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Washington Archaeological Resource Discovery Process (11-WA-c)

In the state of Washington, cultural resource concerns are integrated as early as possible into the planning for capital projects and are protected if discovered during construction. Washington defines “cultural resources” as archeological and historical sites and artifacts, and traditional areas or items of religious, ceremonial and social uses to affected tribes. W.A.C. § 222-16-010. Washington defines an "archaeological resource" as any material remains of human life or activities which are of archaeological interest, including all sites, objects, structures, artifacts, implements, and locations of pre-historical or archaeological interest. W.A.C. § 25-48-020.


In Washington it is unlawful for any person, firm corporation, or entity or political subdivision of the state to knowingly remove, alter, dig into, excavate, damage, deface, or destroy any historic or prehistoric archaeological resource or site, or remove any archaeological object from the site without an Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation Permit (“permit”). R.C.W. § 27.53.060(1). This includes alteration to Indian graves and artifacts. R.C.W. § 27.44.040.

If archaeological or historic artifacts are discovered on the project site, the developer will be required to obtain a permit before removal. The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) issues Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation Permits for this purpose. This permitting process applies to the alteration, digging, excavating, or removal of archaeological objects or sites or historic archaeological resources that have been abandoned thirty years or more. See R.C.W. § 27.53.045.


Archaeological Resource Discovery Process Process

11-WA-c.1 to 11-WA-c.2 – Has an Archaeological or Historical Resource Been Discovered on the Site?

A developer may not take actions to remove a discovered protected resource from the project site without first obtaining a permit from the DAHP. R.C.W. § 27.53.060(1)

Washington defines "archaeological resource" broadly, including any material remains of human life or activities which are of archaeological interest, including all sites, objects, structures, artifacts, implements, and locations of pre-historical or archaeological interest. W.A.C. § 25-48-020; R.C.W. § 27.53.040.

All historic archaeological resources that have been abandoned thirty years or more in, on, or under the surface of any public lands or waters are deemed to be the property of the state of Washington. R.C.W. § 27.53.045


11-WA-c.3 – Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation Permit Application

Any developer proposing to dig, alter, excavate, and/or remove archaeological objects and sites or historic archaeological resources, or proposing to remove glyptic or painted records of tribes or peoples must apply to the DAHP for an Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation Permit. The DAHP does not charge a fee to process or issue a permit, but work cannot begin on the site until the developer obtains a permit.. W.A.C. § 25-48-050. A permit is required for disturbances on both private and public lands. R.C.W. § 27.53.060(1).

Each application for a permit must include the following:

  • The Washington State Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation Permit Application Cover Sheet;
  • Sufficient background information and summary of previous field investigation, research and data gaps about the site proposed for excavation so that the reviewer may have a comprehensive understanding of the site and current research questions to be able to review the proposal as a complete document;
  • The nature and extent of the work proposed, including how and why it is proposed to be conducted and the methods proposed for excavation and recovery, number and placement of excavation units, proposed excavation volumes, proposed time of performance, locational maps, and a completed site inventory form;
  • Summary of the environmental setting and depositional context, with an emphasis on vegetation, past and present available natural resources, geomorphology and formation processes, and their relationship to the archaeological deposits;
  • An artifact inventory plan detailing the character of the expected data categories to be recovered including the proposed methods of inventorying the recovered data and proposed methods of cleaning, stabilizing, and curating of specimens and recovered data consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for archaeological curation;
  • A plan for responding to the inadvertent discovery of human remains;
  • A professional, scientific research design, including research questions, demonstrating that the work and reporting will be performed in a scientific and technically acceptable manner;
  • The name and address of the individual(s) proposed to be responsible for conducting the work, institutional affiliation, if any, and evidence of education, training, and experience in accord with minimal qualifications;
  • Financial evidence of the applicant’s ability to initiate, conduct, and complete the proposed work, including evidence of logistical support and laboratory facilities and evidence of financial support for analysis and report writing;
  • A plan for site restoration following excavation activities and evidence of plans to secure bonding to cover cost of restoration;
  • Evidence of an agreement for the proposed work from the owner, agency, or political subdivision with management responsibility over the land;
  • A site security plan to assure the protection of the site and its contents during the public permit review and excavation process;
  • A public participation plan detailing the extent of public involvement and dissemination of project results to the public, as appropriate;
  • A completed environmental checklist to assist in making a threshold determination and to initiate SEPA compliance;
  • Evidence of abandonment;
  • Disclosure of any previous violation of the requirements of obtaining an Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation permit or any federal or state law regulating archaeological objects or sites, historic archaeological resources, glyptic or painted records, or native Indian cairns or graves; and
  • Disclosure of outstanding archaeological excavation permits issued by the DAHP to the applicant.

W.A.C. § 25-48-060.

The DAHP recommends that the developer complete the application cooperatively with the concerned tribes, local government planning office, and local museums, and include in the permit a list of names and addresses of affected persons and agencies to expedite the process. Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation Archaeological Permitting Webpage.

11-WA-c.4 to 11-WA-c.5 – Review Application for Completeness

DAHP will review the application materials for completeness, and may request additional information from the developer. W.A.C. § 25-48-060(6).

11-WA-c.6 – Notify Affected Indian Tribes

DAHP must notify any affected Indian tribe that may consider the site to be of historic or cultural significance at least thirty days before issuing a permit for archaeological excavation of an archaeological site. W.A.C. § 25-48-070(1). The DAHP must consider comments received from tribes during this thirty-day period during issuance of the permit and terms and conditions. W.A.C. § 25-48-070(3).


11-WA-c.7 – Provide Public Notice

The DAHP must give public notice of a pending permit application. Public notice provided by DAHP must be in one or more for the following forms:

  • Notifying public and private groups, tribes, and agencies with known interest in a certain application or type of application being considered;
  • Notifying individuals with known interest in a certain application or in the type of application being considered;
  • Publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the area in which the application will be implemented;
  • Notifying the news media; and
  • Posting on the property site.

W.A.C. § 25-48-080(1).

11-WA-c.8 – Comment on Permit Application

Comments on an application must be received by the DAHP within thirty days of the notice. Comments are generally mailed or faxed to the DAHP, although alternative delivery of comments may be accommodated. W.A.C. § 25-48-080(2). The DAHP must consider all comments received the thirty day timeframe. W.A.C. § 25-48-080(3).

The state archeologist may grant a fifteen day extension to allow for additional comments, however the party requesting the extension must make the request in writing within the original thirty day comment period. W.A.C. § 25-48-080(4).

11-WA-c.9 – Consider and Respond to Comments on Permit Application

DAHP will consider comments on the permit application when determining whether to issue or deny a permit and in the imposition of terms and conditions in the permit. W.A.C. § 25-48-080(3).

Mitigation methods requested by tribal representatives, including stipulations pertaining to the disposition of human remains, may be incorporated into the permit terms and conditions. W.A.C. 25-48-070(3).

11-WA-c.10 – Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation Permit

The DAHP will normally act upon a permit application within sixty days of receiving a complete permit application. The DAHP may issue a permit for a period of time appropriate for the work upon determining that:

  1. The individual the developer has hired to be responsible for conducting the archaeological work:
    • Meets the minimum qualifications ass a professional archaeologist specified in W.A.C. § 25-48-020(4);
    • Possesses demonstrable competence in archaeological methods and theory, and in collecting, handling, analyzing, evaluating, and reporting archaeological data, relative to the type and scope of the work proposed; and
    • Has complied with current and past permits issued under R.C.W. § 27.53.060.
  2. The proposed archaeological work is to be undertake for the purpose of furthering archaeological knowledge in the public interest.
  3. The proposed archaeological work, including the time, scope, location, and purpose, is not inconsistent with any management plan or established policy, objectives, or requirements applicable to the management of public lands concerned.
  4. Any Washington university, museum, repository, or other scientific or educational institution proposed as the repository possesses adequate curatorial capability for safeguarding and preserving the archaeological resources and all associated records.
  5. Where the application is for a state-owned historic archaeological resource, a contract between the applicant and the department has been executed, including the terms and conditions in W.A.C. § 25-48-090(5).
  6. Evidence that the applicant (developer) agrees to mitigate any archaeological damage which occurs during the excavations and recovery operations.
  7. Evidence that the applicant agrees to allow the DAHP access to all artifacts and data recovered from historic archaeological sites for purposes of scholarly research and photographic documentation for a period to be agreed upon by the parties.
  8. Evidence that the applicant agrees to allow the DAHP to have the right to publish scientific papers concerning the results of all research conducted as project mitigation.
  9. The applicant will provide the DAHP with additions and changes to the information provided within fifteen days after the applicant becomes aware of the inaccuracy or need for change.

W.A.C. § 25-48-090.

If DAHP denies a permit under W.A.C. § 25-48-105, a written statement of the reasons for the denial will accompany the notice of permit denial to the developer with a notice of the right to request a hearing. A permit may be denied if:

  • The application does not meet the requirements and standards in W.A.C. § 25-48-060 and W.A.C. § 25-48-090;
  • The applicant or any individual responsible for conducting the work or carrying out the terms of the permit has failed to meet the terms and conditions of a permit previously issued; or
  • The applicant or any individual proposed to be responsible for conducting the work or carrying out the terms of the permit has been found to have violated the rules for archaeological objects or sites.

W.A.C. § 25-48-105.

The DAHP must promptly notify in writing any tribes that it consulted during the permit application process. W.A.C. § 25-48-070(5).


11-WA-c.11 – Appeal Decision (If Applicable)

The developer may request a hearing to contest the DAHP’s decision to impose terms and conditions on a permit under W.A.C. § 25-48-100 or to deny a permit application under W.A.C. § 25-48-105. Hearing requests must be in writing and must specify the issue(s) to be decided and whether the developer desires a full adjudicative proceeding, a brief adjudicative proceeding (W.A.C. § 25-48-122), or an emergency adjudicative proceeding (W.A.C. § 25-48-123). The DAHP must receive the request within twenty-one (21) days of the date the permit was issued or denied. W.A.C. § 25-48-120(2). Upon receipt of the request, the DAHP Director designates a presiding officer, either an administrative law judge or a DAHP senior staff person, depending on the type of request. W.A.C. § 25-48-120(3).




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