The following is an article by guest author Jim Christensen
UXO projects around the United States and its territories have, with increasing frequency, been tasked with compliance for cultural resource and archaeological regulations. Many contractors in the UXO industry work for many years all over the US without having had to deal with archaeology. When they are first faced with the requirement, many are ill prepared to adapt to the challenges. It is important to raise the awareness of contractors, because nothing can throw a monkey wrench in a project quite as fast as archaeology. It's much easier to be successful if the costs, logistics, and protocols for cultural resource monitoring are taken into account proactively. It's even better if the safety plan integrates all the specialists required to complete the project under one, cohesive strategy. Failure to consider this aspect can negatively impact profitability and, worse, safety.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and 36CFR800 dictate that a federal project with the potential to impact cultural resource sites must take into consideration those possible impacts. The law does not specify that only archaeological sites must be considered, but at present that is what is being enforced most frequently. Other aspects of cultural resources such as traditional use areas, hunting and fishing, etc. could all be lumped under this law as well. In today's regulatory environment, those other aspects are not usually addressed.
Because archaeological sites are considered to be those locations with evidence of human activity 50 years old or older, UXO remediation projects are likely to impact archaeological sites. When most metallic anomalies are targeted for removal, and metallic items make up the bulk of the assemblage of most historic sites, we are in essence destroying historic sites over a broad area by removing artifacts from context. This does not take into account inadvertent impacts to prehistoric sites as a result of intrusive excavation by techs not trained to identify prehistoric materials.
As a result, the lead agency, in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the land managing agency, and Tribes may advise the presence of an archaeologist. This can create obvious challenges in terms of productivity, as well as safety.
Though the NHPA has been around since 1966, we are only recently seeing it affect the industry. UXO projects are usually federal undertakings in which the NHPA applies. In fact, it has always applied, but for a variety of reasons, UXO techs never saw archs on the grid.
Prior to letting the contract, Army Corps of Engineers, land managing agencies, or installations traditionally signed off on a statement that UXO remediation was not likely to impact archaeological sites. If the SHPO and Tribes signed off on that determination, the project was in compliance and could move forward with no further work needed.