San Juan Islands GRP

  • Open for full review: May 2019
  • Publish date: 2021
  • Interim update: N/A
  • Last full update: 2011
  • Public Comment:
  • Contact: Max Gordon

Table of Contents


Site Description

The San Juan Islands/ North Puget Sound is bounded by Point Roberts to the north; the southern tip of Lopez Island and Fidalgo Island to the south; Haro Strait to the west; and the mainland of northern Washington to the east (including Boundary Bay, Semiahmoo Bay, Drayton Harbor, Birch Bay, Lummi Bay, Bellingham Bay, Padilla Bay, Burrows Bay).

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The marine and estuarine waters within the San Juan Islands and North Puget Sound are among the most biologically rich and sensitive areas of the State. A wide diversity of shoreline and marine habitats (estuaries, rocks, reefs, and islands), abundant food resources, and exceptional water quality all contribute to making this area especially valuable to wildlife.

This region contains numerous small to medium-sized seabird nesting colonies, a multitude of marine mammal breeding and resting sites, rearing and feeding habitat for marine fish, and one of the most impressive arrays of marine invertebrates in the world. The region is also a temporary home to many species of marine birds and mammals that are seasonal residents or pass through the area during migration.

The importance of wildlife within this region, particularly the San Juan Islands, cannot be overstated. Marine invertebrates and fishes provide an ample food base for the diverse and abundant populations of marine mammals and birds. Direct benefits result from the harvest of economically important fish, shellfish, and bird species supported by this food chain. Non-consumptive use of wildlife has also become increasingly important to our society. Recreational experiences are enhanced by sightings of wildlife. The visible presence of wildlife in an area also provides a sense of well-being to many people, since a habitat rich in wildlife is one that is healthy and productive. This area, because it has been relatively unaffected by human activities, is an ideal living laboratory in which to learn more about the functioning of marine environments. Refer to Resources at Risk for detailed resource information.

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Physical Features

The San Juan shoreline bordering the exposed areas of Rosario Strait and Haro Strait is comprised mostly of rocky headlands. Contrarily, the beaches open to the inside of the islands are generally sheltered rocky flats. Land in the San Juans is almost all natural, conservancy or rural. State parks and wildlife refuges are located on most of the islands.

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The San Juan Islands include the following shoreline habitats:

  • Exposed rocky headlands
  • Sheltered rocky flats
  • Pocket beaches along exposed rocky shores
  • Sand and gravel beaches
  • Exposed tidal flats
  • Sheltered tidal flats
  • Marshes

There is a large vessel traffic separation zone within Rosario Strait. Many tankers transit this area on their voyage to Ferndale. Many ferries also have routes through the island passages, connecting most of the San Juan Islands to each other and the mainland. The Lummi Indian Reservation is located on Lummi Island.

The bays that comprise North Puget Sound are generally characterized by tidal flats, marshes, and some sections of exposed rocky headland. The outer islands are mostly exposed rocky headlands, sand and gravel beaches, andareas of exposed tidal flats. North Puget Sound shoreline includes the following shoreline habitats:

  • Exposed rocky headlands
  • Pocket beaches along exposed rocky shores
  • Wave-cut platforms
  • Sand beaches
  • Sand and cobble beaches
  • Sand and gravel beaches
  • Exposed tidal flats
  • Sheltered tidal flats
  • Marshes

Of note is the National Estuary and Reserve in Padilla Bay. An environmentally sensitive area, the bay is home to many different kinds of birds, invertebrates, and sea mammals. Padilla Bay is near the March Point refineries, and therefore of particular concern.

Bellingham Bay has man-made features along its shores, but also has areas of tidal flats, marshes and nesting grounds for seabirds. Samish Bay is also ecologically rich and has several areas of oyster and clam mariculture.

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Puget Sound is generally a two layer system where the less saline surface water, with freshwater inputs from land, have a net seaward flow, and denser bottom water flows landward. Bottom water currents move southward toward Puget Sound through Rosario Strait. However, bottom water currents move northward through Haro Strait. Surface waters move southward through both straits. The net surface current within the Georgia Strait is towards land, however, it does flow seaward out of Bellingham Bay.

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Vertical mixing occurs in many of the shallow straits and bays of this region, therefore it is possible for pollutants to return or stay in the confined estuaries. The entire region is greatly affected by tidal currents.

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Climate and Winds

Because Puget Sound is bordered by mountains to the south and east, the strong westerly flow north of the Olympic Mountains is split to the north and south when it reaches the east side of the Sound. Winds in North Puget Sound are generally south, 10 to 20 mph April through May and October through March. During the summer months, they decrease to 0 to 9 mph on average. Local wind conditions may vary.

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In North Puget Sound, Squamish Winds, gales of up to 50 miles per hour, may occur in localized areas on clear winter days. Storms are common during the fall through spring with winds from a generally southern direction.

The area has a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The annual precipitation is between 18 and 50 inches. From September through early February, Georgia Strait is affected by land fogs that form on cool nights with clear skies. During long cold periods, these may persist for several days.

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Tides and Currents

The mean tidal range (MHW-MLW) for the area from Bellingham Bay to Padilla Bay is 4.2 feet to 5.9 feet. The diurnal range (MHHW-MLLW) is 7.3 feet to 8.6 feet. Tides vary throughout the San Juan Islands due to the intricate system of passages and inlets between the islands. However, generally, the mean tidal range (MHW-MLW) is 4.2 to 7.3 feet. The diurnal tidal range (MHHW – MLLW) is 5.2 to 8.6 feet.

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The tidal currents within North Puget Sound bays are weak and variable, however, within Rosario Strait average flood tide is 1.1 knots from the Northwest and ebb tide is 1.9 knots from the Southeast.7 Currents tend to increase in the narrow channels including Guemes and Bellingham Channels. Lopez, Thatcher, and Obstruction Passes within Rosario Strait are reported to have currents obtaining velocities of 3 to 7 knots. There is a continuous flow from Portage Bay into Hale Passage, regardless of tides or winds.

It is difficult to generalize the currents in and around the San Juan Islands. As a broad rule, the currents are stronger in the straits and passes along the outer edge of the islands than on the inner passes. Flood currents throughout the San Juan area tend to be weaker than the ebb currents. Between maximum flood and maximum ebb, the currents will form eddies in some areas. Two larger eddy areas are off the southern ends of Lopez and San Juan Island.

Tides and currents vary with seasonal runoff and lunar cycles in localized areas. Spill responders should consult tide and current tables for their particular location.

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Resources at Risk

This section provides a summary of natural, cultural, and economic resources at risk in the planning area.  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.

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

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

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

The information provided in this section can be used in:

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

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Natural Resources at Risk – Summary

This area contains a wide variety of aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats that support a complex diversity of wildlife including birds, mammals, fish, and amphibians.  Due to their life histories and/or behaviors, some of these species are unlikely to be directly oiled during a spill incident but may be disturbed by other operations such as cleanup, reconnaissance, or fire suppression activities.  Some of the bird species are resident throughout the year, but many others seasonally migrate outside the basin.  A number of the species found in this area are classified as threatened or endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act or Washington State guidelines.

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Classification types are listed below:

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

Federal and State Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive species that may occur within this area, at some time of the year, include:


  • Common loon [SS]
  • marbled murrelet [FT/SE]
  • northern spotted owl [FT/SE]
  • sandhill crane [SE]
  • tufted puffin [SE]


  • fin whale [FE/SE]
  • gray whale [SS]
  • humpback whale (Central American population) [FE/SE]
  • humpback whale (Mexican population) [FT/SE]
  • killer whale (southern resident) [FE/SE]


  • bocaccio rockfish [FE]
  • chinook salmon (Puget Sound) [FT]
  • green sturgeon [FT]
  • steelhead (Puget Sound) [FT]
  • yelloweye rockfish [FT]


  • pinto (northern) abalone [SE]


  • western (Pacific) pond turtle [SE]


  • island marble (butterfly) [FC]
  • Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (FE/SE)


  • Golden paintbrush [FT]

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

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

  • bocaccio rockfish
  • canary rockfish
  • chinook salmon (Puget Sound)
  • green sturgeon
  • island marble butterfly (proposed)
  • killer whale (southern resident)
  • steelhead (Puget Sound)
  • yelloweye rockfish

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General Resource Concerns


Areas of particular concern with regards to wildlife include:

  • Intertidal and shallow subtidal mud/sand flats occur in bays throughout the region; most notably on Orcas Is. (False Bay) and Lopez Is. (Fisherman Bay and Mud Bay).  These habitats are critically important as rearing areas for Dungeness crab, hard shell clams and other fish and shellfish.  These habitats are also often important feeding areas for marine birds, shorebirds and herons and are used as low tide haulouts by harbor seals.
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  • Sandy/Rocky shorelines can be found throughout the region. These areas support marine mammal haulout and pupping, nesting for birds, and spawning habitat for forage fish.
  • Kelp and eelgrass beds occur as narrow fringing bands around many of the islands, with kelp predominating in more exposed habitats.  These habitats provide critical nursery areas for juvenile rockfish and other fish and shellfish as well as important spawning habitat for herring and feeding areas for waterfowl.
  • The numerous, small protected bays and coves are important to a wide variety of fish and wildlife species including crabs, clams, forage fish, marine birds, eagles and shorebirds.
  • Offshore islets and rocks provide nesting and roosting sites for seabirds and shorebirds, as well as haulout sites for harbor seals and sea lions.  Both the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Fish & Wildlife Service manage many dozens of these sites as part of the San Juan Islands National Monument and San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), respectively.
  • Salt marshes occur in sheltered areas throughout the region. These habitats support a diverse array of fish and wildlife species.
  • The open waters surrounding the island are important as foraging areas for large numbers of seabirds and for marine mammals. Tide rips, typically associated with passages between islands, are particularly important feeding areas for marine bird concentrations.
  • A variety of subtidal habitats exists within this area, each of which supports a different assemblage of wildlife species as generally described below:
    • Soft sediment: This category includes areas of clays, mud, sand and gravel, which typically possess relatively low vertical relief. Animals that tend to live on the surface in these habitats can include sea cucumbers, sea stars, crustaceans such as crab and shrimp, and bottom fish such as skate, cod, and the flat fishes. These soft sediment habitats also support shellfish and other invertebrates including bivalves, worms, brittle stars, shrimplike crustaceans whose burrowing or foraging activities can penetrate up to one meter below the subsurface bottom. In deeper waters, this habitat type may also include the deep sand fields that are necessary overwintering habitat for sand lance.
    • Rock reefs: These areas serve as important habitat for a wide range of species including mobile invertebrates (e.g. snails, sea slugs, sea cucumbers, sea stars, etc.) and immobile species (e.g. anemones, barnacles, shellfish, sponges, tubeworms, etc.). Macro algae and kelps also widely utilize the structure that this type of habitat provides. The crevices and overhangs associated with these reefs serve as valuable habitat for a wide variety of other species such as crabs, shrimp, octopus, wolf eel, rockfish, and lingcod. If located within their capabilities to dive, these areas may also serve as important foraging areas for birds and marine mammals.
    • Boulder and cobble fields: Larger, relatively stable boulders provide many of the same ecological functions described for rock reefs while the spaces between boulders offer enhanced refuge areas for bottom-dwelling invertebrates and fish. The relative instability of the smaller cobble makes them less valuable than reefs or boulders to immobile marine life. Nonetheless, many marine organisms may live on or between the cobblestones and predatory species often utilize these habitats as foraging areas.  As with the rocky reefs, these habitats may also serve as important foraging areas for birds and marine mammals as well if they are located within a species’ ability to dive. Depending on how much sediment the currents move through the area, the spaces between the rocks may be filled with sediment that can also support bottom-dwelling life forms.
  • Water column: Much of the primary marine productivity in this region occurs in the upper 30 meters of the water column due to limited light penetration and nutrient availability. Because of this, this upper part of the water column tends to concentrate the planktonic larval forms of fish (such as rockfish, etc.) and a wide range of invertebrates (such as crabs, clams, etc.), particularly during the spring plankton blooms. The deeper water column also serves as habitat for wide-ranging fish such as salmon, forage fish (herring, smelt, and sand lance), sharks, as well as a wide variety of birds and marine mammals that utilize this habitat as foraging areas.
  • Documented salmonid stream use in the San Juan Islands is limited to Crow Valley and Cascade Creeks on Orcas Island. Juvenile salmonids of several species, including Puget Sound chinook, use shallow nearshore areas for feeding and rearing.
  • Herring spawning occurs on San Juan, Shaw, Orcas and Lopez Islands.  Small pockets of surf smelt and sand lance spawning occurs on scattered sand and gravel beaches throughout the region.
  • Dungeness crab and hard shell clams occur in shallow protected bays throughout the region.  Additional shellfish/invertebrate concerns include abalone, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins in rocky subtidal areas.
  • Geoduck clams are found in commercial abundance on select sandy bottom areas in the region, including Alden Bank, Eliza Island, and other isolated patches.
  • The waters surrounding the San Juan Islands, especially those along the west side of San Juan Island (Haro Strait), serve as foraging areas for the Southern Resident Killer whale (orca) pods.  Other cetaceans including Dall’s and harbor porpoises, and humpback, grey and minke whales are also present throughout this area.
  • Some of the largest concentrations of marbled murrelet in the state occur in this region, particularly along the south shore of Lopez Island.
  • Numerous seabird nesting colonies are scattered throughout the islands and Rosario Strait including Viti Island, Williamson and Bird rocks.  The largest of these are located on the rocks and islands off the south shore of Lopez, Sucia, and Matia Islands.  Shorebirds, primarily Black Oystercatchers, nest and overwinter in low concentrations throughout the islands.
  • The San Juan Islands support the largest concentration of nesting Bald eagles in Washington, as well as a significant wintering population.  Other sensitive nesting species of concern include peregrine falcons and great blue herons.  All of these species forage in nearshore waters surrounding the islands.
  • This region is of year-round importance to feeding and resting marine birds, including those from the nesting colonies on Protection, Smith and Minor islands (i.e. murrelets, puffins, auklets and cormorants).  This area is also heavily used by wintering marine birds such as murrelets, murres, loons, diving ducks and gulls.  Some of the key concentration areas include Cattle Pass, southern Rosario Strait, the south shore of Lopez Island, and Speiden Channel.
  • Numerous harbor seal haulouts are scattered throughout the islands.  Some of these sites are also occasionally used by Steller sea lions.
  • A wide variety of terrestrial and semi-aquatic mammals (e.g. raccoons and river otters) are present throughout this area and forage within the intertidal areas.

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Overview

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

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Vicinity of San Juan Islands

  1. Rosario Strait: These waters provide a travel corridor for southern resident killer whales (orca) and serve as a major feeding area for seabirds.  Seabird nesting colonies, shorebird winter roosting (Bird, Williamson, and Viti rocks), and scattered harbor seal haulouts in the offshore rocks and islands.  Subtidal shellfish habitat.  Some islands are designated as USFWS refuge islands or marine state parks.
  2. Matia Island (includes Puffin Island): Kelp, eelgrass, and pocket beach habitats.  Seabird colony (Matia).  Dungeness crab.  Seal haulouts.  Subtidal shellfish habitat.  State Park. National Wildlife Refuge.
  3. Sucia Island (Shallow, Echo, and Fossil Bays): Kelp, eelgrass, and pocket beach habitats.  Subtidal shellfish habitat.  Dungeness crab.  Shorebird nesting and seabird roosting habitat.   Seal and sea lion haulouts, especially on Clements Reef to north.  State Park.
  4. Patos Island: Kelp, eelgrass, and pocket beach habitats.  Subtidal shellfish habitat.  Dungeness crab.  Shorebird nesting and seabird roosting habitat.    Seal haulouts.  National Monument/State Park.
  5. Stuart Island (Prevost and Reid Harbors): Eelgrass and kelp habitats.  Subtidal shellfish habitat, concentrated sea urchin harvest area.  Small concentrations of shorebirds and seabirds.  National Monument/State Park.

San Juan Island

  1. Garrison and Westcott Bays: Most extensive eelgrass beds in the San Juan Islands.  Spawning habitat for herring and surf smelt.  Hard shell clam and Dungeness crab.  Waterfowl and seabird concentrations.  National Park lands.
  2. West side of San Juan Island (Mitchell Bay to Eagle Point): Nearshore areas contain important kelp and subtidal shellfish habitats.  Reserve for sea urchin and sea cucumber extends from Lime Kiln to beyond Eagle Point.  Scattered seabird colonies and raptors.  Salmonid presence.  Southern resident killer whale foraging area.  Seal and sea lion are common.  County and State Parks and preserves.  A few offshore rocks designated as part of the National Wildlife Refuge.
  3. False Bay: Eelgrass and intertidal mudflat habitats.  Dungeness crab.  Sand lance spawning habitat.  Waterfowl and shorebird concentrations; fall through spring.  Most extensive shorebird habitat in San Juan Islands.  Marine Preserve.
  4. Griffin Bay: Marine bird and waterfowl concentration area.  Great blue heron foraging area.  Marine mammal haulouts.  Hard shell clams.  Salt marshes and intertidal mudflats.  Island marble butterfly and proposed critical habitat.  San Juan National Historical Park’s American Camp on Cattle Point and county preserve.
  5. South side of San Juan Island (including Cattle Pass): Nearshore areas contain important kelp and subtidal shellfish habitats.  Reserve for sea urchin and sea cucumber extends from Lime Kiln to Cattle Pass.  Sand lance spawning area.  Intertidal mudflats.  Island marble butterfly and proposed critical habitat.  Golden paintbrush population.  Important year-round feeding area for large flocks of resident, migrating and overwintering flocks of seabirds, including marbled murrelet.  Raptor presence.  Southern resident killer whale foraging area.  Seal and sea lion haulouts, especially Goose Island.  National Park and National Monument.

Lopez Island

  1. South Lopez Island (Davis Point to Cape St. Mary): Nearshore areas contain important kelp and subtidal shellfish habitats.  Concentrated sea urchin harvest area.    Seabird nesting (particularly on Hall and Castle islands), roosting and foraging areas, including concentrations of marbled murrelet foraging in the open water.  Spawning habitat for sand lance and surf smelt.  Island marble butterfly and golden paintbrush.  Numerous haulout sites for harbor seals and occasionally Steller sea lions.  National monument and county preserve.  National Wildlife Refuge on offshore islands.
  2. Hunter and Mud Bays: Eelgrass, salt marsh and intertidal mudflat habitats.  Hard shell clams and Dungeness crab.  Spawning habitat for herring and surf smelt.  Waterfowl and marine bird concentrations.  Seal haulout areas.  National Wildlife Refuge on offshore islands.
  3. Fisherman Bay: Eelgrass, salt marsh and intertidal mudflat habitats.  Concentration area for waterfowl, shorebirds, marine birds and herons.  County preserve.
  4. Spencer Spit: Eelgrass and salt marsh habitats.  Hard shell clams and Dungeness crab.  Sand lance spawning habitat.  Waterfowl concentration area (winter).  State Park.  National Wildlife Refuge on offshore islands.

Orcas and Shaw Islands

  1. Shaw Island (Picnic Cove, Indian and Squaw Bays): Eelgrass habitat.  Dungeness crab.  Subtidal shellfish habitat.  Seabird and waterfowl concentrations.  County Park.
  2. Shaw Island (Blind Bay): Eelgrass habitat.  Spawning habitat for herring and surf smelt.  Dungeness crab.  Subtidal shellfish habitat.  Waterfowl and seabird bird concentrations.  Seal haulout on Blind Island.  State Park and National Monument.
  3. San Juan Channel: Eelgrass and kelp habitats.  Seabird and waterfowl concentrations.  Surf smelt spawning beaches.  Subtidal shellfish habitat.  A reserve for sea urchin and sea cucumber extends from Jones Island south to Friday Harbor.  Seal haulouts.  National Wildlife Refuge, State Park and the Nature Conservancy.
  4. Orcas Island (West Sound): Eelgrass and kelp habitats.  Dungeness crab.  Surf smelt and herring spawning habitat.  Subtidal shellfish habitat.  Salmonid spawning stream.  State Park islands.  National Monument.
  5. Orcas Island (East Sound): Eelgrass and intertidal mudflat habitats.  Spawning habitat for herring and surf smelt and sand lance.    Hard shell clam and Dungeness crab.  Seal haulouts.  National Monument and National Wildlife Refuge.

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Specific Geographic Areas of Concern – Maps and Descriptions

Figure 1: San Juan Islands specific geographic areas of concern.

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Cultural Resources at Risk – Summary

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

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

Table 6.1 SJI GRP Cultural Resources Contacts

Contact Phone Email
Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (WDAHP) (360) 586-3080
U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Northwest Region (503) 347-0631
Lummi Nation, THPO (360) 312-2257
Muckleshoot Tribe (253) 876-3272
Nooksack Indian Tribe, THPO (360) 592-5176 x3234
Samish Indian Nation, THPO (360) 293-6404
Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe (360) 436-0347
Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians (360) 652-3687 x14
The Suquamish Tribe, THPO (360) 394-8529
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, THPO (360) 466-7352
Tulalip Tribes (425) 239-0182
Upper Skagit Tribe (360) 982-8218

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 water craft
  • 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, or shipwrecks

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Economic Resources at Risk – Summary

Socio-economic sensitive resources are facilities or locations that rely on a body of water to be economically viable.  Because of their location, they could be severely impacted if an oil spill were to occur.  Economically sensitive resources are separated into three categories: critical infrastructure, water dependent commercial areas, and water dependent recreation areas.  The appendix provides a list of economic resources for this GRP area.

General Information

Sites recommended for alternative shoreline protection

These places have resources at risk but traditional booming strategies may not be effective or practical in most circumstances.  The Planning and Operations Sections should consider alternative options such as sorbents, enhanced on-water skimming, or other tactics to prevent oiling of these sites.

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Name General Area Latitude Longitude Resource Contact
Bird Rocks Rosario Strait 48.48538 -122.76175 San Juan Islands NWR (USFWS)
Clements Reef Sucia Island 48.76971 -122.87924 San Juan Islands NWR (USFWS)
Davis Bay Decatur Island 48.51587 -122.79151 San Juan Islands National Monument (US BLM)
Goose Island San Juan Channel 48.45786 -122.95718 The Nature Conservancy
Hall Island Middle Channel 48.43496 -122.91171 San Juan Islands NWR (USFWS)


Flight restriction zones: Flight restriction zones may be recommended by the Environmental Unit (Planning Section), in consultation with the Wildlife Branch, for the purpose of reducing disturbances that could result in injury to wildlife during an oil spill.  By keeping a safe distance or altitude from identified sensitive areas, pilots/operators can lessen the risk of aircraft/bird collisions, prevent the accidental hazing of wildlife into oiled areas, and avoid causing the abandonment of nests.

Implementation of Flight Restriction Zones will take place within the Air Operations Branch (Operations Section) after the 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-foot radius and below 1,000 feet 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 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 Branch (Operations Section), in consultation with the appropriate trustee agencies and the Environmental Unit, will evaluate wildlife deterrent options for the purpose of keeping wildlife away from oil and cleanup operations and will manage any such activities during a response.  Deterrence 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 personnel and the affected animals.  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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