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting ~ Wynoochee RM 10. Harlequin duck breeding area upstream from about RM 5. Waterfowl concentration between RM 0 and RM 1. Salmonid presence includes Coho, fall Chinook, fall chum, summer/ winter steelhead, coastal/resident cutthroat. Olympic mudminnow [SS] and typical resident fish present.
  • Satsop River (~ Chehalis RM 20). Waterfowl concentrations from mouth to ~ Satsop RM 6. Western toad [SC] documented in same reach. Salmonid presence includes Coho, fall chum, summer/fall Chinook, winter steelhead, coastal cutthroat. Olympic mudminnow [SS] and typical resident fish present.
  • Black River (~ Chehalis RM 47). Waterfowl concentrations and Bald eagle [FCo/SS] and Osprey nesting near mouth of the river. Harlequin breeding habitat throughout this drainage. Townsend’s big-eared bat [SC] observed throughout this area. Western gray squirrel [ST] detected throughout the reach. Salmonid presence includes Coho, fall Chinook, winter steelhead, fall chum, coastal/resident cutthroat trout. Olympic mudminnow [SS] documented in small tributaries. Typical resident fish presence. Tribal lands south of river in lower reaches. Black River Management Area located ~ Black River RM 11.
  • Scatter Creek (~ Chehalis RM 55). Wood duck breeding throughout the reach. Oregon vesper sparrow [FCo/SC] occurrence west and south of the City of Tenino. Extensive Mazama pocket gopher [FT/ST] usage throughout this area. Salmonid presence includes Coho, fall Chinook, coastal/resident cutthroat trout. Typical resident fish present. Scatter Creek Wildlife Area located ~RM 5-7. There is extensive presence of Mardon skipper [FCo/SE], Valley silverspot [SC], and Taylor’s checkerspot [FE/SE] butterflies near the City of Tenino.
  • Lincoln Creek (~ Chehalis RM 62). Elk winter range. Western gray squirrel [ST] documented in vicinity of ~ Lincoln Creek RM 3.5. Salmonid presence includes Coho, winter steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout.
  • Skookumchuck River (~ Chehalis RM 67). Waterfowl concentration at mouth of river. Additional waterfowl concentration (associated with agricultural lands) and extensive Harlequin duck breeding area above ~RM 4.5. Purple martin [SC] and Vaux’s swift [SC] near the mouth of the river. Salmonid presence includes Coho, spring/fall Chinook, winter steelhead, coastal/resident cutthroat trout. Olympic mudminnow [SS] documented in small tributaries. Typical resident fish present. WDFW game farm with extensive riparian habitat located near river mouth.
  • Hanaford Creek (~ Skookumchuck RM 4). Includes portions of North Hanaford Creek and South Hanaford Creek. Elk winter range. Salmonid presence includes Coho, winter steelhead, coastal/resident cutthroat trout. Olympic mudminnow [SS] presence is documented. Typical resident fish present.
  • Newaukum River (~ Chehalis RM 75). Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting ~ RM 6. Waterfowl concentrations near the mouth of river. Salmonid presence includes Coho, spring/fall Chinook, winter steelhead, coastal/resident cutthroat. Olympic mudminnow [SS] documented and is likely to occur in small tributaries and oxbow lakes.
  • South Fork Chehalis River (~ Chehalis RM 88). Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting near RM 5. Extensive elk winter range. Olympic mudminnow [SS] presence documented. Salmonid presence includes Coho, spring/fall Chinook, winter steelhead, coastal/resident cutthroat trout

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Overview

Northern part of GRP (See Figure 1)

  1. Ferbrache Unit, Chehalis Wildlife Area at mouth of Wynoochee River (~ Chehalis RM 13): Waterfowl concentration area. Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting. Salmonid spawning and rearing habitat. Resident fish include Olympic mudminnow [SS].
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  1. Ferbrache Unit, Chehalis Wildlife Area (~ Chehalis RM 18): Unit is 114 acres, located five miles southeast of Montesano. Maintained for wintering waterfowl forage, fishing access and a pheasant release site for fall hunting. Raptors, shorebirds, herons, and upland game birds also present. Deer, elk, and small mammal presence.
  2. Satsop Unit, Chehalis Wildlife Area, (~ Chehalis RM 20): The unit is 1,432 acres near the confluence of the Satsop River and the Chehalis River. This unit is maintained as floodplain habitat. General waterfowl concentration area. Salmonid spawning and rearing habitat. Resident fish include Olympic mudminnow [SS]. Western toad [SC] presence. Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting. Other raptors, shorebirds, herons, and upland game birds also present. Deer, elk, and small mammal presence.
  3. Chehalis Wildlife Area, (~ Chehalis RM 22): This area is 531 acres located southwest of Elma. General waterfowl concentration area. The unit is maintained for waterfowl habitat and associated recreation. Wood duck nesting/brooding and significant shorebird usage (vicinity of Wenzel Slough/Vance Creek Park). Primarily open wetland, riparian shrub habitat, or meadow/field habitat. Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting. Other wildlife species known to exist in the area include the Olympic mudminnow [SS], mink, shorebirds, wood duck, waterfowl, trumpeter swan, and osprey.

Southern part of GRP (See Figure 2)

  1. Hoxit Unit, Chehalis Wildlife Area, (~ Chehalis RM 34-37): This 80-acre unit is located 1.5 miles south of Porter and is maintained for winter waterfowl habitat. Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting. Other raptors, shorebirds, herons, and upland game birds also present. Deer, elk, and small mammal presence.
  2. Davis Creek, Scatter Creek Wildlife Area (~ Chehalis RM 41-43): Approximately 500 acres located just outside of the town of Oakville near State Hwy 12. Most of the land is characterized as open wetland, riparian shrub habitat, meadow/field habitat, and oak woodland. Waterfowl concentration area. Trumpeter swans, and a variety of salmon species are present. Other species known to exist in the area include Olympic mud minnows [SS], mink, shorebirds, elk, deer, fox, coyote, bobcat, and grouse.
  3. Mouth of Black River (~ Chehalis RM 47): Waterfowl concentrations, Bald eagle [FCo/SS] and Osprey nesting near mouth of the river. Harlequin breeding habitat throughout this drainage. Townsend’s big-eared bat [SC] observed throughout this area. Western gray squirrel [ST] detection throughout the reach. Salmonid spawning and rearing habitat. Olympic mudminnow [SS] documented in small tributaries. Tribal lands.
  4. Mouth of Scatter Creek (~ Chehalis RM 55): Waterfowl concentration and wood duck nesting area. Extensive Mazama pocket gopher [FT/ST] usage throughout this area. Salmonid spawning and rearing habitat.
  5. Chehalis wetland complex, mouth of Skookumchuck River (~ Chehalis RM 67): Scrub shrub and emergent wetlands support large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, cavity nesting ducks, and Canada goose nesting. Extensive Harlequin duck breeding area. Salmonid spawning and rearing habitat. Resident fish include Olympic mudminnow [SS]. WDFW game farm.
  6. Chehalis wetlands complex, mouth of the Newaukum River (~ Chehalis RM 75): Waterfowl concentrations. Scrub shrub and emergent wetlands support large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, cavity nesting ducks, and Canada goose nesting. Bald eagle [FCo/SS] nesting area. Salmonid spawning and rearing habitat. Resident fish include Olympic mudminnow [SS].

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Maps and Descriptions

Figure 1: Northern part of Geographic Response Plan.

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Figure 2: Southern part of Geographic Response Plan.

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Cultural Resources at Risk – Summary

Culturally sensitive sites are present within the Chehalis River area. Due to the sensitive nature of this information, details regarding the location and type of cultural resources present are not included in this document. However, in order to ensure that tactical response strategies do not inadvertently harm historical and culturally sensitive sites, Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (WDAHP) should be consulted before disturbing any soil or sediment during a response action. WDAHP may assign a person to monitor cleanup operations, or provide a list of professional archeologists that can be contracted to monitor response activities.

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Information on the location of culturally sensitive sites is maintained by WDAHP and made available to Washington Department of Ecology for oil spill preparedness and response planning. The Chehalis Confederated Tribes, Quinault Nation, and Squaxin Island Tribes may also be able to provide information on cultural resources at risk in this GRP area and should be consulted. After the Unified Command is established, information related to specific archeological concerns will be coordinated through the Environmental Unit.

Table 6-1: CHER-GRP Cultural Resource Contacts

Contact Phone Email
WDAHP (360) 586-3065
Chehalis Confederated Tribes (360) 273-5911 Ext. 1304
Quinault Nation (360) 276-8211 Ext. 245
Squaxin Island Tribe (360) 4323850

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. Refer to Section 9403 of the Northwest Area Contingency Plan for National Historic Preservation Act Compliance Guidelines during an emergency response.

Procedures for the Discovery of Cultural Resources

All work must be stopped immediately and the Incident Commander and Cultural Resource Specialist notified if any person monitoring work activities or involved in spill response believes that they have encountered cultural resources. 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 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 and traps
  • Culturally modified trees
  • Physical locations or features (traditional cultural properties)

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

If WDAHP believes that the discovery is a cultural resource, the Incident Commander will take appropriate steps to protect the discovery site:

  • The immediate area of the discovery site should be flagged. Vehicles or equipment must not be permitted to enter the discovery site. Work in the immediate area can not resume until treatment of the discovery has been completed.
  • The Incident Commander (or representative) must contact WDAHP and arrange for the discovery to be evaluated by a professional archaeologist. The archaeologist will determine whether the discovery is potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. (36 CFR 60.4)
  • The professional archaeologist will consult with WDAHP on the eligibility of the discovery for entry into the National Register. If WDAHP determines that the discovery is eligible, they will consult with the Incident Commander to determine an appropriate treatment for the discovery.
  • If adverse impacts to an eligible site cannot be avoided, a treatment plan will be developed and implemented.

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

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General Information

Flight restriction zones: Flight restriction zones may be recommended by the Environmental Unit (Planning Section) for the purpose of minimizing disturbance that could result in injury to wildlife during an oil spill. By keeping a safe distance or altitude from identified sensitive areas, pilots can minimize the risk of aircraft/ bird collisions, prevent the accidental hazing of wildlife into oiled areas, and avoid causing abandonment of nests. Implementation of Flight Restriction Zones will take place within the Air Operations Branch (Operations Section) after a Unified Command is formed. The Planning Section’s Environmental Unit will work with the Air Ops Branch Director to resolve any potential conflicts with flight activities that are essential to the spill response effort. Typically, the area within a 1,500 ft radius and below 1,000 ft in altitude is restricted to flying in areas that have been identified as sensitive. However, some areas have more restrictive zones. In addition to restrictions associated with wildlife, Tribal authorities may also request notification when overflights are likely to affect culturally sensitive areas within reservations. See Section 9301.3.2 and Section 9301.3.3 of the Northwest Area Contingency Plan for more information on the use of aircraft and helicopters in open water and shoreline responses.

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Hazing: The use of boats and watercraft are usually restricted within 200 yards of offshore National Wildlife Refuge sites or other sensitive areas. Response organizations should immediately request a waiver from National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS] and/or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the inadvertent approach or hazing of marine mammals that may be encountered during open water response operations. After a Unified Command is formed, the Wildlife Branch (Operations Section) in consultation with the appropriate trustee agencies and the Environmental Unit will evaluate and recommend hazing options for the purpose of keeping un-oiled birds and marine mammals away from oil during a spill. Hazing options might include the use of acoustic or visual deterrent devices, boats, aircraft or other situation-appropriate tools.

For more information see the Northwest Wildlife Response Plan (NWACP Section 9310) and Northwest Area Wildlife Deterrence Resources (NWACP Section 9311).

Oiled Wildlife: Attempting to capture oiled wildlife can be hazardous to both the animal and the person attempting the capture the animal. Response personnel should not approach or attempt to recover oiled wildlife. Responders should report their observations of oiled wildlife to the Wildlife Branch so appropriate action can be taken. Information provided should include the location, date, and time of the sighting, and the estimated number and kind of animals observed. Early on in the response, before a Unified Command is established, oiled wildlife sightings should be reported to Washington Emergency Management Division. For more information see the Northwest Wildlife Response Plan (NWACP Section 9310).

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