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Archeological and Historical Investigations of the Proposed 28.7-acre Sweeny Hospital Tract, Sweeny, Brazoria County, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. (Horizon) was selected by Berg-Oliver Associates, Inc. (BOA), on behalf of the Sweeny Hospital District, to conduct a cultural resources inventory survey and assessment for the proposed development of an approximately 11.6-hectare (28.7- acre) tract in Sweeny, Brazoria County, Texas. The proposed tract consists of a largely undeveloped, lightly wooded parcel bounded on the north by County Road (CR) 524 (a.k.a. Main Street) and on the south by Stevenson Slough. The proposed project would involve the construction of a new hospital that represents a single-site replacement facility for an existing community hospital. The Area of Potential Effect (APE) for direct effects consists of the entire 11.6-hectare (28.7-acre) tract within which construction would occur, and the APE for indirect effects would include an assessment of possible viewshed impacts to any historic-age buildings (i.e., 50 years of age or older) on parcels adjacent to the construction site.
The proposed undertaking is being sponsored by the Sweeny Hospital District, a political subdivision of the state of Texas; as such, the proposed project falls under the jurisdiction of the Antiquities Code of Texas (Natural Resources Code, Title 9, Chapter 191). In addition, the project would utilize funding provided by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA); consequently, the project also falls under the jurisdiction of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended. As the proposed project represents a publicly sponsored undertaking, the project sponsor is required to provide the lead federal agency and the Texas Historical Commission (THC), which serves as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for the state of Texas, with an opportunity to review and comment on the project’s potential to adversely affect historic properties listed on or considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) under the NHPA and/or for designation as State Antiquities Landmarks (SAL) under the Antiquities Code of Texas.
On August 9, 2017 and April 9, 2018, Horizon Project Archeologists Briana Smith and Charles E. Bludau, Jr., under the overall direction of Jeffrey D. Owens, Principal Investigator, performed an intensive archeological survey of the APE for direct effects to locate any archeological resources that potentially would be impacted by the proposed undertaking. Horizon’s archeologists traversed the tract and thoroughly inspected the modern ground surface for aboriginal and historic-age cultural resources. The APE is located on a gentle, south-facing coastal upland flat adjacent to Stevenson Slough that ultimately discharges into the San Bernard River. The tract is undeveloped, and vegetation consists largely of ankle- to knee-high grasses with scattered oak trees, with dense stands of palmettos lining the banks of the slough to the south. The tract appears to have been used primarily as a cattle pasture in the recent past, though it may also have been used as cropland at one time.
y also have been used as cropland at one time. In addition to pedestrian walkover, the Texas State Minimum Archeological Survey Standards (TSMASS) require a minimum of 1 shovel test per 0.8 hectare (2.0 acres) for project areas between 4.5 and 40.5 hectares (11.0 and 100.0 acres) in size; as such, a total of 14 shovel tests would be required within the 11.6-hectare (28.7-acre) APE for direct effects. Horizon exceeded the TSMASS by excavating a total of 16 shovel tests. The pedestrian survey and shovel testing revealed that sediments in the APE consist of deep silty loam or loam overlying silty clay at average depths of 60.0 to 80.0 centimeters (23.6 to 31.5 inches) below surface in the southern portion of the tract near the slough. Sediments in the northern portion of the tract were shallower, consisting mainly of silty clay loam or clay loam overlying clay or compact silty clay at a depth of approximately 40.0 centimeters (15.7 inches) below surface. Shovel testing was capable of fully penetrating Holocene-age sediments with the potential to contain archeological deposits. No archeological resources, prehistoric or historic-age, were observed on the modern ground surface or within any of the shovel tests excavated during the survey of the APE for direct effects. The archeological survey has been conducted under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 8134.
On August 8, 2017, Horizon historian Eugene Foster conducted a reconnaissance-level historical resources inventory survey of the APE for indirect effects. The reconnaissance-level survey was conducted to identify NRHP-listed and NRHP-eligible historic properties that may be affected by the proposed undertaking. The APE for non-archeological resources included the project tract as well as all adjoining property parcels. Eleven historic-age resources (i.e., 50 years of age or older) were recorded within the APE for indirect effects, though no historic-age resources are present within the APE for direct effects. The 11 historical resources include two commercial/industrial buildings and nine single-family residences constructed between 1950 and 1967. All of the 11 historical resources within the APE, individually and as a group, are recommended as not eligible for inclusion in the NRHP.
Based on the results of the survey-level investigations of the APE documented in this report, no potentially significant cultural resources would be affected by the proposed undertaking. In accordance with 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 800.4, Horizon has made a reasonable and good-faith effort to identify historic properties within the APE. No cultural resources were identified that meet the criteria for inclusion in the NRHP according to 36 CFR 60.4 or for designation as SALs according to 13 TAC 26, and no further archeological investigations or historical research are recommended in connection with the proposed undertaking. However, it should be noted that human burials 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 at the location of the inadvertent discovery until a qualified archeologist can assess the find, and the THC should be notified of the discovery.
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