Lower Skagit GRP

  • Open for full review: 2022
  • Last full update: 2017
  • Public Comment: GRPs@ecy.wa.gov 

Table of Contents

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Site Description

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This chapter provides an overview of the area’s physical features, hydrology, climate and winds, and tides and currents in the Lower Skagit River GRP planning area, and an oil spill risk assessment in Section 2.6.  The southernmost portion of the planning area begins in Snohomish County, along Big Fisher Creek and the I-5 corridor.  It continues at an angle parallel to the coast, crossing the forks and sloughs of the Skagit River delta about a mile from open water and mudflats.  Headed northeast upstream from the coast, the various sloughs and forks merge to become the main stem of the Skagit River near the historical site of Skagit City at River Mile (RM) 7.  From there the main stem heads generally north, winding through the city of Mt. Vernon for five or so miles and forming the southern border of the City of Burlington (RM 16).  The river continues to the northeast along the southern edge of Sedro-Woolley and out of the planning area at RM 25.  Some of the tributaries in this area include Gages Slough, which travels through Burlington, Big Fisher Creek draining out of Snohomish County, and sloughs in the Skagit Delta including Fisher Slough, Freshwater Slough, Tom Moore Slough and Dry Slough.  The planning area covers about 150 square miles and fully resides within Water Resource Inventory Area Lower Skagit/Samish (WRIA 3).  The communities of Avon, Burlington, Conway, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley are located within the boundaries of this planning area, as well as portions of Skagit and Snohomish Counties.

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Physical Features

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The LSKAR-GRP focuses only on the furthest downstream portion of the river, from river mile 25 near Sedro-Woolley to the delta one to two miles upstream from Skagit Bay.  The Skagit River stretches much further than the area addressed in this plan, stretching an additional 100 miles northwest into Canada.  The full basin covers over 3,000 square miles of the North Cascades and includes the Baker River, Sauk River, Suiattle River, and many other tributaries. The 22-mile long Ross Lake was created by building a hydroelectric dam on the Skagit River in the 1940s, located 20 miles south of Canada.  Diablo Lake and Gorge Lake likewise were created by two lower hydroelectric dams, completed in 1924 and 1961, respectively.  Combined, the three dams on the Skagit provide a quarter of the power used by Seattle.

In the planning area, the furthest upstream area of the Skagit is emerging from relatively undeveloped areas south of Highway 20 and the beginning of agricultural fields.  In this area, the river winds widely through side channels and oxbows, and abandoned switchbacks have created densely forested islands scattered on either side of the main stem.  Skiyou Island, where Skiyou Slough meets an abandoned oxbow, is one of these islands just east of the border of Sedro-Woolley.  For a few miles, the river is more centered in the main channel as it crosses under Highway 9, passing a Skagit County Public Utility District drinking water intake that supplements the Judy Reservoir.  West of the Highway 9 bridge is Hart Island, another large stranded oxbow that slowly drains Brickyard Creek to the river.  Brickyard Creek follows Highway 20 through Sedro-Woolley, draining the hills northeast of the city.

Just west of Hart Island is the start of Gages Slough, which drains west along Highway 20 through the City of Burlington.  It drops southwest under the rail tracks and Interstate 5 to a pump station used for flood control, before emptying into the Skagit west of Burlington’s city limits.

The Skagit River creates the boundary between the City of Burlington and Mount Vernon.  Mount Vernon, the county seat and largest population center in Skagit County, borders two different stretches of riverbank.  After the river passes Burlington, it bends in a C-shape to the west and then back to the southeast, returning to the north-south division of Interstate 5.  Here, Mount Vernon jumps the river and includes Edgewater Park on river right (west bank).  The Memorial Highway 536 Bridge links the two parts of town.

From Mount Vernon the river curves west again, then drops southward for about two miles before it splits and the delta begins.  The North Fork Skagit River heads west through rich agricultural land.  Meanwhile, the South Fork Skagit River heads due south along the BNSF railroad tracks and parallels Interstate 5.  Between the two forks is the triangular Fir Island, consisting almost entirely of farmland.

The southeast corner of the delta has another division at the unincorporated community of Conway, where the Fir Island Road Bridge creates the western connection between the island and the mainland.  Just south of this bridge is the beginning of Freshwater Slough, which splits towards the southwest and creates a smaller sub-triangle of lands within Fir Island.  Most of this area is undeveloped land, sloughs, and islands, owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of the Skagit Wildlife Area.  There are no farms or other developments here, so the area between Freshwater Slough and Tom Moore Slough makes up the majority of undisturbed, non-leveed estuary remaining in the Skagit delta.  Seventy percent of the original delta has been turned into farmland by flood control dikes.

The economy of the area was once strongly tied to agriculture, although the economy has diversified in the past few decades.  Farms are still a major part of Skagit’s identity.  Skagit County is America’s largest producer of bulbs for irises, daffodils, and tulips.  The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival draws 300,000 visitors every April to the flower fields lying between the Skagit and Samish rivers.  The county also produces a quarter of the world’s supply of beet and cabbage seeds, and three-quarters of the seeds for spinach grown in the United States.  There is a significant amount of acreage devoted to dairy production, as well as potatoes, berries, and vineyards.

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Hydrology

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The Skagit River drains the North Cascade range and experiences high volumes of precipitation in the fall and winter, but the peak flows are in late spring and early summer from glaciers and mountain snowmelt.  To a limited extent, controlled discharges for energy generation from the three dams on the Skagit River even out river flows and reduce the chance of flooding in lower lying areas.  Because of the agricultural nature of the lower Skagit watershed, water levels in the valleys downstream of Sedro-Woolley are used for irrigation in the summer.  There is one USGS station in the planning area tracking velocity and river height, located in Mount Vernon at river mile 15.7 between the I-5 Bridge and the BNSF rail bridge.  This gage shows that highest flows are from May to July, with average flow from 20,100 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 24,300 cfs in June, and a monthly low of 9,390 cfs in September.

The streams in the lower valley are precipitation-fed, with low flows from July through October.  Big Fisher Creek, which drains from the east into Fisher Slough and then Tom Moore Slough off the South Fork Skagit River, briefly had a velocity gage near I-5 from 2006-2008.  It tracked monthly average flows from 15 cfs in January to 0.6 cfs in September.

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

Lower Skagit/Samish (WRIA 3): The Lower Skagit Watershed is situated in the northern part of Puget Sound east of the San Juan Islands.  It comprises the western part of Skagit County and small portions of Snohomish and Whatcom Counties.  Fidalgo, Guemes, Cypress and other smaller offshore islands are also included in the WRIA 3 watershed.  In addition to the Skagit River and its delta, the watershed includes Lake Samish and the Samish River watersheds.  Water from the Skagit River basin supports a robust agricultural economy, hydroelectric generation and growing cities and towns.  The Skagit River is the only large river system in Washington that contains healthy populations of all five native salmon species.

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Climate and Winds

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The temperatures in the lower Skagit area remain mild year-round, with winter lows above freezing, and highs in the low-to-mid 70s from June to September.  Mount Vernon averages under 4 inches of snowfall in the winter months, but no accumulation.  Total precipitation averages 32 inches annually. Upstream of the planning area, precipitation increases and temperature drops.  The town of Concrete averages 67 inches of precipitation and 25 inches of snowfall.  Closer to the source of the Skagit, Diablo Dam records 75 inches of precipitation and 60 inches of snow.

Wind speed at Burlington-Mount Vernon Airport averages 5.7 mph.  Winds in Sedro-Woolley tend easterly, switching towards the southeast in the summer and northeast in winter. Skagit County has experienced several major windstorms, typically between November and February, with wind gusts reaching 90 mph.  In December 1996 and January of 1997, one of these windstorms was accompanied by heavy snowfall of three to five feet, collapsing roofs of homes, warehouses, and marinas.  Another combined wind and snowstorm in December 2007 caused landslides in eastern Skagit County.

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Tides and Currents

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The flow speed on the main fork of the Skagit at the Mount Vernon gage (river mile 15.7) is 2.25 miles per hour (mph) at the annual mean velocity of 16,610 cfs.  Each portion of the river will have faster or slower speeds based on a variety of factors, including channel width, channel depth, debris blockages, incoming or outgoing tides, and elevation change, among others.  In low and average flows, the North Fork carries about 60% of the flow while 40% enters the South Fork.  In high water, the split is close to 50%.  Sloughs and side channels will have significantly lower flow speeds commensurate with their channel width, depth, tidal influence, and vegetation.

Tidal influence as far upstream as the Mount Vernon gage is minimal even in low summer water.  In the delta, closer to the coast, the tide reversal can be extreme.  Incoming tides will send the flow rushing upstream at the Skagit Wildlife Area on Freshwater Slough.  The strength and extent of tidal zones will vary based on outgoing river flow and extreme tides but is generally considered to end just upstream of the forks, near river mile nine.

There are several tide gates in the delta that automatically close on the incoming tide, which will slow or stop outgoing streamflow while closed, then speed up significantly as the tide reverses and the gates open.  There are also gates and pump stations further inland used for agriculture and riverine flood control, managed by the diking, drainage, and irrigation districts in the area.

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Risk Assessment

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The Skagit River area is plentiful in natural, cultural, and economic resources, all at risk of injury from oil spills.  Potential oil spill risks include, but are not limited to, road transportation, rail transportation, oil pipelines, aircraft, recreational boating, and other oil spill risks.  This section briefly discusses these risks and how they could impact the GRP planning area.

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

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

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

Road Systems:  Vehicle traffic on roadways pose an oil spill risk in areas where they run adjacent to the shorelines, or cross over lakes, rivers, creeks, and ditches that drain into the Skagit River.  In the northern delta area, most roads are low-speed roads connecting farm communities, although Chuckanut Drive is a popular scenic route between Bellingham and Mount Vernon.  Interstate 5 carries West Coast traffic between Canada and Mexico and poses the most significant risk of highway spills, due to the frequency of large tank trucks carrying a number of fuel types.  State Highway 9 does not have the traffic capacity of I-5 but is more convenient to move between smaller upland communities, so there is potentially high use by logging trucks and local fuel trucks serving the inland communities north and south of Sedro-Woolley.

A vehicle spill onto one of these bridges or roadways can cause fuel or oil to flow from hardened surfaces into the Skagit River or its tributaries.  Commercial trucks can contain hundreds to thousands of gallons of fuel and oil, especially fully loaded tank trucks, and may carry almost any kind of cargo, including hazardous waste or other materials that might injure sensitive resources if spilled.  Smaller vehicle accidents pose a risk as well, a risk commensurate to the volume of fuel and oil they carry.

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

Unit trains carrying crude currently operate on specific routes.  Unit trains carrying crude from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota enter Washington State near Spokane, continue along the Columbia River to Vancouver, and then head north along I-5.  This main rail line, the BNSF Bellingham subdivision, enters Skagit County from the south near I-5 and meets a junction north of the river in the City of Burlington.  Here, the tracks split into thirds.  Unit trains deliver crude to the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes along the rail spur leading west from Burlington along State Highway 20.  The remaining loaded trains remain on the Bellingham line and continue north out of the planning area.  Unit trains of Canadian diluted bitumen are also transported south through the planning area on these tracks, heading to Tacoma.

The third line is the Sumas subdivision, which also splits from the main tracks in Burlington, follows Highway 20 east along the Skagit River through Sedro-Woolley, and then parallels Highway 9 north to Canada.  Within the planning area, BNSF Railway owns the majority of commercial railroad tracks.  Mount Vernon Terminal Railway (MVTR) owns a mile-long section of track in downtown Mount Vernon, used to store emptied tank cars with residual amounts of crude oil.  As of this publishing, MVTR has not reported carrying bulk oil as cargo.

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

In the Lower Skagit River area, the pipeline enters the planning area west of I-5 and northwest of Mount Vernon.  It continues south under Highway 20 and Highway 536, then angles towards the southeast, parallel to the coast.  It crosses the Skagit River not far upstream of the fork at the top of the delta, before crossing Big Fisher Creek and other tributaries as it switches to the east of I-5 and south out of the planning area.

Aircraft:  Skagit Regional airport lies in the northwest corner of the LSKAR-GRP area, west of Burlington, and is owned and operated by the Port of Skagit.  There is no control tower and is primarily used by recreational aircraft or corporate jets, rather than large commercial airliners.  Since this airport is within three miles of the river, the potential exists for aircraft failures during inbound or outbound flights that result in a spill by releasing aviation fuel to the Skagit River or its tributaries.

Recreational Boating:  Accidents involving recreational watercraft on the Skagit River have the potential to result in spills of a few gallons of gasoline up to hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel.  Examples of such accidents might include vessel collisions, allisions, groundings, fires, sinking, or explosions.

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

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Resources at Risk

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This section provides a summary of natural, cultural, and economic resources at risk in the planning area, including those resources at risk from oils with the potential to sink or submerge. It provides general information on habitat, fish, and wildlife resources, and locations in the area where sensitive natural resource concerns have been identified. It offers a summary of cultural resources that include fundamental procedures for the discovery of cultural artifacts and human skeletal remains. General information about flight restrictions, wildlife deterrence, and oiled wildlife can be found near the end of this section. A list of economic resources in the area is provided in the appendix.

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

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

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

The information provided in this section can be used in:

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

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Natural Resources at Risk – Summary

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This area contains a wide variety of aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats. These habitats support many of Washington’s anadromous salmonid species as well as a complex diversity of other wildlife including mammals, birds, and amphibians. Due to their life histories and/or behaviors, some of these species are unlikely to become directly oiled during a spill incident but may be disturbed by other response operations such as cleanup and reconnaissance. Some of the bird species are resident during the year, but many others seasonally migrate through the area.

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:

Birds:

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

Mammals:

None expected to be present

Fish:

  • Bull trout [FT]
  • Chinook salmon (Puget Sound) [FT]
  • steelhead (Puget Sound) [FT]

Amphibians:

  • Oregon spotted frog [FT/SE]

Critical habitats:

These 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
  • chinook salmon (Puget Sound)
  • steelhead (Puget Sound)

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General Resource Concerns

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Habitats:

  • The sloughs and backwater channel associated with the river provide feeding and resting areas for waterfowl and herons and are rearing areas for juvenile fish.
  • The salt marsh located in sheltered areas of the Skagit River delta supports a diverse array of fish and wildlife species.
  • The river and streams throughout this region provide spawning and rearing habitat for several salmonid species. The associated riparian scrub and woodlands play a crucial role in supporting a large diversity and abundance of songbird species as breeding, migrating, and overwintering habitat.
  • Human-made structures such as pilings, rock jetties or log rafts may be used as roosting or nesting areas for a variety of birds and raptors and haulout areas for seals.
  • Wetlands in this region include areas along the main stem of the lower Skagit River. All wetland types support a diverse array of bird, insect, fish, and wildlife species.
  • Islands provide important nesting habitat for various bird species, as well as habitat for a variety of mammals. Gravel bars provide spawning habitat for Chinook salmon.
  • Subsurface Habitats – brackish/freshwater: Shallow subsurface habitats occur in the mainstem and tributaries found in this region.
    • Fine sediments (mud/silt/sand) – Associated with slow/still water flows. May have aquatic vegetation present. Animals associated with these areas may be salmonid and resident 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 may be salmonid and resident 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.

Fish:

  • All Northwest salmonid species are present in this region (including the listed Chinook and coho salmon, bull trout, and steelhead). Spawning occurs throughout the river system. Juvenile salmonids use the lower river and shallow nearshore areas extensively for feeding and rearing.
  • In addition to salmonids, several dozen species of freshwater fish exist in the Skagit River basin. These species all provide important contributions to stream ecology.

Wildlife:

  • Waterfowl concentrations of various species may be found throughout the region in lowland rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, wetlands, and agricultural fields near water bodies. Concentrations are especially prevalent from fall through spring.
  • Shorebird concentrations (dunlins, sandpipers, plovers, etc. in the many thousands) routinely occur along the mudflats of the river deltas during the annual migrations (fall through spring).
  • Bald eagle and great blue heron nest throughout the region and forage in intertidal and nearshore waters year-round. Peregrine falcons also occur in the lower Skagit River.
  • Sensitive nesting species in the region include bald eagles, ducks (including cavity-nesting), and great blue herons.
  • Mammals common to the region include deer, elk, and various semi-aquatic species such as muskrat, beaver, river otter, etc. throughout the basin. In general, this group is dependent on riverine areas, ponds, tributaries, and riparian forests for den sites and foraging areas.
  • Resident and migratory songbirds heavily utilize riparian habitats year-round and are susceptible to response activities in riparian vegetation, as well as oiling or oil ingestion if riparian vegetation and shorelines become contaminated.
  • Amphibians (including Oregon spotted frog) may be present in the undisturbed shallow lakes and emergent wetlands associated with the Skagit River.

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Overview

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  1. Skagit River Delta – harbor seal haulouts, waterfowl and shorebird concentrations, forage fish spawning habitat. State wildlife refuge.
  2. Lower Nookachamps Creek and surrounding lakes (including Clear and Barney) – waterfowl winter concentration area. Swan, loon, and other waterfowl present. Salmonid spawning and rearing presence. Riparian and wetland habitat.
  3. Big Lake – waterfowl winter concentration area (especially diving ducks and swans), eagles. Salmonid spawning and rearing. Lake, riparian, and wetland habitats.

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Cultural Resources at Risk – Summary

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Culturally significant resources are present within the planning area. Information regarding the type and location of cultural resources is maintained by the Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (WDAHP). This sensitive information is made available to the Washington Department of Ecology for oil spill preparedness and response planning. The Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) or Cultural Resource Departments of local tribes (see Table 6‑1) may also be able to provide information on cultural resources at risk in the area and should be contacted, along with WDAHP, through normal trustee notification processes when significant oil spills, or smaller spills above reportable thresholds, occur in the area.

During a spill response, after the Unified Command is established, information related to specific archeological concerns will be coordinated through the Environmental Unit. In order to ensure that tactical response strategies do not inadvertently harm culturally sensitive sites, WDAHP should be consulted before disturbing any soil or sediment during a response action, including submerged soils or sediments. WDAHP and/or the Tribal governments may assign a person, or provide a list of professional archeologists that can be contracted, to monitor response activities and cleanup operations for the protection of cultural resources at risk. Due to the sensitive nature of such information, details regarding the location and type of cultural resources present are not included in this document.

LSKAR-GRP Cultural Resource Contacts

Contact Phone Email
Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (360) 586-3065 Rob.Whitlam@dahp.wa.gov
Lummi Nation 360-312-2257,

360-961-7752

lenat@lummi-nsn.gov
Muckleshoot Tribe 253-876-3272 laura.murphy@muckleshoot.nsn.us
Nooksack Indian Tribe 360-592-5176 (work) 360-305-9126 (cell) george.swanasetjr@nooksack.nsn.gov
Samish Nation, 360-293-6404 x126 jferry@samishtribe.nsn.us
Sauk-Suiattle Tribe 360-436-0347 njoseph@sauk-suiattle.com
Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians 360-652-3687 x14 KLyste@stillaguamish.com
The Suquamish Tribe 360-394-8529 dlewarch@suquamish.nsn.us
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community 360-466-7352 lcampbell@swinomish.nsn.us
Tulalip Tribes 425-239-0182 ryoung@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov
Upper Skagit Tribe 360-854-7009 sschuyler@upperskagit.com

Discovery of Human Skeletal Remains

Any human remains, burial sites, or burial-related materials that are discovered during a spill response must be treated with respect at all times (photographing human remains is prohibited to all except the appropriate authorities). Refer to National Historic Preservation Act Compliance Guidelines (NWACP Section 9403) during an emergency response.

Procedures for the Discovery of Cultural Resources

If any person monitoring work activities or involved in spill response believes that they have encountered cultural resources, all workers must stop immediately and notify the Unified Command and Cultural Resource Specialist. The area of work stoppage must be adequate to provide for the security, protection, and integrity of the material or artifact(s) discovered.

Prehistoric Cultural Resources (May include, but are not limited to, any of the following items):

  • Lithic debitage (stone chips and other tool-making byproducts)
  • Flaked or ground stone tools
  • Exotic rock, minerals, or quarries
  • Concentrations of organically stained sediments, charcoal, or ash
  • Fire-modified rock
  • Rock alignments or rock structures
  • Bone (burned, modified, or in association with other bone, artifacts, or features)
  • Shell or shell fragments
  • Petroglyphs and pictographs
  • Fish weirs, fish traps, and prehistoric watercraft
  • Culturally modified trees
  • Physical locations or features (traditional cultural properties)
  • Submerged villages sites or artifacts

Historic cultural material (May include any of the following items over 50 years old):

  • Bottles, or other glass
  • Cans
  • Ceramics
  • Milled wood, brick, concrete, metal, or other building material
  • Trash dumps
  • Homesteads, building remains
  • Logging, mining, or railroad features
  • Piers, wharves, docks, bridges, dams, or shipwrecks
  • Shipwrecks or other submerged historical objects

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Economic Resources at Risk – Summary

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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. An appendix provides a list of economic resources for this GRP area.

Fish hatcheries and infrastructure
Facility Name Owner/Operator Waterbody Lat Long Address Phone
Red Creek Hatchery Upper Skagit Tribe Red Creek 48.5406 -122.1856 2284 Community Plaza, Sedro Woolley

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General Information

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Flight Restriction Zones

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

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

In addition to restrictions associated with wildlife, Tribal authorities may also request notification when overflights are likely to affect culturally sensitive areas within reservations. See Oil Spill Best Management Practices (NWACP Section 9301) for more information on the use of aircraft and helicopters in open water and shoreline responses.

Wildlife Deterrence

The Wildlife Deterrence Unit within the Wildlife Branch (Operations Section) manages wildlife deterrence operations. These are actions intended to minimize injuries to wildlife by keeping animals away from the oil and cleanup operations. Deterrence activities may include using acoustic or visual deterrent devices, boats, aircraft or other tools. The Wildlife Branch works with state and federal agencies, and the Environmental Unit (Planning Section), to develop deterrence plans as appropriate.

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

Oiled Wildlife

Capturing oiled wildlife may be hazardous to both personnel and the affected animals. Incident personnel should not try to approach or capture oiled wildlife but should report any observations of oiled wildlife to the Wildlife Branch (Operations Section).

For more information see the Northwest Wildlife Response Plan (NWACP Section 9310).

Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness Areas

There are no federally designated wilderness areas in this GRP region. State refuges present within river delta.

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 because 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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