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Marine Archaeological Survey at the Texas Park and Wildlife Department’s Rhodes Point Reef Site, Keller and Lavaca Bays, Calhoun County, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
Under contract to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Gray & Pape, Inc., of Houston, Texas, conducted a Phase I marine archaeological survey for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Rhodes Point Reef Project in Keller Bay, Calhoun County, Texas. The archaeological survey was sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Area of Potential Effects for the proposed Rhodes Point Reef Project is a 129.09-hectare (319-acre) trapezoidal tract within the mouth of Keller Bay, at its confluence with Lavaca Bay. Work was completed under Texas Antiquities Permit Number 9295. The United States Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District has been identified as the lead federal agency, and the conduct of the project meets the requirements contained in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, the regulations of the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation (30 CFR Part 800), the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended. All marine fieldwork and reporting activities were completed with reference to state law (Antiquities Code of Texas [Title 9, Chapter 191 of the Texas Natural Resources Code] and Texas State rules found in the Texas Administrative Code [Title 13, part 2, Chapters 26 and 28]) for cultural resources investigations. All project records are curated at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin, Texas.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s proposed project is designed for oyster reef restoration and requires survey of the bay bottom to determine existing hazards/obstructions, generally characterize the substrate type, and document any magnetic anomalies that could represent historic shipwrecks for avoidance during the proposed undertaking. Oyster reef habitat will be restored by placing approved cultch material on the bay floor in historical oyster reef areas in mounds or in a uniform layer. The Phase I underwater archaeological investigation assessed the number, locations, cultural affiliations, components, spatial distribution, data potential, and other salient characteristics of potential submerged cultural resources within the proposed reefing project area.
The marine field investigations of the Rhodes Point Reef Project survey area consisted of a magnetometer and side-scan sonar investigation of the Area of Potential Effects in safely navigable waters on March 14, 2020. The comprehensive analysis of the magnetic data recorded resulted in the identification of nine magnetic anomalies (RP1–RP9) within the survey area, three (RP1–RP3) of which are interpreted as potential cultural resources (i.e. historic shipwrecks). The remaining magnetic anomalies (RP4–RP9) are interpreted as modern debris associated with recreational and commercial fishing activities, miscellaneous debris from previous tropical storms, existing pipelines, and an abandoned gas well, and as such do not represent significant cultural resources. Side-scan sonar imagery did not indicate any potentially significant cultural material laying above or on the bay bed within the survey area. It did, however, reveal bottom disturbances in the form of trawl scars associated with commercial fishing activities were observed. One acoustic target is located outside of the Area of Potential Effects and is interpreted as a plugged and abandoned gas well. The recommended management action for the Rhodes Point Area of Potential Effects is avoidance of bottom disturbance activities within the 50-meter (164-foot) avoidance areas, as mandated by Texas Administrative Code, Title 13, Part 2, Chapter 26, for magnetic anomalies RP1, RP2, and RP3. If avoidance is not possible, then Gray & Pape, Inc. recommends archaeological diver-ground truthing to identify and evaluate the potential for National Register of Historic Places significance of each anomaly.
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