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Intensive Cultural Resources Survey for the Proposed Old Spanish Trail Roadway Improvements Project, Orange County, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. (Horizon) was selected by LJA Engineering, Inc. (LJA) on behalf of Orange County to conduct an intensive cultural resources inventory and assessment for the proposed Old Spanish Trail Roadway Improvements Project south of Vidor in Orange County, Texas. The proposed undertaking would involve expanding and improving the existing two-lane gravel roadway of Old Spanish Trail. The project area extends approximately 0.8 kilometer (0.5 mile) in length from the intersection of Old Spanish Trail and Red Oak Street northwestward to a flood-control levee located approximately 0.2 kilometer (0.1 mile) south of Ofiel Road. The existing right-of-way (ROW) of Old Spanish Trail measures roughly 10.0 meters (32.8 feet) in width. The proposed roadway improvements would involve construction within an expanded ROW measuring approximately 50.0 meters (164.0 feet) in width, including a combination of existing and proposed new ROW. For purposes of the cultural resources survey, the project area is considered to consist of the 0.8-kilometer- (0.5-mile-) long by 50.0-meter- (164.0-foot-) wide project area, covering a total area of approximately 4.0 hectares (9.9 acres).
The proposed undertaking is being sponsored by Orange County, a political subdivision of the state of Texas; as such, the project would fall under the jurisdiction of the Antiquities Code of Texas (Natural Resources Code, Title 9, Chapter 191). At this time, no federal permits, licenses, or funds have been identified for the project. As the project represents a publicly sponsored undertaking, the project sponsor is required to provide 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 inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and for designation as State Antiquities Landmarks (SAL).
On April 19, 2019, Horizon archeologist Charles E. Bludau conducted an intensive cultural resources survey of the project area. The survey was conducted under the overall direction of Jeffrey D. Owens, Principal Investigator, under Texas Antiquities Permit no. 8874. The purpose of the survey was to locate any significant cultural resources that potentially would be impacted by the proposed undertaking. Horizon’s archeologist traversed the tract and thoroughly inspected the modern ground surface for aboriginal and historic-age cultural resources. The existing ROW of Old Spanish Trail consists of a two-lane gravel road with no shoulders. The proposed new ROW to the east of the existing roadway consists of short-grass pastures. A large pond is present to the southwest. Visibility of the modern ground surface was typically fair to good (30 to 60%).
In addition to pedestrian walkover, the Texas State Minimum Archeological Survey Standards (TSMASS) require a minimum of 16 shovel tests per mile per 30.5-meter (100.0-foot) width of proposed ROW or fraction thereof for linear projects. As such, a minimum of 16 shovel tests would be required within the 0.8-kilometer- (0.5-mile-) long by 50.0-meter- (164.0-foot-) wide project area. Horizon excavated a total of 17 shovel tests during the survey, thereby exceeding the TSMASS requirements for a project area of this size. Shovel testing typically revealed shallow to moderately deep deposits of sandy loam overlying sandy clay at depths ranging from 5.0 to 60.0 centimeters (1.9 to 23.6 inches) below surface (typically in the range of 30.0 to 60.0 centimeters [11.8 to 23.6 inches] below surface), though deep sandy sediments were observed in two shovel tests extending to a depth of 1.0 meter (3.3 feet) or more below surface. Sediments in a few than half of the shovel tests exhibited iron staining, suggesting that the project area experiences at least seasonally, if not permanently, high water tables. It is Horizon’s opinion that sediments with the potential to contain subsurface archeological deposits were fully penetrated and that the project area was adequately assessed for cultural resources.
No cultural resources of historic or prehistoric age were observed on the modern ground surface or within any of the shovel tests excavated within the project area during the survey.
Based on the results of the survey-level investigations documented in this report, no potentially significant cultural resources would be affected by the proposed undertaking. Horizon has made a reasonable and good-faith effort to identify historic properties within the project area. No cultural resources were identified within the project area that meet the criteria for designation as SALs according to 13 TAC 26 or for inclusion in the NRHP under 36 CFR 60.4. 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 Texas Historical Commission (THC) should be notified immediately.
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