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Chapter 4
Construction Practices for Environmental Stewardship
4.3. Construction Involving Historic Properties and/or Other Cultural Resources

4.3.1 Common Procedures Established for Construction in Areas Involving Historic Properties or Other Cultural Resource

During planning prior to construction, historic properties that may be affected are identified in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and its implementing regulations (36 CFR 800). If any such properties will be affected, an agreement is generally made, specifying how the effects will be avoided or mitigated. Similar procedures are sometimes put in place to protect or mitigate impacts on cultural resources other than historic properties (for example, areas of contemporary importance to a community that are not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places), and for managing paleontological resources. Typically, such agreements and procedures provide for the following kinds of activities during construction:

  • Precise adherence to agreed-upon alternatives, plans and specifications.
  • Carefully avoiding disturbance of sensitive locations.
  • Cooperation with archaeological data recovery teams.
  • Monitoring vibratory or subsidence disturbance of nearby historic buildings.
  • Monitoring construction for impacts on previously unidentified resources.
  • Monitoring construction by Indian tribal, Native Hawaiian, or other community representatives.
  • Scheduling to avoid conflicts with local cultural uses, archaeological or architectural studies, or other agreed-upon activities.
  • Studies to identify historic properties or other resources subject to effect by change orders, contractor-selected facilities such as borrow sources, and other activities not fully addressed during planning, and further consultation and other actions to avoid or mitigate impacts on newly discovered resources.

Procedures agreed upon or otherwise established during planning should be reflected in construction specifications, contracts, and other project documents. To support implementation, project construction and management personnel may need special training or other guidance to make sure they know how to carry out such procedures.


4.3.2 Discovery of Historic Properties or Other Cultural Resources During Construction
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Not everything of historic or cultural importance is found during planning, though the more that is found, and planned for, the less danger there is of costly surprises during construction. Because surprise discoveries during construction can be time-consuming, costly, controversial, and destructive of the resource, advance planning is often cost-effective even when it seems relatively unlikely such findings will occur.

Archaeological sites and human burials or graves are the most common kinds of cultural resources found during construction, because they are buried in the ground and may be missed during planning. Where discoveries of such resources appears likely, for example, where there are deep, relatively recent sediments on a project site, provisions for efficiently dealing with discoveries should be included in agreements developed under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Such provisions should be carefully integrated into construction plans, specifications, and contracts. Commonly used provisions for dealing with discoveries include:

  • Excavating, under archaeological supervision, using equipment like gradalls, which can remove soil quickly but with great delicacy.
  • Monitoring by archaeologists, who follow excavation equipment looking for objects and features of interest, with the authority to halt construction in the immediate vicinity of a discovery until it can be recorded and removed.
  • Monitoring by Indian tribal, Native Hawaiian, or other community representatives, with similar authority.
  • Specific procedures for dealing with different kinds of discoveries (for example, prehistoric house remains versus human burials).
  • Creating procedures for consulting with historic preservation authorities, tribal representatives, and others.
  • Involving archaeologists and tribal representatives in project planning and pre-construction meetings to develop monitoring plans that minimally disrupt the construction schedule.
  • In some cases, contacting DOT archaeologists before pavement removal in areas of archaeological concern, to ensure that appropriate experts can be onsite quickly to monitor construction.
  • Where appropriate, providing for saw cutting and lifting out pavement, instead of using air-driven machinery, to minimize disturbance of underlying soils.
  • Sometimes minimizing the typical section of construction within the area of archaeological concern or where burials are likely.
  • Avoiding construction of stormwater systems in sensitive areas.
  • Sometimes using specialized equipment to minimize damage, such as rubber-tired excavators instead of tracked equipment.

The more that can be done on-site without delaying construction and calling in outside parties, the better. For this reason, it is wise to make every effort to work out ways of dealing with discoveries before construction gets underway.

If specific procedures for discoveries are not in place, and a discovery is made, work should be suspended in the vicinity until the find can be evaluated and properly treated. Procedures and responsibilities are usually detailed in a DOT's environmental handbook.

  • Typically, all activity that might adversely affect the discovery must cease, and the responsible official must notify the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and quite often, Indian tribal or Native Hawaiian representatives.

Upon notification, the SHPO and/or tribe very likely will want on-site consultation to determine the significance of the discovery and seek agreement on appropriate mitigation actions.

If the discovery is determined not to be significant or the action will not be adverse, construction in the vicinity may continue.

If the discovery is significant and construction will adversely affect it, work is delayed until appropriate actions can be taken (usually involving either in-place protection or careful recovery, removal, and treatment of discovered material). i.e., detailed survey, recovery, protection, or preservation of the cultural resources).

Data recovery should collect information through scientific investigation in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines.

Include specifications to the above effect in the work contract. [N]


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Table of Contents
Chapter 4
Construction Practices for Environmental Stewardship
4.1 General Construction Site Stewardship Practices
4.2 Work Area
4.3 Construction Involving Historic Properties and/or Other Cultural Resources
4.4 Construction in and around Drainage Areas and Streams, Wetlands, and Other Environmentally Sensitive Areas
4.5 Erosion and Sedimentation Control
4.6 Vehicle Fluid, Fuel, and Washwater Control
4.7 Air Quality Control Practices
4.8 Noise Minimization
4.9 Materials Storage, Collection and Spill Prevention on Construction Sites
4.10 Vegetation Management in Construction
4.11 Soil Management in Construction
4.12 Establishing Vegetation at Construction Sites
Lists: Examples | Tables | Figures
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