Government Affairs Committee Report to Members, May 7, 2021

Prepared by Al Tonetti, Chair

Andy Sewell, Lauren Sieg, and Mike Striker, Committee Members

The mission of the Government Affairs Committee is to develop and advance legislative priorities, consult with government agencies, interested parties, and the public regarding the effects of government policies, regulations, actions, and projects on Ohio archaeology and archaeological resources, and provide leadership regarding the role of archaeology and archaeologists in civic affairs. If you want to participate in the Committee’s work, please contact Al Tonetti.

State Issues

SHPO Online Mapping System Update. The State Historic Preservation Office’s (SHPO) GIS was recently updated to include a county-level database showing Federally recognized tribes, local historical societies, and historic preservation organizations, including the Ohio Archaeological Council (OAC), who should be consulted during Section 106 undertakings. This “interested parties” list includes the OAC for all 88 Ohio counties.

SHPO Integrated Project System (IPS). Later this year, SHPO plans to launch a web-based application for use by agencies, consulting firms, interested parties, and others to submit projects for Section 106 review, National Register nominations, Ohio Historic Inventory Forms and Ohio Archaeological Inventory Forms. Documents, images, reports, and correspondence for any given project will be stored in IPS and be available for viewing by those directly associated with projects. SHPO will review submissions and communicate with submitters through IPS. Updates will be posted at https://www.ohiohistory.org/ips.

Human Burial Places Protection Bill. The Ohio History Connection (OHC) and its SHPO continue to work with the OAC on this matter. Since we were unsuccessful in getting a bill introduced into the 133rd General Assembly, primarily due to legislative inaction during the pandemic and some opposition from interested parties, we decided to take a different approach. We decided to draft a bill creating a human burial grounds task force to study relevant issues and make recommendations to the Governor and leaders of the General Assembly, similar to the Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force of 2013-2014. The bill has been drafted and we met twice with the likely sponsor, Representative Mark Johnson (R-Chillicothe), discussing the need for and composition of the task force. With his background in the construction industry, Rep. Johnson has some familiarity with encountering human burial places during construction projects and wants to see a reasonable process for dealing with these matters established in Ohio. A few other legislators interested in co-sponsoring the bill have been identified. The task force would be composed of 15 individuals representing various interest groups, including someone from the OAC, appointed by the Governor and leaders of the House and Senate. Rep. Johnson is contacting the interest groups gauging their interest in serving. The OHC would provide administrative support for the task force. The task force would address better protection of human burial grounds including abandoned and inactive cemeteries as well as unmarked human burial sites and the human remains contained therein, but not active cemeteries, the latter of which was the focus of the 2013-2014 task force. The new task force would receive testimony from interested parties and have one year to complete their work and submit a report to the Governor, House Speaker, and Senate President. If you are interested in serving as the OAC’s representative on this task force or know of someone who should, please contact President Nolan or Al Tonetti ASAP. 

Foster Cemetery, Green Township, Adams County. The OAC was contacted by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for advice concerning how to address graves in danger of eroding into Ohio Brush Creek at the township administered cemetery. Erosion is severe and the threat ongoing. TNC is an adjacent landowner considering having any graves removed reburied on their property. Ohio has no standards for how such removals should be done, and the township does not have funds for conducting the proper removal and reburial. Options for getting bioarchaeologists to assist with the removal were explored, and the Columbus-based Institute for Research and Learning in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology (IRLAB) submitted a proposal to do so as part of their education and training programs.

Worthington Cemetery, Highland Township, Defiance County. The OAC was contacted for help in identifying a vanished 19th century African American cemetery being farmed by a local government agency. Prior to discovering what is thought to be the general location of the cemetery, in 1993 an archaeological investigation of the area was conducted for a proposed sewer and water treatment facility, which has not been built. The archaeological survey identified a Late Archaic “Glacial Kame” site that was recommended for additional investigation because it yielded artifacts often associated with human burials. A piece of a headstone was subsequently recovered in the general location of what is thought to be the historic cemetery. Discussions concerning how to locate graves from the African American cemetery and who could do this work ensued. The local group trying to preserve this cemetery is working with the local government agency to stop farming the area thought to contain the cemetery, to maintain it as green space, erect a marker at the site, and allow public access to it.

Newark Earthworks Litigation. On July 7, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that it would hear Moundbuilders Country Club appeal that OHC can terminate their lease using Ohio’s eminent domain statute. Oral arguments were held April 13, 2021. The court documents and the oral arguments video can be found at https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Clerk/ecms/#/caseinfo/2020/0191.

ODNR Acquisition of Oldtown Council House Site, Greene County. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will acquire and develop a new state park at the former late 18th Shawnee Indian settlement of Oldtown in Xenia. The State Controlling Board approved ODNR's proposal to purchase the property for $260,000 and to transform the half-acre property into Ohio's 76th state park. ODNR plans to engage with the three sovereign and federally recognized Shawnee Tribes, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Shawnee Tribe, and the Absentee Shawnee, to preserve the site. The state park will include an interpretive center and several markers memorializing historical events at Oldtown.

Ohio Underground Damage Prevention Coalition. Due to the pandemic, subcommittees of the Coalition discussing revising Ohio’s “call before you dig”/underground utilities protection law met infrequently last year. A virtual Coalition meeting was held on February 25, 2021 discussing where we go from here. Subcommittees may make recommendations on revising the law to the Coalition later this year, but any changes would be unlikely until 2022. Changes to training requirements are still in the discussion phase. OHIO811’s website, https://www.oups.org/legislative-coalition-oudpc/, contains updates.

Statehood Day. A virtual Statehood Day was held on March 1, and the Ohio Museums Association hosted a follow-up discussion about the legislative priorities on March 2. Approximately 215 attended the former and 30 the latter. The priorities include the bill creating the human burial grounds task force and OHC’s budget. 

Federal Issues

Bills in Congress (information on all bills available at https://congress.gov/):  

African American Burial Grounds Network Study Act. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) are preparing to reintroduce the African American Burial Ground Network Study Act. This bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to study how to identify, interpret, and preserve historic African American burial grounds. It authorizes $2.5 million to conduct the study and requires the results to be presented to Congress within three years of the money being made available. This bill differs somewhat from the legislation (S.2827) that was introduced in the last Congress and passed by the Senate on December 20, 2020. 

S. 820, Paving the Way for Rural Communities Act. This bill would exclude certain federal undertakings from complying with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act (i.e., Section 106) in any area of the country that is not part of a metropolitan statistical area. This bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in the previous Congress. The bill was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

H.R. 2930/S. 1471, Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act. These bipartisan bills, to enhance protections of Native American tangible cultural heritage, including human remains and cultural items, have been reintroduced in the House and Senate. Among other things, the bills would bar and establish stronger penalties for knowingly exporting Native American cultural items that were obtained in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and/or the Archaeological Resources Protection Act; establish an export certification system for items allowed to be exported; establish a Native American working group to provide recommendations regarding the voluntary return of tangible cultural heritage by collectors, dealers, other individuals, and non-Federal organizations that hold tangible cultural heritage, and the elimination of illegal commerce of cultural items and archaeological resources in the United States and foreign markets. H.R. 2930 was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Committees on the Judiciary, and Foreign Affairs. In the Senate, S. 1471 was referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs.

Section 106 Consultations: 

Boston Mills North, Cuyahoga River Restoration. USEPA/NPS/USACE project, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cuyahoga and Summit counties. The OAC is a consulting party on this project to restore habitat and hydrology along several miles of the river. Federally recognized tribes are also involved. The project has been revised so it would not impact known and likely significant (National Register eligible) archaeological sites. However, the revised project has the potential to affect areas where there is a high potential for new sites to be found. A programmatic agreement addressing these impacts is being developed and scoping for archaeological investigations is underway, led by the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). We participate in all consulting party meetings and have submitted comments on the project’s scope of work to identify cultural resources and other matters. The project website can be found at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=121&documentID=105031

Buckeye Lake East End Dredge Material Relocation Area. USACE/ODNR project, Perry County. The OAC is a consulting party on this project that affects 33PE1221, an open-air Late Archaic habitation site determined NRHP eligible. Avoidance of project impacts was recommended by USACE/ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) and SHPO. The OAC requested further clarification on the site’s NRHP eligibility and why avoidance was recommended over data recovery. The site has been fenced off and will be avoided by the project.

Irishtown Bend Hillside Stabilization. USDOT project, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County. The OAC accepted the invitation from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Maritime Administration to participate as a consulting party for the stabilization of the Irishtown Bend hillside to prevent it from sliding into the Cuyahoga River and disrupting Cuyahoga River commerce and recreation. The Irishtown Bend hillside includes a large archaeological district listed in the NRHP. Its significance spans the period 1850 – 1910 when it was an enclave of unskilled European immigrants’ homes and shops supporting Cleveland’s shipping and other industries. In accepting the invitation, we noted that the project is likely to cause adverse effects to the archaeological district, which was archaeologically investigated in the late 1980s by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Consulting party meetings and scoping of the archaeological investigations begin on May 12.

McConnelsville Dam Replacement. ODNR and USACE project, Morgan County. The OAC is a consulting party on this project to replace the dam and its adverse effects to it (see Muskingum River Locks and Dams Assessments and Improvements project immediate below). We are currently discussing what measures are appropriate to mitigate adverse effects to the dam as stipulations in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) being developed. A draft of the MOA is anticipated this week.  

Muskingum River Locks and Dams Assessments and Improvements. ODNR and USACE project, Coshocton, Morgan, Muskingum, and Washington counties. The OAC is a consulting party in developing a programmatic agreement to consider the effects of improvements on NRHP-listed structures in the Muskingum River Navigation Historic District. The improvements would be done over a 10-year period. Our comments are primarily focused on concerns for archaeological investigations of construction staging areas and roads to same and identifying archaeological resources during dewatering around dam and lock facilities. 

Thornwood Crossing Bridge. ODOT project, Licking County (Newark). The OAC accepted the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) invitation to be a consulting party to address impacts on 33LI1740, a Middle Woodland period Hopewell habitation site containing relatively undisturbed pit features, midden, and activity areas. We reviewed and commented on the archaeological reports and data recovery plan.

WAR-SR 63-0.38. ODOT project, Warren County. We accepted an invitation from ODOT to be a consulting party on this project. The project will widen a 3.4-mile segment of SR 63 to four lanes. Archaeological resources associated with the West Families of the Union Shaker Village may be affected by the project.

Wayne National Forest Plan Revision. After two years of planning, the Wayne National Forest Supervisor decided to suspend revision of the 2006 forest plan in order to focus on ongoing priorities. See plan revision information at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/wayne/landmanagement/planning.

Zoar Levee and Diversion Dam repair. USACE project, Tuscarawas County. We continue to participate in monthly consulting party meetings on this project affecting the Zoar Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. The USACE and their archaeological consultants have conducted multiple archaeological and geophysical investigations in the project area. We reviewed and commented on the Phase 1 archaeological survey report, which included geomorphological, geophysical, deep trenching, and shovel test pit investigations. We reviewed and commented on the finding of effects and effects management options report. We also reviewed and commented on a management summary of a second geophysical survey report noting concerns about its efficacy. We are now reviewing a proposed scope of work for a third archaeological and geophysical survey. For information on this project see https://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Current-Projects/Zoar/.

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