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Intensive Archaeological Survey of the RM 1431 Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge Entrance Improvements Project
Texas Historical Commission
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Central Federal Lands Highway Division (CFLHD) has contracted HDR Engineering, Inc. (HDR) to conduct an intensive archaeological survey of the project area for the proposed improvements to the entrance to the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge located on Ranch-to-Market (RM) Road 1431 in Travis County, Texas (Figure 1-1). The survey was initiated due to the inadvertent discovery of a possible burned rock midden site within the project area during vegetation clearing. Upon consultation with the FHWA CFLHD and the Texas Historical Commission (THC), HDR was granted a permit for the archaeological survey of the project area and further investigation into the possible midden site.
The project improvements include the construction of left-hand and right-hand turn lanes to enter the refuge, widening of the existing roadway to accommodate the turn lanes, installation of striping and signage, and construction of 3-foot-wide shoulders and roadside ditches. Because the project is funded by a federal agency and is located on land owned by the Texas Department of Transportation, the proposed improvements are required to be in compliance with Section 404 as per 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 325, Appendix C and 36 CFR 800, as well as Chapter 191 of the Texas Natural Resources Code, also known as the Antiquities Code of Texas (13 TAC 26.12).
The Area of Potential Effects (APE) for this project is approximately 0.4 mile (0.64 kilometer [km]) long and 6.3 acres (2.5 hectares) in area along RM 1431.
The purpose of the archaeological investigation is to determine the presence/absence of archaeological resources within the APE and to evaluate identified resources for their eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) or as a designated State Antiquities Landmark (SAL) under the Antiquities Code of Texas (13 TAC 26.12). The work was conducted under Texas Antiquities Permit Number 8355. The survey was led by principal investigator Clayton Tinsley and project archaeologist Melanie Johnson on March 1–2, 2018, and resulted in a total of 24 person-hours.
During the archaeological survey of the APE, a total of five shovel tests and one 1 × 1 meter (m) unit were excavated. One archaeological site was identified, site 41TV2553. Site 41TV2553 consists of an Archaic burned rock midden approximately 0.03 acres in area on top of a ridge overlooking Cow Creek to the south.
Based on the results of the archaeological survey and phone consultation with the THC on March 5, 2018, the site is recommended eligible for inclusion in the NRHP under Criterion D. Because of its integrity and size, site 41TV2553 has the potential to add to our knowledge about life in central Texas during the Archaic period. This site is also recommended for consideration as an SAL. HDR recommends avoidance of site 41TV2553 during construction of the proposed roadway improvements, if changes to the original project design allow. In addition, HDR recommends cultural resources monitoring during construction near the western border of the site.
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