127.2 Historic Preservation and Cultural Resources
Cultural Resources can include archaeological sites, buildings, bridges and other structures such as dams and tunnels, and even landscapes that still maintain a palpable connection to the past. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), as an agency of the Federal government, has responsibilities for the identification, protection, and stewardship of historic properties in their control so future generations can experience our history. These tasks are codified in a series of laws and policies. Much of the responsibility to follow these laws has been delegated by the FHWA to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
MoDOT must consider the potential impacts any MoDOT project may have on significant cultural resources to comply with federal and state historic preservation laws and to be environmentally responsible. For projects being developed, this process is typically started at the time the project manager submits a Request for Environmental Services (RES) to Design.
A cultural resource is any archaeological site, building, structure (e.g., bridge), district, or object. A significant cultural resource is one that meets certain criteria and is included in, or eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) and is termed a historic property or historic resource. Not all cultural resources are historically significant, but potential project impacts to all must be considered.
MoDOT may have historic preservation concerns for any project or activity that involves:
- Ground disturbances within existing or proposed MoDOT right-of-way or easements;
- Modifying or removing a bridge or culvert;
- The destruction, relocation, or encroachment upon a building(s); and/or
- The purchase or sale of right of way
These actions may be associated with initial highway construction, maintenance, or subsequent improvement activities. Even if a project plan does not include these actions, later contractor or maintenance tasks could meet one of these criteria. Evaluating whether a project or activity may impact a cultural resource requires specialized training and experience. MoDOT staff able to make these determinations is in the Historic Preservation Section of Design in the CO. It is imperative that the Historic Preservation Section be involved in project determinations about cultural resources and be notified if cultural resources are encountered within job limits during construction or on highway property in general.
127.2.1.1 Historic Preservation Regulations and Laws
The primary legislation that requires cultural resources investigations is Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Compliance with this law is required whenever a project uses federal funds or requires federal permits. Section 106 requires three things: identifying resources that could be impacted by the proposed action; evaluating the nature and severity of the project impacts to historic resources; and attempting to avoid, minimize or mitigate project impacts to the historic resources.
There are additional historic preservation laws and guidelines that MoDOT must comply with. Potential project impacts to certain kinds of historic resources that are identified during project development may require the preparation of a Section 4(f) evaluation that requires comparison of costs and impacts associated with avoiding the resource. The Section 4(f) process states that an alternative that is generally similar in cost and constructability but avoids the significant resource must be selected whenever possible. Federal laws also require that American Indian tribes be consulted if a project will impact prehistoric burials or sites that the tribes may consider important.
There are two state laws that involve projects encountering human burials. The Unmarked Human Burials law (RSMo 194) addresses situations where activities impact prehistoric burials and previously unrecognized historic burials. The Cemeteries law (RSMo 214) addresses project impacts to cemeteries and historic burials that are marked by headstones, particular kinds of vegetation or local folklore. If burials are found during construction (see Sec. 107.8 and 203.4.8 of the Missouri Standard Specifications for Highway Construction ), construction in that area must cease and MoDOT’s Historic Preservation Staff must be contacted. If contact cannot be made with the Historic Preservation Staff, then the county sheriff must be contacted.
127.2.2 Construction Inspection Guidance
Mitigation by investigation and removal is usually completed prior to construction if the presence of cultural resources is known. If artifacts are discovered during construction activities, the Design Division must be immediately notified. This will allow an inspection of the site by professional archaeologists to determine if further investigation is necessary before construction activities continue.
Sec. 107.8 and 203.4.8of the Missouri Standard Specifications for Highway Construction require the contractor to take steps to preserve any such objects that may be encountered and to deliver them to the custody of the engineer. If it is necessary to discontinue operations in a particular area to preserve such objects, this section of the specifications is basis for a work suspension.