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Cultural Resources Survey for the Rehabilitation of Floodwater Retarding Structures 10 and 11 Within the Ellis-Prairie Soil Water Conservation District Ellis County, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
AECOM Technical Services, Inc. (AECOM) was contracted by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to perform a cultural resources survey in support of plans to rehabilitate Floodwater Retention Structures (FRSs) 10 and 11, located in Ellis County, Texas. Rehabilitation activities for FRSs generally consist of widening and raising the earthen spillway, flattening the downstream slope and extending the footprint of the earthen structure, updating or replacing the inlet and/or outlet pipes, and sediment excavation within the drained pool area. Auxiliary spillways, which are typically located on the uplands, may also be modified, and temporary construction sites may be established on the uplands.
The project is being developed by the Ellis-Prairie Soil Water Conservation District (Ellis-Prairie SWCD) of the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB), and the NRCS. As such, the project is subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended. In accordance with Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) regulations pertaining to the protection of historic properties, federal agencies are required to assess the effects of their undertaking on historic properties prior to issuing permits or funding. Furthermore, because each FRS is currently monitored, operated, and maintained by the EllisPrairie SWCD/TSSWCB, which is a political subdivision of the State of Texas, the projects also fall within the purview of the Antiquities Code of Texas, which requires the Texas Historical Commission (THC) to review any actions that have the potential to disturb prehistoric or historic sites within the public domain of the State of Texas.
The survey carried out within the estimated Limits of Construction (LOC) at each FRS on January 15, 2016 under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 7521, issued by the THC. Dr. Steve Ahr served as Principal Investigator. For purposes of these investigations, the LOC is considered to be equivalent to the Area of Potential Effect for cultural resources compliance with the NHPA and the Antiquities Code of Texas. The survey included a 100 percent pedestrian survey of all areas of potential new disturbance associated with rehabilitation measures at each FRS. Field investigations also included an assessment of the soils and geomorphic setting of the project areas as it relates to archaeological integrity potential and previous impacts.
No prehistoric archaeological sites were identified during the survey, though two small shed structures were found at the far northwest corner at FRS 10. One is located inside the APE, while the other is situated just outside the current defined limits. Additional archival investigations indicates that these sheds were constructed sometime between 1995 and 2001, and given their recent age, neither should be considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), or merit designation as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL). No artifacts were collected during the survey. Pursuant to 13 TAC 26.17, all project notes, maps, photographs, and other documentary records will be permanently curated at the Center for Archaeological Studies, Texas State University, San Marcos.
Based on the results of the background review and survey, it is recommended that the proposed rehabilitation efforts for FRS 10 and 11 in Ellis County should have No Effect on properties included in, or eligible for inclusion in, the NRHP, or that merit designation as SALs. In the event that previously undiscovered sites are found during construction, appropriate actions should be taken in accordance with the State Level Agreement among NRCS and the Texas State Historic Preservation Office, the National Programmatic Agreement among NRCS, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and the ACHP, and NRCS General Manual 420, Part 401 guidance.
In the event that any unmarked prehistoric or historic human remains or burials are encountered during construction, the area of the remains is considered a cemetery under current Texas law and all construction activities must cease immediately so as to avoid impacting the remains. The THC must be notified immediately by contacting the History Programs Division at (512) 463-5853 and the Archeology Division at (512) 463-6096. All cemeteries are protected under State law and cannot be disturbed. Further protection is provided in Section 28.03(f) of the Texas Penal Code, which provides that intentional damage or destruction inflicted on a human burial site is a state jail felony.
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