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Pedestrian Survey and NRHP Eligibility Testing of Sites within a Proposed Detention Facility in Webb County, Texas
Center for Archaeological Research
The Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) of The University of Texas at San Antonio was contracted by MACTEC Engineering & Consulting, Inc. (hereafter, MACTEC) to perform Phase I archaeological survey and Phase II testing prior to the construction of a detention facility in Webb County, Texas. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires federal agencies to take into consideration the effects of proposed undertakings on cultural resources within the Area of Potential Effect (APE). While the proposed undertaking is being developed by The GEO Group, Inc. on privately owned property and is funded by private resources, the anticipated use of the facility by the United States Marshals Service makes this project a federal undertaking as defined under 36 CFR part 800.16(y). As such, the project must comply with Section 106 of the NHPA. The Texas Historical Commission (THC) is the reviewing agency for the project.
In December, 2004, CAR conducted an intensive survey of the APE for the proposed construction of the detention facility. The survey followed MACTEC’s preliminary cultural resources assessment and included pedestrian survey with shovel testing within an approximate 160-acre tract, and backhoe trenching of selected locations within the approximate 30-acre APE of the proposed undertaking. Eleven field sites were defined as a result of the intensive survey (Field Site 1 [41WB634], Field Site 2, Field Site 3 [41WB636], and Field Sites 4–11). Subsequently, Phase II investigations were conducted by CAR to evaluate National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) eligibility and State Archeological Landmark (SAL) designation for eight of the originally identified field sites (numbers 2 and 5–11). The Phase II investigations included the hand excavation of test units as well as mechanical auger testing.
Based on the combined results of the Phase I survey and Phase II investigations, seven sites were reported to the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory and assigned trinomials (41WB634 through 41WB640). Site 41WB639 was identified as containing archaeological components with significant research potential and therefore is recommended eligible for nomination to the NRHP and for formal designation as a SAL. The site contains a Middle Archaic component buried between 100 cm and 130 cm below surface that may yield information on a regional level. Based on the findings within the proposed project area, the site is interpreted as eligible for listing in the NRHP under Criterion D. Likewise, the site is interpreted as having the potential to contribute to a better understanding of the prehistory of Texas, and therefore eligible for SAL designation based on Criterion 1. Given the depth of the component and the shallow nature of the anticipated disturbances in the vicinity of the site (two feet or about 60 cm below surface), no construction impact is likely to effect the buried component and no further work is recommended at the site. However, in the case that construction parameters are changed and anticipated impacts reach below two feet (60 cm) in depth, data recovery efforts are recommended at the site.
In addition, site 41WB634 was identified during the survey as having some research potential, although the NRHP and SAL eligibility of the site has not been determined. According to present construction plans, the site falls outside of the facilities footprint and will not be disturbed by construction activities. No additional archaeological investigations are recommended at the present time. The site contains a temporally unassigned, shallowly buried (10–50 cm below surface) archaeological component. If at a future date the facilities footprint is relocated or hitherto unanticipated subsurface disturbances are planned in the vicinity of this site, Phase II testing is recommended to establish the NRHP eligibility of the site.
Finally, archaeological components buried at a depth of 70 cm below surface or deeper have been identified at sites 41WB637, 41WB638, and 41WB639. The NRHP/SAL eligibility of these deposits has not been fully assessed. However, the impacts of activities above these sites will consist of the planting of a grass cover and will otherwise be limited to foot traffic and therefore will be consistent with the guidelines set in the Intentional Burial of Sites as defined by the Texas Historical Commission. Therefore, no adverse affects will come to the deeply buried deposits at sites 41WB637, 41WB638 and 41WB639.
The cultural materials recovered during these investigations were processed at the CAR laboratory. Following analysis, several artifact classes possessing little scientific values were discarded in consultation with MACTEC and the landowner. These artifact classes included snail shells, unburned rocks, heat spalls, modern glass, plastic, and unidentified metal fragments. In all instances, discarded materials were documented and their counts included in the report and curation documentation. All data was entered into Access and Excel spreadsheets, and copies of electronic and paper records were submitted to the client. All artifacts, including human remains, were returned to the landowner and all copies of project records are permanently curated at the Center for Archaeological Research.
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