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Agency

Texas Historical Commission

Abstract

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Central Federal Lands Highway Division (CFLHD) is proposing to improve Buena Vista Road, a two-lane, paved roadway accessing the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Cameron County, Texas. While the project is located within the Laguna Atascosa NWR, the roadway falls under the jurisdiction of Cameron County. The proposed project includes pavement reconstruction and widening by pulverizing and overlaying Buena Vista Road along a 2.7-mile (4.35 kilometer [km]) segment from the intersection of General Brant Road to the north entrance of the Laguna Atascosa NWR (Figure 1-1). The improvements will also include the installation of roadside ditches, signage, and speed humps. The survey corridor will comprise the approximately 65-feet (ft) wide (32.5 ft on either side of the centerline) existing road Right-of-Way (ROW), and areas adjacent to the Laguna Atascosa NWR will extend an additional two ft beyond the existing ROW fence line. The survey will extend 100 ft past road/driveway intersections, where the survey corridor will also be limited to the existing ROW (65 ft in width). The maximum depth of impacts for the proposed project is 3.5 ft (1.1 meters [m]) below surface in order to replace the existing culverts. As a county road, the proposed project is required to be in compliance with Chapter 191 of the Texas Natural Resources Code, also known as the Antiquities Code of Texas (13 Texas Administrative Code [TAC] 26.12).

The purpose of the cultural resources investigation is to conduct an inventory to determine the presence/absence of cultural resources (36 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 800.4) and to evaluate identified resources for their eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), as per Section 106 (36 CFR 800) of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, or as a designated State Antiquities Landmark (SAL) under the Antiquities Code of Texas (13 TAC 26.12). Archaeology fieldwork was completed by Principal Investigator Ben Fullerton and Archaeology Field Technicians Katie Alexander and Corinne Harvey on July 2–7, 2017. This survey was conducted under Texas Antiquities Permit Number 8089. The fieldwork for historic resources was conducted by HDR architectural historian Kristin Morgan on July 5–6, 2017.

During the course of the archaeological field survey, the APE was subjected to pedestrian survey, shovel testing, and photo-documentation. The survey resulted in a 100 percent pedestrian walkover and a staggered 100-m shovel test transect for the entire length of the APE. A total of 44 shovel tests were excavated, none of which yielded cultural materials. All shovel tests were terminated prior to reaching 80 cmbs (32 inbs) due to encounter with subsoil or disturbance. A scatter of seven oyster shell fragments was identified on the ground surface within the eastern ROW at the intersection of Buena Vista Road and Ocelot Road. The location of the scatter is approximately 150 m (492 feet) east of Site 41CF115, which consists of a campsite yielding bone, as well as shell. Pedestrian survey and shovel testing near the scatter encountered disturbed soils and no cultural material. Due to the lack of associated cultural material and distance of the scatter from 41CF115, it is unclear if the shell fragments are archaeological or modern deposits. Overall, no definitive cultural materials were identified during the intensive survey.

During the course of the field survey for historic resources, six resources built prior to 1972 were identified within the APE: Buena Vista Road, two vehicular access gates onto unpaved refuge roads, and three culverts. Two of the culverts span Buena Vista Road, and the other spans an unpaved access road for the refuge. None of the culverts have any visible marks to designate construction date or under whose authority it was installed. None of the six historic resources are recommended eligible for NRHP listing due to lack of significance.

In accordance with and 13 TAC 26.12, no further cultural resources investigations are recommended for the presently-defined APE, and the proposed Buena Vista Road improvements project may proceed. However, in the event that any archaeological deposits are encountered during construction, work should cease and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) should be notified.

All records and materials generated by this project will be permanently curated at the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

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