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Agency

Texas Historical Commission

DOI

https://doi.org/10.21112/ita.2020.1.29

Abstract

Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. (Horizon) was selected by LJA Engineering, Inc. (LJA), on behalf of Montgomery County Municipal Utility District (MUD) No. 157, to conduct a cultural resources inventory and assessment for the proposed West Fork of the San Jacinto River South Drainage Channel Phase 3 Project. The proposed undertaking would consist of constructing a new outfall structure within an approximately 1.5-hectare (3.6-acre) area on the eastern bank of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River near Moorhead Road. The project area is located on a broad coastal flat that has been historically mined for borrow materials, and numerous artificial lakes that represent infilled borrow pits characterize the surrounding area. The project area is bounded on the southeast by the channel of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and on the northeast by a large pond that represents an infilled borrow pit. A prominent earthen levee parallels the river channel, and a massive erosional gully runs through the southern portion of the project area. The Liberty Materials, Inc. Moorehead Wet Plant is located approximately 0.8 kilometer (0.5 mile) east of the project area. For purposes of the cultural resources survey, the project area is considered to consist of the entire 1.5-hectare (3.6-acre) outfall construction area.

The proposed undertaking would be sponsored by Montgomery County Municipal Utility District (MUD) No. 157, which represents a political subdivision of the state of Texas. As such, the project falls under the jurisdiction of the Antiquities Code of Texas. In addition, the project may require the use of Nationwide Permits (NWP) issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Galveston District, for construction within or adjacent to any water features that meet the criteria for designation as “waters of the US” under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and/or Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. As NWPs are federal permits, those portions of the overall project area located within the federal permit area would fall under the jurisdiction of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended. As the proposed project represents a publicly sponsored undertaking, the project sponsor is required to provide the applicable federal agencies and 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 listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and/or for designation as State Antiquities Landmarks (SAL).

On March 28, 2020, Horizon archeologists Jesse Dalton and Jared Wiersema under the overall direction of Jeffrey D. Owens, Principal Investigator, performed an intensive cultural resources survey of the project area to locate any cultural resources that potentially would be impacted by the proposed undertaking. The survey was performed under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 9315. Horizon’s archeologists traversed the archeological survey area on foot and thoroughly inspected the modern ground surface for aboriginal and historic-age cultural resources. The survey area consisted of a flat, heavily modified landform situated between the West Fork of the San Jacinto River channel to the southwest and an artificial lake that represents an infilled borrow pit to the northeast. Historical aerial photographs suggest that past borrow material mining activities have extensively impacted the landform. An earthen levee runs along the edge of the landform parallel to the river channel, and a massive erosional gully passes through the southern portion of the project area. Vegetation within the project area consists primarily of short grasses, and artificial pea gravel deposits cover large portions of the modern ground surface. Overall, ground surface visibility was poor to fair (20 to 40%), though the landform that characterizes the project area appears to have been heavily disturbed and may be almost entirely man-made.

In addition to pedestrian walkover, the Texas State Minimum Archeological Survey Standards (TSMASS) require a minimum of two shovel tests per 0.4 hectare (1.0 acres) for tracts between 1.2 and 4.0 hectares (3.0 and 10.0 acres) in size. As such, a minimum of seven shovel tests would be required within the 1.5-hectare (3.6-acre) project area. However, given the physiographic setting of the project area on the floodplain of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, the extent of prior disturbances associated with historical borrow material mining, and the geomorphological potential for deeply buried Holocene-age sediments, Horizon determined that shovel testing would not likely be a productive survey technique. As such, mechanical trenching was utilized instead.

Horizon excavated seven trackhoe trenches within the floodplain of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River in the northern portion of the project area. Trenches ranged from 5.0 to 7.0 meters (16.4 to 23.0 feet) in length and from to 1.5 to 5.5 meters (4.9 to 18.0 feet) in depth. Most trenches were terminated at depths of approximately 2.0 meters (6.6 feet) below surface, though two trenches were excavated to depths of 3.0 to 5.5 meters (9.8 to 18.0 feet) below surface where possible to investigate the potential for more deeply buried natural soil horizons and/or archeological deposits. Sediments observed in all trenches consisted of lenses of artificial fill materials resulting from borrow material mining activities over the years. These sediments tended to be poorly structured and unconsolidated, resulting in frequent collapses of trench walls. The water table was encountered in one trench at a depth of 1.8 meters below surface. While it is possible that some of the more deeply buried clay layers are of natural origin, the vast majority of the sediments observed were clearly artificial fill deposits.

No cultural resources, prehistoric or historic-age, were observed on the modern ground surface or within any of the shovel tests excavated within the project area. As no cultural resources were observed during the survey, no cultural resources were collected. Following completion of the project, all project records will be prepared for permanent curation at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL).

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. In accordance with 36 CFR 800.4, 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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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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