Through Groundbreaking Consultation, USACE Signs Agreement to Protect Willamette Valley’s Cultural, Historic Resources
BY CHRISTOPHER GAYLORD, PORTLAND DISTRICT
Cultural resource specialists with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Portland District and partners have finalized an agreement that will enhance the protection of historic and cultural resources across the Willamette Valley, where USACE manages 13 dams and reservoirs in addition to thousands of acres of land, while carrying out critical USACE projects.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 requires federal agencies to consider any potential impacts their projects may have on historic properties. The new 10-year document, referred to as a programmatic agreement, goes a step further by creating efficiency for USACE, stakeholders, and partner agencies as USACE works to minimize its effects on the region’s shared, public heritage resources.
“Through this agreement, our actions and decisions will align more deliberately and consistently with the expectations of the nation, tribes, states, and partners,” said Erik Petersen, USACE’s Willamette Valley operations project manager. “The result will be better, more efficient protection and stewardship of important cultural and historic values and resources.”
The document standardizes and streamlines USACE’s approach to accounting for potential impacts to cultural and historic resources – for example, by establishing agreement on low-risk projects that don’t warrant additional consultation with partner agencies, allowing USACE to focus its time and energy instead on more complex projects likely to have a greater effect on the area’s resources.
Portland District Commander Col. Mike Helton (right) and deputy state historic preservation officer Chrissy Curran sign a new programmatic agreement May 31 at USACE’s Foster Dam that will enhance the protection of historic and cultural resources across the Willamette Valley. The 10-year document, which USACE developed through groundbreaking consultation with tribal nations, partner agencies, and local heritage-focused organizations, will create efficiency as USACE works to minimize its effects on the region’s shared, public heritage resources while carrying out critical projects.
CHRIS GAYLORD, PUBLIC AFFAIRS SPECIALIST, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
The agreement defines roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols to ensure USACE is using its funding and personnel wisely for the preservation of cultural resources. It also continues engagement with consulting parties to make sure cultural resources are considered early on in project planning.
To develop the agreement, USACE collaborated with the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office; Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; tribal nations; federal, state, and local agencies; and local heritage-focused organizations with an interest in USACE’s Willamette Valley Project.
“It’s not every day that local governments, local organizations, state and federal agencies, sovereign tribal governments, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation engage together in the 106 process in the way that the legislation intended,” said Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Chrissy Curran, who also signed the USACE agreement. “It’s not lost on me that successful collaboration, negotiation, and meaningful consultation represent something far bigger in our world today than a project agreement.”
USACE estimates that around 1,000 cultural and historical resources are located within its area of operations in the Willamette Valley. They include archaeological sites, historic buildings, landscapes with cultural or religious significance, and even USACE’s own infrastructure – the protection of which helps to preserve the region’s history and heritage for future generations.