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Transmission Cultural Resources

Cultural Resources
Present, Potentially Affected

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was the first piece of legislature to provide federal protection for cultural resources and establish that archeological sites are important public resources. Subsequently, Congress enacted five more acts (National Historic Preservation Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act) that strive to protect historical places and cultural resources from degradation on public and occasionally private lands. Typical objects identified for protection can include, sacred, funerary, historical, or items with patrimony characteristics. Protecting these objects and places provides not only a historical context to physical features such as geography and climate, but also anthropological attributes such as philosophy, values, practices, livelihoods, motivations, and technological advancements.

Cultural Resources Impacts & Mitigation

Transmission line projects can impact cultural resources significantly with surface disturbance, through erosion, visual obstruction, changes in runoff patterns and increased sedimentation. Hydrological alterations or additions divert water to new paths, which may cover and depreciate culturally significant items. If construction is commenced before a site survey, damage to culturally significant items may increase.

Typical mitigation measures include the following:

Archaeologists

  • Hire an archaeologist to assess the area for cultural significance and cultural item discovery. Archaeological findings can dictate the best placement for the transmission line’s pathway, ancillary facilities, and construction equipment storage. This can also optimize the amount of structures needed to decrease surface disturbance.
  • A culturally significant finding may reveal if the proposed line’s site is on or includes a listed property on the National Register of Historic Places, or obstructs views from a National Historic Trail. Under these conditions, site relocation is preferred.

Education

  • Develop employee-training programs to prepare employees with procedures to follow if an object is found in an inadvertent event during construction. This will decrease theft, and damage to discovered items.
  • Typical procedures may include halting work, fencing off the area in which the item was discovered, and contacting archaeologists.

Projects on Native American land

  • Meet early with Native American governments to determine where sacred landscapes and traditional cultural practices occur.

Factors Affecting Cultural Resources

The factors below are key to approving transmission line development on or near lands containing cultural resources. Around the U.S., there are many protected cultural sites that are governed by the Antiquities Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Indian and Alaska Native Lands

Transmission line site proposals occasionally occur on or near Indian and Alaska Native Lands. Each tribe in the potentially affected radius is given a stake in the project’s approval to preserve sacred grounds’ spiritual significance, practices, resources, and artifacts. Tribes also view sovereignty as their greatest value. The public sector may be viewed as a threat to the unique resources found on Indian and Alaska Native lands.

The US Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) governs Indian reservations. The BIA provides services to federally recognized tribes and assists in managing controversial surface acres and subsurface mineral estates. Tasked with building positive relationships between tribes and the federal government, the BIA creates laws and regulations that encourage Indian tribes and Alaska Natives to possess self-governance and self-determination.