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Intensive Cultural Resources Survey of the Proposed City of Conroe Stewarts Creek Wastewater System Improvements Project, Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. (Horizon) was selected by LJA Engineering, Inc. (LJA), on behalf of the City of Conroe, to conduct a cultural resources inventory and assessment for the proposed Stewarts Creek Wastewater System Improvements Project in Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas. The proposed undertaking would consist of rehabilitating and replacing approximately 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) of existing gravity sewer pipeline that runs along the western terraces of Stewarts Creek in the southeastern portion of Conroe. The segment of the existing sewer line proposed for rehabilitation and replacement runs along the western terraces of Stewarts Creek extending from Avenue M southward to an existing transmission line right-of-way (ROW) located southeast of the intersection of Foster Drive and Ed Kharbat Drive. For purposes of the cultural resources survey, the project area was considered to consist of a linear project corridor measuring 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) in length by 39.6 meters (130.0 feet) in width, covering a total area of 8.3 hectares (20.4 acres).
The proposed undertaking would be sponsored by the City of Conroe, 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 April 1 to 2, 2020, Horizon archeologists Colene Knaub and Elizabeth Sefton, 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. 9336. 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 an existing gravity sewer ROW running along the western terraces of Stewarts Creek. Most of the sewer line ROW consisted of broad, cleared areas characterized by short, manicured grasses, though some segments of the ROW appear not to have been regularly maintained and had become heavily overgrown with tall grasses, weeds, and wildflowers. Large concrete manholes providing access to the existing sewer line are spaced at regular intervals along this utility corridor. The ROW crosses Silverdale Drive, Foster Drive, and an electrical transmission line, and four large stock ponds are present adjacent to the ROW that involved extensive earth-moving activities within the project corridor. Prior disturbances within the existing sewer line corridor associated with construction and maintenance of the existing sewer line, stock ponds, intersecting roadways, and the transmission line have been extensive. Overall, ground surface visibility was generally poor (
In addition to pedestrian walkover, the Texas State Minimum Archeological Survey Standards (TSMASS) require a minimum of 10 shovel tests per 1.0 kilometer (16 shovel tests per 1.0 mile) for linear projects per 30.5-meter (100.0-foot) width of ROW, or fraction thereof. As such, a minimum of 42 shovel tests would be required within the 2.1-kilometer- (1.3-mile-) long by 39.6-meter- (130.0-foot-) wide project area. Horizon excavated 44 shovel tests during the survey, thereby exceeding the TSMASS requirements for a project area of this size. Shovel tests were staggered along either side of the existing sewer line as evidenced by the locations of manholes in an effort to test sediments that potentially had been less disturbed by the original construction of the sewer line.
Shovel testing typically revealed mixed brown to yellowish-brown sandy loam and sandy sediments with rare hematitic sandstone and oyster shell fragment inclusions. Mottling and mixing was observed in virtually every shovel test, suggesting that sediments within the survey corridor had been disturbed during the original construction of the sewer line. Given the extent of disturbance observed within the shovel tests excavated during the survey, it is Horizon’s opinion that sediments within the proposed disturbance zone associated with rehabilitation and replacement of the existing sewer line have been disturbed to the depth of the existing pipeline and have minimal potential to contain any intact archeological deposits. Furthermore, a prior survey was conducted for the City of Conroe in 2001 that included mechanical deep testing, though this survey did not result in the documentation of any cultural resources along this segment of Stewarts Creek. As such, it is Horizon’s opinion that the shovel testing was capable of evaluating the potential of the project area to contain prehistoric and historic-age cultural resources with the potential to meet the criteria of significance for inclusion in the NRHP and for designation as SALs.
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 THC should be notified immediately.
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