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 Towhead Reef Project in Aransas Bay, Aransas County, Texas. The archaeological survey was sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Area of Potential Effect for the proposed Towhead Reef Project is a 74.9-hectare (185-acre) submerged, rectangular tract within Aransas Bay. Work was completed under Texas Antiquities Permit Number 9513. 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 a 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 Towhead Reef Project survey area consisted of a magnetometer and side-scan sonar investigation of the Area of Potential Effect in safely navigable waters on August 4, 2020; the survey was conducted in a total of 24-person hours. The comprehensive analysis of the magnetic data recorded resulted in the identification of a total of 52 magnetic anomalies, of which one (Anomaly No. 1) is interpreted as a potential cultural resource (i.e. historic shipwrecks). The remaining magnetic anomalies 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. Sonar data did record a probable drag or trench scar extending across the project area, with associated magnetic anomalies. The recommended management action for the Towhead Area of Potential Effect 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 Anomaly No. 1. 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 the anomaly.
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