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Intensive Cultural Resources Survey of the Proposed San Antonio Water System E-19 Wastewater Project, Segment 2, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. (Horizon) was selected by the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), via its engineering contractor, Kimley Horn and Associates (KHA) and its environmental permitting contractor, CP&Y, Inc. (CP&Y), to conduct a cultural resources inventory survey and assessment for the proposed E-19 Wastewater Project, Segment 2, in northeastern San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. The proposed undertaking would involve a combination of replacement of an existing gravity wastewater pipeline as well as new construction. The Segment 2 right-of-way (ROW) begins at a hike-and-bike path located within the Salado Creek Greenway approximately 0.3 kilometer (0.2 mile) southeast of the intersection of Nacogdoches Road and Salado Creek Drive. From this point, the ROW extends southward within an existing utility easement that passes through a storm water detention basin and between two residential subdivisions, runs along the western margin of the Northeast Baptist Hospital complex, and crosses Interstate (IH) Loop 410 and Salado Creek. The ROW then turns southeastward and runs within the existing Ira Lee Road ROW along the northern/eastern side of the road to County Road (CR) 368 (a.k.a. Austin Highway). From this point, the ROW continues southward within the existing ROW of Holbrook Road, running along the western side of the road, terminating approximately 0.5 kilometer (0.3 mile) northwest of the intersection of Holbrook Road and Rittiman Road. The ROW extends a total linear distance of 5.1 kilometers (3.2 miles) and ranges in width from approximately 19.8 to 76.2 meters (65.0 to 250.0 feet), with a typical width of approximately 24.4 meters (80.0 feet). The proposed undertaking would be constrained largely to the existing ROW of the wastewater line, though some new easements would be required. Overall, the project area covers an area of 14.1 hectares (34.9 acres).
The proposed project is being sponsored by SAWS, a public utility within the state of Texas. Furthermore, portions of the project area are located on ROW and land owned by the City of San Antonio (CoSA) and/or other public entities. Consequently, the proposed project falls under the jurisdiction of the Antiquities Code of Texas (Natural Resources Code, Title 9, Chapter 191). At this time, no federal funding, licenses, or permits have been identified for the proposed undertaking. As the project represents a publicly sponsored undertaking with the potential to impact potentially significant cultural resources, the project sponsor was required to perform a cultural resources inventory and assessment of the project area.
From June 22 to 23, 2017, Horizon archeological technicians Stephanie Mueller, Jacob Lyons, and Jared Wiersema, under the overall direction of Jeffrey D. Owens, Principal Investigator, performed an intensive cultural resources survey of the project area to locate any cultural resources that potentially would be impacted by the proposed undertaking. Horizon’s archeologists traversed the project area on foot and thoroughly inspected the modern ground surface for aboriginal and historic-age cultural resources. The majority of the project area consists of the utility easement of the existing wastewater line, and extensive prior impacts from construction, use, and maintenance of existing roadways, driveways, contractor yards, a storm water detention basin, parking lots, hike-and-bike trails and trailheads, and various overhead and subsurface utility lines were observed. Many segments of the existing wastewater line run within the ROWs of existing roadways that are typically quite narrow, with road shoulders and easements that often measure only a few feet in width.
In addition to pedestrian walkover, the Texas State Minimum Archeological Survey Standards (TSMASS) require a minimum of 16 shovel tests per mile for linear project areas measuring up to 30.5 meters (100.0 feet) in width; as such, 51 shovel tests would be required within the 5.1-kilometer- (3.2-mile-) long project area. Horizon excavated a total of 68 shovel tests, thereby exceeding the TSMASS for a project area of this length. The pedestrian survey with shovel testing typically revealed shallow, heavily disturbed deposits of gravelly clay and clay loam sediments, and impenetrable gravel lenses were encountered in many shovel tests at depths ranging from 10.0 to 40.0 centimeters (3.9 to 12.2 inches) below surface.
Modern trash and construction debris were abundant throughout the project area, and sediments observed in most shovel tests were disturbed and contained road base gravels and/or modern trash. The southern end of the project area, located adjacent to Holbrook Road, passes within the designated boundaries of a previously recorded prehistoric archeological site, 41BX294, and the Salado Battlefield and Archeological Site National Register Historic District. Shovel testing within this portion of the project area revealed disturbed sediments mixed with modern debris, and no cultural resources or intact archeological deposits were observed within the boundaries of these two known cultural resources. The central portion of the project area, located adjacent to Ira Lee Road, passes within the boundary of a previously recorded multiplecomponent prehistoric and historic-age archeological site, 41BX474. One shovel test excavated on site 41BX474 contained several glass shards and a whiteware ceramic sherd of unknown age (modern or historic-age) and one aboriginal chert flake in surficial, disturbed sediments immediately adjacent to the Ira Lee Road pavement. Site 41BX474 has been largely destroyed as a result of ongoing urban development. An archeological significance testing project was conducted on site 41BX474 by the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) of The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in 2014 that resulted in the determination that the site is ineligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) (Muñoz 2014). Horizon concurs with the previous significance assessment for site 41BX474.
Based on the results of the archeological pedestrian survey conducted in June 2017, it was determined that a portion of the proposed sewer line ROW located between the eastbound IH Loop 410 frontage road on the north and Ira Lee Road on the south passes within or near the boundaries of a previously recorded, potentially significant, prehistoric archeological site. This site, known as the Granberg site, is roughly represented by trinomials 41BX17 and 41BX271, though the site boundaries have never been delineated. In response to concerns about potential impacts to this site raised by CoSA’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC), supplemental backhoe trenching was conducted within the Salado Creek floodplain in an area to the west of the known boundaries of the Granberg site. This segment of the proposed ROW measures approximately 263.7 meters (865.0 feet) in length and would involve installing a segment of new 152.4-centimeter-(60-inch-) diameter sewer pipeline in a 182.9-centimeter- (72.0-inch-) diameter casing via boring/tunneling (i.e., not open cut). On October 24, 2017, Horizon archeologists Jeffrey Owens (Principal Investigator), Eric Schroeder (geoarcheologist), Jared Wiersema (archeological technician and backhoe operator), and Foster Duncan (archeological technician) excavated three backhoe trenches within the segment of proposed ROW located within the modern, active floodplain of Salado Creek to determine whether or not any intact archeological deposits are present that may be disturbed via the proposed sewer line construction. Personnel from CoSA’s OHP, the THC, SAWS, KHA, CP&Y, CoSA Parks, and CoSA Arborist were present during the trench excavations. These three trenches generally revealed a series of high-energy flood chute, overbank flood, and floodplain mud deposits consisting of poorly supported limestone gravels. Occasional battered chert flakes or cobbles were observed in the trench wall profiles or in screened sediment samples of excavated backfill, but no intact cultural features or archeological deposits were observed. Bedrock was encountered in two of the three trenches.
A fourth backhoe trench was originally proposed at the location of a proposed bore/tunnel box off the northern side of Ira Lee Road at the southern end of the segment of proposed sewer line ROW that traverses the Salado Creek floodplain. However, this proposed trench location fell within an active construction zone associated with a Bexar County bridge repair project and was not accessible for trenching in connection with the current project. Extensive open excavations associated with the Bexar County project were observed in the vicinity of the proposed bore/tunnel box that revealed deep deposits of reddish-brown, gravelly, alluvial sediments. Horizon and OHP personnel inspected these exposed soil profiles on October 24, 2017, and no cultural resources were observed within them. As such, attempts to excavate the fourth backhoe trench at this location were abandoned.
Based on the results of the survey-level investigations documented in this report, no 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 project area. No cultural resources were identified that meet the criteria for designation as SALs according to 13 TAC 26. Horizon recommends a finding of “no historic properties affected,” 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 project area, even in previously surveyed areas, all work should cease immediately in the vicinity of the inadvertent discovery, and the OHP/THC should be notified immediately.
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