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Whidbey Island

United States Navy

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Restoration Project

Early identification of archaeological site locations enabled Whidbey to eliminate some areas for potential wetland replacement without investing significant time or money.

The U.S. Navy planned to expand its airfield on Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, resulting in the loss of wetlands and stormwater retention areas. Charlane Gross led the cultural resources identification program prior to founding GrassRoots.

Isostatic Rebound

Whidbey Driftwood The cultural resources team conducted intensive field surveys across various landforms, including high terraces above the ocean that would have been closer to sea level during the last glacial period but have risen due to isostatic rebound.

Shovel testing (excavating small exploratory pits in a consistent pattern across the landscape) and walkover surveys led to the discovery of several prehistoric and historic-era resources. The intensive survey schedule allowed the client to determine quickly which potential wetland replacement areas posed the least risk to cultural resources.

Project Tasks

  • Surface survey
  • Archaeological shovel testing
  • National Register of Historic Places eligibility evaluations

Isostatic Rebound

As glaciers develop, their weight pushes the landmass downward into the mantle of the earth; isostatic rebound is the process that occurs as the land springs upward when glaciers melt.

Prehistoric sites are commonly found in or near areas of increased resource availability, such as the shoreline. As the land mass has risen, the shoreline has receded, and archaeological investigation must account for these geomorphic changes.