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Changing Directions: A Roundtable Discussion

Carol S. Weed and W. Kevin Pape

In anticipation of the 1997 SAA annual meeting's significant cultural resource management (CRM) component, the Insights column will feature a two-part article devoted to the results of a roundtable discussion in which the participants explore a series of questions designed to probe the changing directions in CRM programs.

In a recent SAA Bulletin (14[2]:12-13), Keller and Carr presented proposed changes by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), Bureau of Historic Preservation (BHP), to their CRM and Section 106 review process based on a plan to prioritize archaeological survey needs in the state. This article, other presentations offered by the PHMC at in-state meetings, and SAA Bulletin articles by Dave Snyder (13[5]:19-21), Lynne Sebastian (14[1]:16) and others have engendered several dialogues in various forums about the changing CRM climate. These dialogues have dealt with issues such as the shifting roles state historic preservation officers (SHPOs) play in CRM, improving the cost/benefit ratio of publicly funded archaeology, "caretaker" responsibilities as regards cultural resources, levels of investigation permissible under Section 106 and other mandates, and the effect of proposed changes on the responsibilities of project sponsors.

To examine these issues, we developed six questions designed to elicit several levels of response from the perspectives of various participants in the Section 106 review process. In the first part of the article, the roundtable is focused on three of the six questions that consider PHMC's survey prioritization plan, known as the "Watershed Model," in light of the wider context of emerging changes in CRM and Section 106 compliance. In the second part of the article, to be published in the March issue of the SAA Bulletin, the roundtable discussion is focused on the remaining three questions that consider alternatives to traditional Section 106 compliance strategies and the affects of these alternative strategies on our historical heritage.

To solicit input from various facets of the CRM spectrum, we asked Ellen Armbruster (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Office of Pipeline Regulation, Environmental Review and Compliance Branch); Kurt W. Carr (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Historic Preservation); Susan Levitt (Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation, Construction Services, environmental project manager); Daniel G. Roberts (John Milner Associates, West Chester, Pennsylvania); and Lynne Sebastian (New Mexico state archaeologist) to participate in the roundtable.

Although imperfect in practice, the roundtable forum took place across the Internet, using email and the occasional fax to post the questions and corral responses. Participant responses have been shortened and edited for the purposes of publication. We want to thank all the discussants for their patience and willingness to participate in this forum. We hope that this roundtable will provide the basis for further discussions of the changing CRM climate.

The Discussants' Opening Comments

The discussants responded at various times between November 26 and December 6. Sebastian, Roberts, and Armbruster each noted that coworkers or members of their staffs had contributed to their replies. Levitt noted that as the industry representative, she wanted us all to keep in mind that "In business, it is necessary to view money as a resource to be conserved as much as any natural or cultural resource. I believe that viewpoint is a major driving factor in all of the current reassessments of resource protection and conservation."

The Roundtable

Question 1: As noted by Keller and Carr in SAA Bulletin 14(2):12-13, " response to a changing compliance environment, the PHMC...developed a plan to prioritize survey needs in Pennsylvania." While Carr was talking specifically about the plan developed for Pennsylvania, other states are beginning to develop similar responses. Does such prioritization maintain or violate the spirit of Section 106, which mandates inventory and evaluation of all potentially affected cultural resources?

Carr (November 26): The National Historic Preservation Act requires that federal agencies consider the effect of their actions on historic resources that are significant and eligible for the National Register. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Park Service encourage the use of predictive models for identifying these resources. In Pennsylvania, we have identified 19 of 104 watersheds that contain a relatively large number of lithic scatters for which we have good data on chronology and lithic types. These watersheds have had relatively intense systematic Phase I and Phase II surveys. We are predicting that the collection and identification of additional lithic scatters in these 19 watersheds will not result in significant new data. In the review of state and federal projects, if our models predict that a lithic scatter will be affected by a project in one of these regions, our response is "no resources" because, in our opinion, the excavation of additional lithic scatters will not add to our understanding of past cultural behavior. If our models predict other types of sites, such as historic archaeological sites, quarry sites, prehistoric sites with subsurface features, rockshelters, or stratified sites, we recommend the appropriate surveys. In response to the question, we do not feel this process "violates the spirit of Section 106."

Sebastian (November 27): All that 36 CFR 800 requires in the section on identifying historic properties is that the federal agency "make a reasonable and good faith effort to identify historic properties that may be affected by the undertaking." It does not say that "all" properties must be identified, but neither does it say that the agency does not have to look if it would not be convenient, they cannot afford it, or they have an unsupported intuition that there would not be anything there. In our consultations about identification we encourage agencies to base their decisions about what would constitute a "reasonable and good faith effort" on many factors: the nature of the terrain, distance to water, vegetative cover, amount and results of previous survey, nature of the expected resources, and the nature of the anticipated effects.

Levitt (December 2): Section 106 already categorizes cultural resources as significant and nonsignificant. Surveys are already based on spatial patterns that are presumed to provide a representative view of buried resources, or, for structures, are limited to relatively arbitrary impact zones. Adding further categories seems entirely within the spirit of the regulations as implemented today. If the cultural resource data collected to this point cannot be distilled into the type of model proposed by the PHMC, then the type of survey we are already doing is worthless. To industry, the data accumulated are also resources that are better used than archived.

Roberts (December 2): We all need to recognize that the Pennsylvania "Watershed Model" was developed by the Pennsylvania SHPO as a response to anti-archaeology political realities that arose over the past couple of years at the state, not the federal, level. Pennsylvania Act 70 was the legislative trigger. This act shifted the responsibility and cost of conducting archaeological surveys and evaluations under state-permitted projects from the permit applicant to the Pennsylvania Bureau for Historic Preservation (BHP). Thus, the act transferred the responsibility of such surveys from the developer, mining company, or other such private applicant to the Pennsylvania taxpayer, although the legislature provided only about a quarter-million dollars for its first year of implementation (1996): not nearly enough. But Act 70 is altogether another sad story in Pennsylvania. What is relevant here, I think, is that the "Watershed Model" is being applied not only to state-permitted projects, but to federal undertakings as well--and it shouldn't be. By subscribing to the notion that "upland lithic scatters" have little or no research potential, the "Watershed Model" allows the BHP to write off large areas of the Commonwealth without any identification procedures. While I agree that upland lithic scatters for the most part are not significant resources here in Pennsylvania, I think it is clear that many significant sites of other types and of other time periods will not even be identified (let alone evaluated, avoided, or effects otherwise mitigated) in 19 of the 104 watersheds in the Commonwealth--and more watersheds are to be added later as additional surveys are completed and exclusion criteria met. (The 19 watersheds now excluded equate to roughly 10-15% of the land area of the Commonwealth.) I think it is clear that the letter and intent of Section 106 is not being met in these watersheds, since (1) federal agencies will now not be required to "make a reasonable and good faith effort to identify historic properties that may be affected" (36 CFR 800) in most areas of the 19 watersheds, and (2) the ability of the Advisory Council to comment on such actions in those areas will thereby be precluded.

Armbruster (December 4): I do not think that prioritization per se violates the letter or the spirit of Section 106. The law requires that an agency "take into account" the effect of undertakings on historic properties. The agency should be considering what it takes to do that intelligently for each undertaking or class of undertakings. If a literature search is sufficient to do that, fine; if it requires a pedestrian survey, then so be it.

What I think does violate the spirit of Section 106, and all participants in the Section 106 process are guilty here, is going through the motions by rote, with no real thought applied to what types of properties might be affected in what circumstances. Unfortunately, I think that the system proposed by PHMC will simply turn into one more mechanism to be applied by rote by the various participants in the process.

Carr (December 6): The Pennsylvania SHPO has identified archaeological survey research priorities based on the strength of the existing database and what we think we know about the prehistory of the region. Since January, we have been reviewing state and federal projects using these priorities. We are not "writing off" resources; we are using the best available evidence to guide our recommendations on the need to manage significant archaeological resources. Based on our archaeological survey research priorities, we have identified 19 watersheds for which we are not recommending Phase I surveys to find additional lithic scatters. We will protect/manage recorded lithic scatters in these watersheds, but Phase I surveys will only be recommended in settings where we expect to find sites other than lithic scatters.

Question 2: If the spirit of Section 106 is being violated, what are the viable alternatives that consultants, agencies, and clients (i.e., project sponsors) might pursue that would preserve the Section 106 ideal but reduce both time and monetary commitments?

Carr (November 26): We do not feel that Section 106 has been violated by this process. The SHPO makes recommendations to federal and state agencies. In accordance with the regulations of the Advisory Council, the agency can disagree with these recommendations and, within reason, the agency can proceed.

The BHP has considered a variety of mechanisms to "reduce both time and monetary commitments" and we have always striven for efficiency. One component of our management strategy has been to conduct intensive surveys including a report detailing expectations, methods, and results. We have not considered reducing our survey guidelines or report standards. We would rather see fewer systematic surveys than many poorly documented, superficial surveys.

Sebastian (November 27): My problem with the Pennsylvania approach (and my knowledge is based on only a brief presentation at the NCSHPO summer meeting) is not that it violates the spirit of Section 106 by requiring less than 100% inventory. My problem is that the decisions about when to survey and when not to survey seem to be made very mechanically and to be driven by political and economic issues, not by information potential and research needs or by efforts to ensure the most effective resource protection.

Levitt (December 2): Another logical step is to categorize the nature of the potential impacts as opposed to the nature of the potential resource. The level of impact should be easier to quantify than the value of unknown cultural resources, and regulators may feel more comfortable that they are adequately protecting cultural resources. It is likely that both approaches have merit in various situations.

Roberts (December 2): At a meeting held on December 7, 1995, to publicly present the "Watershed Model," one member of the audience replied that a better alternative to full Phase I surveys in the 19 watersheds would be Phase Ia surveys designed to do a quick overview of the project area. I, too, think this is a better approach than the "Watershed Model." Such "minimalist" surveys have had some success in states like New Jersey and Vermont, and generally entail a literature search, field walkover, perhaps some minimal shovel testing, and the preparation of a brief letter-report. In my experience, such Phase Ias on smaller projects only infrequently result in the discovery of significant sites, but at least some knowledge of what is being written off is obtained. The BHP, however, is apparently concerned that the percentage of surveys that result in the identification of sites in Pennsylvania is only about 65%. While I do not have comparative information from other states, 65% does not seem too bad. Frankly, the problem in Pennsylvania historically has been that the BHP is reluctant to sign off at the Phase I level on identified sites that clearly are not significant. That is, far too many Phase II evaluations have been requested, and done, after a recommendation of "no further work" has been made by the consultant. Indeed, Keller and Carr give themselves away in this regard in their SAA Bulletin article: on page 12, they state that "upland sites have limited research potential beyond settlement pattern studies," but on page 13 note that "the BHP will continue to protect known and significant sites in these regions regardless of their topographic setting"--including upland lithic scatters with limited research potential. Accordingly, it seems to me that the "Watershed Model" is more of an a priori formula to relieve the BHP of making considered management decisions than an appropriate procedure under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Armbruster (December 4): Dan Roberts correctly points out that many federal agencies have sloughed off much of the Section 106 responsibility onto SHPOs. The reason agencies do not assume their proper authority under the law is that they never wanted it in the first place. I cannot tell you how happy many agencies (mine included) would be if they woke up one morning to find that the NHPA and NEPA had fallen off the face of the earth. This sentiment applies to our applicants as well (or even more so). This situation leads to even more rote work, as the applicant desperately wants to "get through the Section 106 process," and they try to do whatever they did the last time that seemed to work (see Sue Levitt's comments). And the agency really just wants to have done with it.

I also agree with Dan Roberts when he points out that the PHMC, along with other SHPOs, cannot seem to let go of some projects. (And for an agency to disagree with a SHPO adds a great deal of time to the process, so, is it faster to do the extra work or go through a dispute resolution process?)

Carr (December 5): In the past 15 years, BHP has conducted a very high level of survey, and, in hindsight, the Phase Is were the "straw that broke the camel's back." As stated in my first response, getting a Phase I survey completed is half the battle, and Phase Ias or "minimalist" surveys are not the solution. Developers and agencies do not choose that option because they want a final answer, quickly. I am also strongly opposed to "letter reports," and I do not feel that these are a solution to any of our problems. Alternative forms of mitigation (after we know the nature of the affected resources) are a more productive solution. I can hear the response, "But, without doing Phase Is, how will you know?" Like every other state, we use the best available model.

Question 3: In the PHMC case, only one type of resource is being affected by the prioritization. This is the upland, prehistoric lithic scatter without features and diagnostics. In order to streamline CRM survey needs, is it necessarily appropriate to single out specific resource classes or should all cultural resources be considered equally? If the latter scenario is preferred, what is a viable method for modeling space so that variables affecting both prehistoric and historic siting are weighted equally?

Carr (November 26): All types of prehistoric resources were included in our prioritization process. This resource was singled out because the upland lithic scatter yields less information than other site types. In our opinion, for certain regions of the state, additional lithic scatters (including those with diagnostics) will not add significant information to our understanding of past cultural behavior, and therefore we are not recommending Phase I surveys to find more lithic scatters. We recommend further work for recorded lithic scatters, but we are not encouraging state and federal agencies to find more of these site types. A similar process could be applied to historic archaeological sites, especially farmsteads. However, it is our current opinion that we have not investigated a sufficient number of these resources anywhere in the state to make this determination.

Sebastian (November 27): There is a whole huge literature on how to make projections of archaeological site densities, types, locations, etc. If we have to prioritize survey effort, we know a lot about how to do it--the question is, What result are we hoping to achieve? Do we want to decrease the number and costs of surveys required? If so, then we could take the Pennsylvania approach, which concentrates survey in the areas where the least survey has been done. If, on the other hand, we want to ensure maximum resource protection for dollars expended, we might concentrate our surveys in those areas where sites are most likely and/or where development is most common and stop surveying in areas where sites and/or development are less likely.

Levitt (December 2): Cultural resource management seems to have two goals: resource preservation and accumulation of knowledge. To industry, it seems pointless to spend the amount of effort on data accumulation if it cannot be put to productive use whether in demonstrating the real need to preserve a specific resource or in demonstrating the real lack of a need to preserve. The application of what is known to making decisions about what is unknown has economic benefits, but it is really just a commonsense approach.

Roberts (December 2): Although Keller and Carr (SAA Bulletin 14[2]:13) state that "we will continue to review our historic files for projects in the 19...watersheds," the BHP does not routinely conduct detailed review of historic maps, atlases, or other historical documents when completing its project review. By "historic files," Keller and Carr are referring to the BHP's standing structure site files. By the BHP's own admission, historic archaeological resources, particularly those in rural areas, have routinely been identified only by accident during surveys of high probability locales for prehistoric archaeological sites. In my opinion, all classes of potential resources should be afforded equal consideration during project review, although I would recognize that this may be an unachievable ideal in some cases. Nevertheless, historic archaeological resources, with the possible exception of urban sites in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, have gotten short shrift by the BHP, and the development of predictive models for such resources in the Commonwealth has been lacking. Until such models are developed, the BHP should minimally consult historic maps and atlases, rather than just the USGS quadrangle sheets, in its project review.

Armbruster (December 4): When considering high and low probability areas, and prioritizing resources, one has to consider individual types of resources. However, I do not see how the PHMC plan would streamline the Section 106 process for our FERC applicants, unless upland sites were the only type of resource likely to be encountered in the area of potential effect. We would still require some study/review to identify other types of resources.

Carol S. Weed and W. Kevin Pape are CRM consultants with the firm Gray & Pape, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pape is also the associate editor for the Insights column.

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