April 19, 2005

The Hon. Devin Nunes, Chairman
House Committee on Resources
Subcommittee on National Parks
186 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
     
The Hon. Donna Christensen, Ranking Member
House Committee on Resources
Subcommittee on National Parks
187 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
 

Dear Chairman Nunes and Ranking Member Christensen:

Re: Proposed National Historic Preservation Act Amendments of 2005.

On behalf of the Ohio Archaeological Council, I write to inform you about some of the problems with Section 4 of the Amendments, "consideration of effect of federal undertaking," and strongly urge you and the Subcommittee to reject it.

The Ohio Archaeological Council is a private, non-profit corporation registered with the State of Ohio in 1975 as a charitable, scientific and educational organization of over 125 individual archaeologists and museums promoting the advancement of archaeology in Ohio.

In enacting the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended, Congress found and declared that

"the increased knowledge of our historic resources, the establishment of better means of identifying and administering them, and the encouragement of their preservation will improve the planning and executing of Federal and federally assisted projects and will assist economic growth and development."

Section 4 of the proposed Amendments is antithetical to the "…establishment of better means of identifying…" the nation's historic resources and to "improv[ing] the planning and execution of Federal and federally assisted projects [that] will assist economic growth and development."

Section 4 of the proposed Amendments would limit Federal agencies to only considering historic properties that are listed in or formally determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) at the time the Federal agency determines that it has an undertaking pursuant to Section 106 of the NHPA. An undertaking is an activity with the potential to affect historic properties. This limitation would prohibit Federal agencies from considering hundreds of thousands if not millions of historic properties that are neither listed in the NRHP nor formally determined eligible for listing in the NRHP by the Secretary of the Interior because the Federal agency would not be permitted to examine the project area to identify historic properties that are not currently listed in or formally determined eligible for listing in the NRHP. In addition, the hundreds of thousands of historic properties already informally determined eligible for listing in the NRHP by Federal agencies through the process known as consensus would be prohibited from being considered on Federal undertakings.

Most of the properties determined eligible through Section 106 of the NHPA are determined eligible through an identification process that results in the Federal agency consulting with State and/or Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (HPOs) to determine if a property meets the NRHP criteria for evaluation, the criteria used to determine if a site, building, structure, district or object is eligible for listing in the NRHP. If the Federal agency and the appropriate State and/or Tribal HPO agree that the property meets the NRHP criteria for evaluation, the property becomes eligible by what is known as a consensus determination of eligibility. Then the Federal agency continues to consult with the appropriate State and/or Tribal HPO, and possibly other consulting parties such as local governments, the sponsor of the project, and local concerned citizens to resolve any adverse effects on the historic property that will be caused by the Federal undertaking. This process of determining NRHP eligibility by consensus is a different, and often less time consuming and less costly process than nominating such properties to the NRHP, a process outside of Section 106, or seeking an opinion from the Secretary of the Interior on eligibility.

The heart and soul of the Section 106 process is 1) the process of identifying previously unidentified historic properties that are eligible for listing in the NRHP and that will be affected by a Federal undertaking, and 2) the process of consulting with state, local, and tribal authorities in this identification process. Section 4 of the proposed NHPA Amendments of 2005 would end these processes resulting in the needless destruction hundreds of thousands if not millions of historic properties important to local communities, states, and the nation, and needless delays in the approval of Federal undertakings, further delaying economic growth and development.

Please reject Section 4 of the proposed Amendments, "consideration of effect of federal undertaking."

Sincerely,

Alan C. Tonetti
Trustee
Chair, Government Affairs Committee

 

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