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A Phase I Cultural Resources Survey of the Orbit Pipeline Project Jefferson, Liberty, and Chambers Counties, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
Energy Transfer Company (ETC) is proposing to construct the Orbit Pipeline Project (Project) located in Jefferson, Liberty, and Chambers counties, Texas. The Project consists of approximately 68.7 miles (mi) (110.6 kilometer [km]) of new 20.0-inch (in) (50.8-centimeter [cm]) diameter pipeline that will be used to transmit ethane and propane. The Project is located within the jurisdictional boundary of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) - Galveston District.
At the request of ETC, Perennial Environmental Services, LLC (Perennial) conducted an intensive Phase I cultural resources investigation for the proposed Project to comply with anticipated USACE permitting requirements. Archaeological investigations for the Project were conducted in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and Texas State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) standards. Additionally, the Project traverses several discontinuous publicly-owned tracts that fall under the jurisdiction of the Antiquities Code of Texas (Code). The results of survey investigations conducted under Texas Antiquities Permit (TAP) #8690 (issued December 17, 2018, and amended on August 30, 2019) across six discontinuous publicly -owned tracts are also presented herein.
Consistent with USACE application requirements, and in accordance with Section 106 of the NHPA of 1966, as amended (36 CFR 800) and the Code, the proposed Project must make a reasonable and good faith effort to identify historic properties within the Project Area of Potential Effect (APE) and to take into account any potential effects, direct or indirect, the proposed undertaking could have on properties listed or considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) or for designation as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL), as warranted.
As the Project footprint was not finalized at the time of field investigations, survey efforts were concentrated within the vicinity of delineated wetland and waterbody features along the length of the route within a 300.0-foot- (ft-) (91.4-meter- [m-]) wide Environmental Survey Area (ESA). The anticipated depths of impact for the Project will range from 4.0 to 7.0 ft. (1.2 to 2.1 m) along the pipeline centerline, with limited deeper impacts at horizontal directional drill (HDD) and bore locations, including Cow Island Bayou, Hillebrandt Bayou, Lower Neches Valley River Authority canals, Nolte Canal, the Trinity River, Turtle Bayou, Whites Bayou, Willow Marsh Bayou, and public road crossings. The anticipated depths of impact for temporary workspace areas within the Project APE corridor would not exceed 0.6 to 1.0 ft. (0.1 to 0.3 m). The overall APE for direct effects for the Project measured 2307.19 acres (ac) (933.68 ha), while APE for Code-permitted tracts totaled 210.0 ac (85.06 ha). As presented herein, the Project ESA is coterminous with the Project APE, which is also referred to as the USACE permit areas. Only the areas adjacent to the USACE permit areas and the entirety of Code-permitted areas were surveyed for cultural resources.
Jennifer Cochran served as the Principal Investigator, and field efforts were conducted by Sarah Boudreaux, Rafael Cortez, Wyatt Ellison, Rachel Kelley, William Kinkner, Colene Knaub, Jonathan Laird, Alejandro Martinez, and Thomas Ross across multiple field mobilizations between October 1, 2018, and November 12, 2019.
Investigations included an archival background review and intensive pedestrian surveys augmented by shovel testing in the vicinity of delineated wetland and waterbody features. Archival research determined that there are no previously recorded sites within, or directly adjacent to the Project APE, and approximately 32.7% of the Project APE has been previously surveyed for cultural resources. However, many of these surveys are outdated and do not meet modern survey standards. Additionally, many of these previously surveys were conducted for USACE-permitted projects, and the entire Project was not surveyed for the presence of cultural resources. As such, all areas surrounding identified wetland and waterbody for this Project were surveyed.
Perennial biologists delineated a total of 490 wetland areas. Of the 490 wetlands identified within the Project APE, 290 were characterized as palustrine emergent (PEM) wetlands, 106 were characterized as palustrine forested (PFO) wetlands, 4 were classified as PFO-Cypress wetlands, and 90 were characterized as palustrine scrub-shrub (PSS) wetlands. Perennial biologists also identified 270 waterbodies that ranged from perennial streams to ephemeral streams. Of the 270 waterbodies delineated, 36 were classified as having perennial flow, 66 were classified as having intermittent flow, and 148 were classified as ephemeral flow. Additionally, 20 open water features were delineated and classified as manmade ponds.
Survey efforts were concentrated in the vicinity of these features where land access was voluntarily granted in accordance with a scope of work for the Project approved by the USACE on August 28, 2018, and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) on October 1, 2018. Following the approval of the scope of work, ETC extended the eastern terminus of the Project to the western bank of the Neches River, and other minor reroutes were also implemented. Perennial applied the approved survey methodology to all new Project components.
For Code-permitted tracts, surveys were conducted across the entire length of the Project APE corridor in accordance with a stand-alone scope submitted to the THC on December 14, 2018, and amended August 30, 2019. Additionally, following the receipt of TAP#8690, the proposed Project was routed onto two additional publicly-owned tracts belonging to the Texas Department of Corrections (DOC) – Stiles Unit and Jefferson County. The TAP #8690 was revised and amended on August 30, 2019. Following this August 30, 2019 amendment, ETC added additional route options across the DOC – Stiles Unit tract. This additional mileage was surveyed using the same methods as stated in the previously presented revised TAP scope of work for this property.
In all, the survey investigations included the excavation of a total of 1,250 shovel tests of which 1,171 shovel tests were excavated within the Project APE. The remaining 79 shovel tests were excavated outside of USACE permit areas but within the Project workspace. For the purposes of this report, only investigations within the Project APE will be discussed.
Survey investigations within the Project APE resulted in entirely negative findings. No archeological sites were encountered within the survey areas reported herein. Additionally, no historic standing structures or landscape features such as historic-age canals were observed with any USACE permit areas. Overall, the surveys documented predominately inundated landscapes with a low probability for intact cultural resources. Numerous existing pipeline corridors and modern canal features are traversed by the Project. While some of the modern canals could be historic in nature or connected to a greater network of irrigation features used historically to supply agricultural crops with water, it is important to note that the majority of the waterways associated with these features will be bypassed via bore/HDD. As such, any impacts to these waterbodies as well as the associated canal structure will be entirely avoided. Additionally, all visual impacts from the proposed pipeline corridor will be temporary in nature.
To date, field surveys have been completed for all accessible wetland and waterbody features along the pipeline route, as well as the total length of the Project survey corridor across all Code-permitted tracts. Prior to the beginning of November 2019, field surveys had not been conducted along the eastern banks and associated bottomlands of the Trinity River due to multiple flooding events that resulted in heavy inundation beginning in September 2018 which prevented access or survey investigations of any kind. Additionally, field surveys did not occur along portions of the Project containing denied landowner permissions.
On November 6, 2019, a survey crew was able to access previously inaccessible areas associated with the Trinity River due to several months of normalized weather conditions throughout portions of Eastern Texas. Even under normal conditions, large portions of this area remain constantly inundated due to strong hydrological influences and the geomorphic position of the landscape. However, crews were able to traverse inundated areas by foot to access portions of the Project located immediately adjacent to the Trinity River. While the area located immediately adjacent to the Trinity River was not inundated at the time of survey, wetlands with strong hydrological indicators still dominate the landscape.
Of the 760 delineated wetland and waterbody features, 74 features were originally not surveyed for cultural resources due to restricted land access including denied landowner permissions and significant inundation. Of these 74 features, 38 feature locations (27 streams and 42 wetlands) will be bypassed via horizontal directional drill (HDD) or bore trenchless construction methods resulting in no impacts to these features. The remaining five features (including multiple crossing locations of the same feature) are located along the eastern banks of the Trinity River. While these features were surveyed for cultural resources with negative findings, the presence of buried deposits exists within the vicinity of these features. However, access to these features with heavy machinery is not feasible due to the remote location and constant hydrological influences (e.g. inundation and saturation) associated with the floodplain setting of the Trinity River. As such, these five features are proposed to be monitored by a qualified Archeological Monitor during construction efforts. Appendix C provides each wetland and waterbody feature crossed by the Project with management recommendations and associated comments, while Appendix F provides a Cultural Monitoring Plan to evaluate the five features that will not be avoided during construction efforts. Appendix F also includes a table in response to a letter issued by the USACE Staff Archeologist, Mr. Jerry Androy, on May 17, 2019, indicating that the 74 aforementioned permit areas associated with the Project would require cultural resources investigations. The table lists each permit area, the reason surveys were not originally conducted, and justification for/against the need for monitoring.
Based on the results of the survey effort reported here, no cultural resources will be affected by any construction activities within the Project APE. Aside from Cultural Monitoring at five features (including multiple crossing locations of the same feature) within the Trinity River floodplain, it is Perennial’s opinion that no further cultural resources investigations are warranted for the Project. Should archaeological remains be encountered during construction, work in the immediate area will cease, and a qualified archaeologist will be called upon to evaluate the remains and provide recommendations for how to manage the resources under the State’s Historic Preservation Plan.
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