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Intensive Cultural Resources Survey of the Legacy Austin Tract, Austin, Travis County, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. (Horizon) was selected by ECS Southwest, LP (ECS) on behalf of a private real estate developer to conduct a cultural resources inventory and assessment of potential US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) jurisdictional areas within a 14.7-hectare (36.4-acre) proposed development tract in Austin, Travis County, Texas. The tract is located at the southeastern corner of Parmer Lane (a.k.a. Farm-to-Market Road [FM] 734) and East Yager Lane, and an unnamed tributary of Harris Branch flows southeastward across the tract. The proposed undertaking is located on private property and would be privately funded. However, the developer has proposed impacts to the unnamed tributary of Harris Branch that flows across the tract. This water feature potentially meets the criteria for designation as “waters of the US” (WOTUS). As such, construction activities that would impact this jurisdictional feature would be subject to federal permitting by the USACE, Fort Worth District, under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). As this is a federal permit, the proposed construction activities within the USACE jurisdictional areas fall under the jurisdiction of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended. The purpose of the cultural resources survey was to determine if any cultural resources are located within the Area of Potential Effect (APE). The Area of Potential Effect (APE) associated with USACE jurisdictional features typically consists of the water feature(s) and the associated uplands on opposing banks. This jurisdiction does not extend for a standardized distance in any direction; however, for purposes of the current cultural resources survey and in an attempt to assess the full extent of areas the USACE could determine to fall within their jurisdiction, Horizon utilized an APE extending approximately 182.9 meters (600.0 feet) from the defined edges of proposed impact areas along the jurisdictional stream and associated wetlands. This archeological survey buffer would incorporate approximately 11.8 hectares (29.2 acres) (roughly 80%) of the 14.7-hectare (36.4-acre) tract. While typical profiles of the depth of ground disturbance are not available, subsurface impacts associated with foundation slab and utility construction likely will extend a maximum of 0.8 meter (2.5 feet) below surface based on typical construction practices. Deeper impacts extending to a depth of 3.0 meters (10.0 feet) or more below surface may be expected within the footprints of four proposed storm water detention ponds that would be constructed adjacent to the creek in the northern portion of the project area. On May 26 to 27, 2020, Horizon archeologist Colene Knaub conducted an intensive cultural resources survey of the Legacy Austin Tract. The survey was conducted under the overall direction of Jeffrey D. Owens, Principal Investigator. The purpose of the survey was to locate any cultural resources that potentially would be impacted by the proposed undertaking. Horizon’s archeologist 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 mix of open pastures covered in dense, ankle- to shin-high grasses, forbs, weeds, and wildflowers with occasional cedar and hackberry saplings and small shrubs and moderately densely forested areas covered in cedar and hackberry trees. Areas adjacent to the tributary of Harris Branch that flows across the tract were typically covered in large pools of standing water. Several small, overgrown piles of gravel are present within the northwestern portion of the project area. These gravels may have been intended for use in some fencing construction projects that appear to have been underway in the relatively recent past but which appear to have been abandoned. Ground surface visibility was generally poor due to dense grass cover (<30%). 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 acre) for projects measuring 10.1 hectares (25.0 acres) or less in size plus one additional shovel test per 2.0 hectares (5.0 acres) beyond the first 10.1 hectares (25.0 acres). As such, a minimum of 51 shovel tests would be required within the current 11.8-hectare (29.2-acre) archeological survey area. Horizon excavated a total of 54 shovel tests, thereby exceeding the TSMASS for a survey area of this size. Shovel testing revealed dense black, olive, and pale olive clay loam sediments often overlying dark gray to pale olive sandy clay at depths of 20.0 to 35.0 centimeters (7.9 to 13.8 inches) below surface. Calcium carbonate concretions were observed within the clayey subsoil in several shovel tests. It is Horizon’s opinion that shovel testing was capable of fully penetrating sediments with the potential to contain prehistoric and historic-age 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 during the survey. A wooden animal chute, a pile of demolished wood-plank fencing, and a pile of wooden fenceposts were observed scattered throughout the northwestern portion of the project area. The dimensional lumber observed in these piles was untreated and relatively new, and galvanized wire nails and other hardware were observed on the lumber piles and on the animal chute that had not yet rusted, suggesting that these features had been erected relatively recently and are not of historic age. 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 APE. No cultural resources were identified that meet the criteria for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) according to 36 CFR 60.4. Horizon recommends a finding of “no historic properties affected,” and no further work is recommended in connection with the proposed undertaking. However, 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 and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) should be notified of the discovery.
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