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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

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. 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. WAC 25-48-020.

On Washington state lands it is unlawful for any entity of the state or a political subdivision to knowingly remove, alter, dig into, or excavate by use of any mechanical, hydraulic, or other means, or to damage, deface, or destroy any historic or prehistoric archaeological resource or site, or remove any archaeological object from the site.

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 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 which have been abandoned thirty years or more.

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?

An “archaeological resource” includes: “All sites, objects, structures, artifacts, implements, and location of pre-historical or archaeological interest, whether previously recorded or still unrecognized, including, but not limited to, those pertaining to prehistoric and historic American Indian or aboriginal burials, campsites, dwellings, and habitation sites, including rock shelters and caves, their artifacts and implements of culture such as projectible points, arrowheads, skeletal remains, grave goods, basketry, pestles, mauls and grinding stones, knives, scrapers, rock carvings and paintings, and other implements and artifacts of any material that are located in, on, or under the surface of any lands or waters owned by or under the possession, custody, or control of the state of Washington or any county, city, or political subdivision of the state. RCW 27.53.040.

All historic archaeological resources which have been abandoned 30 years or more in, on, or under the surface of any public lands or waters owned by or under the possession, custody, or control of the state of Washington are deemed to be the property of the state of Washington. RCW 27.53.045

The developer cannot take actions to remove a discovered protected resource from the project site without first obtaining a permit from the director of DAHP. RCW 27.53.060(1)

11-WA-c.3 – Archaeological 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 DAHP for a permit. Work cannot begin on the site until the developer obtains a permit.. WAC 25-48-050.

Each application for a permit must include the following:

  • 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 must be provided;
  • 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; and
  • A completed environmental checklist to assist in making a threshold determination and to initiate SEPA compliance. WAC 25-48-060.

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. WAC 25-48-060(6).

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

DAHP must notify any affected Indian Tribe which may consider the site to be of historic or cultural significance at least 30 days before issuing a permit for archaeological excavation of an archaeological site. WAC 25-48-070(1)

11-WA-c.7 – Provide Public Notice

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/or
  • Posting on the property site. WAC 25-48-080(1).

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

Comments on a pending application must be received by DAHP within 30 days of the notice. DAHP must consider all comments received within the necessary timeframe. WAC 25-48-080(2).

The state archeologist may grant a 15 day extension to allow for additional comments. The party requesting the extension must make the request in writing within the original thirty day comment period. WAC 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 the imposition of terms and conditions in the permit. WAC 25-48-080(3).

11-WA-c.10 – Archaeological Excavation Permit

DAHP will normally act upon a permit application within sixty days of receipt of a complete permit application. DAHP may issue a permit for a period of time appropriate for the work upon determining that the developer meets the following minimum qualifications:

  • Meets the minimum qualifications as a professional archaeologist specified in WAC 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 RCW 27.53.060. WAC 25-48-090.

If DAHP denies a permit, 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 WAC 25-48-060 and WAC 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. WAC 25-48-105.

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