Texas Historical Commission
Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. (Horizon) was selected by Meritage Homes of Texas, LLC (Meritage), to conduct an intensive cultural resources inventory and assessment of 3 US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) jurisdictional stream crossings within the proposed Stewart Crossing tract in Leander, Williamson County, Texas. The Stewart Crossing tract represents the proposed site of a residential subdivision, and the overall property boundaries encompass an area of 26.3 hectares (65.1 acres). The overall property is bounded on the south by East Woodview Drive and on the north by Brushy Creek. While the proposed undertaking would be conducted by a privately owned development company on private land, an unnamed tributary of Brushy Creek flows northwards through the northern portion of the tract that has been classified as “waters of the US” under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). As the proposed undertaking would require a federal permit issued by the USACE, the portions of the overall project tract subject to federal jurisdiction also fall under the regulations of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended. As such, the Area of Potential Effect (APE) consists of 3 locations at which 2 proposed road and 1 proposed hike-andbike trail rights-of-way (ROW) would cross the unnamed stream in the northern portion of the project tract. For purposes of the cultural resources survey, each of the 3 survey areas was considered to consist of an east-to-west-oriented linear ROW measuring no more than 30.5 meters (100.0 feet) in width and extending approximately 30.5 meters (100.0 feet) in length from either side of the stream. Thus, each of the 3 survey areas measures approximately 30.5 meters (100.0 feet) in width by 61.0 meters (200.0 feet) in length and covers an area of approximately 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres), for a total of 0.6 hectares (1.4 acres).
While detailed construction plans were not available at the time of the survey, the depth of subsurface impacts associated with construction of the 2 proposed road crossings is anticipated to be no more than approximately 0.9 meters (3.0 feet) below surface based on typical construction design and practices. In regard to the proposed hike-and-bike trail crossing, the actual proposed trail footprint would measure only approximately 2.4 meters (8.0 feet) in width. The trail would be constructed by pouring concrete into wood-framed forms, and the maximum depth of impacts is anticipated to measure no more than to 0.3 meters (1.0 feet) below surface.
On July 8, 2015, Horizon archeological technicians Briana Nicole Smith and Jared Wiersema, under the overall direction of Jeffrey D. Owens, Principal Investigator, performed an intensive cultural resources survey of the 3 USACE jurisdictional areas located within the Stewart Crossing tract to locate any cultural resources that potentially would be impacted by the proposed undertaking. Horizon’s archeologists traversed each of the three 30.5-meter- (100.0-foot-) wide by 61.0-meter- (200.0-foot-) long USACE jurisdictional areas in parallel, linear transects spaced no more than 30.5 meters (100.0 feet) apart and thoroughly inspected the modern ground surface for aboriginal and historic-age cultural resources. All 3 of the USACE jurisdictional areas are situated within forested areas, and vegetation consists primarily of moderately dense thickets of cedar, live oak, sycamore, chinaberry, and hackberry trees with a moderately dense understory of greenbrier, grasses, and small shrubs. Visibility of the modern ground surface was fair to good, ranging from roughly 30% to 70% depending on the density of forest floor vegetation. The 2 USACE jurisdictional areas at which the proposed road crossings would be constructed are situated on rocky limestone uplands with shallow soil cover. The third USACE jurisdictional area at which the proposed hike-and-bike trail would be constructed is located on the edge of the upland and adjacent alluvial terrace near the Brushy Creek channel and is characterized by slightly deeper soils overlying dense clay sediments.
In addition to pedestrian walkover, the Texas State Minimum Archeological Survey Standards (TSMASS) require the excavation of 3 subsurface probes per acre for project areas measuring less than 2.0 acres in size. Thus, a minimum of 2 shovel tests were required within each of the 0.2-hectare (0.5-acre) USACE jurisdictional areas, or a minimum of 5 shovel tests for the project as a whole. Horizon excavated a total of 17 shovel tests during the survey, including 4 shovel tests within each of the proposed road crossing areas and 9 shovel tests at the proposed hike-and-bike trail crossing area, thereby exceeding the TSMASS for a project area of this size. Shovel testing within the 2 proposed road crossing areas on the upland formation revealed shallow, 10.0- to 35.0-centimeter-deep deposits of dark brown and grayish-brown clayey sediments overlying limestone bedrock or dense, rocky clay. Shovel testing within the proposed trail crossing area on the terrace of Brushy Creek revealed slightly deeper soils extending to as much as 60.0 centimeters below surface, though dense clay sediments were also encountered in all shovel tests excavated in this area. Holocene-age soils with the potential to contain cultural resources were fully penetrated in all of the shovel tests.
No cultural resources, historic or prehistoric, were identified within the APE as a result of the survey. Based on the results of the survey-level investigations documented in this report, no potentially significant cultural resources would be affected by the proposed undertaking. In accordance with 36 CFR 800.4, Horizon has made a reasonable and good-faith effort to identify historic properties within the APE. No cultural resources were identified within the APE that meet the criteria for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) according to 36 CFR 60.4, and no further archeological work is recommended in connection with the proposed undertaking. However, human burials, both prehistoric and historic, are protected under the Texas Health and Safety Code. In the event that any human remains or burial objects are inadvertently discovered at any point during construction, use, or ongoing maintenance in the APE, even in previously surveyed areas, all work should cease immediately in the vicinity of the inadvertent discovery, and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) should be notified immediately.
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