ACHP Section 106 News |
Greetings from the Office of Federal Agency Programs
This issue of the Section 106 News highlights several issues related to timing. While we all work in the context of our own deadlines and due dates, the unprecedented severity of natural disasters experienced in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, Florida, California, and other states this fall demonstrates different kinds of urgency about Section 106 reviews. Read more here.
Loíza, Puerto Rico, September 21, 2017-The community of Miñi Miñi flooded after the Carraizo Dam released water, due to the overflow brought by Hurricane Maria. (photo by Yuisa Rios/FEMA)
30-Day Review Timeframes: When are They Applicable?
The ACHP occasionally receives inquiries regarding the time limits that govern consultation between lead federal agencies and others in the Section 106 review process. These questions include at what points the 30-day time period in the Section 106 regulations applies to the review process, and whether each step in the four-step review process is subject to the same 30-day review period. Knowing how and when to apply 30-day time limits in Section 106 reviews positions federal agencies, State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and others to avoid unnecessary delays by ensuring that key stakeholders are afforded important opportunities to comment and avoid misunderstandings. Click here to learn more.
Proposed Program Comment Addresses Rail and Transit Rights-of-Way
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in coordination with the ACHP, prepared a draft Program Comment to exempt effects of transportation-related undertakings within railroad and rail transit rights-of-way. The draft Program Comment would exempt from Section 106 review certain activities that have the potential to affect historic properties within railroad and rail transit rights-of-way where those effects are likely to be minimal or not adverse. It also includes an optional approach that could streamline the Section 106 review for additional types of transportation-related undertakings involving railroad and rail transit properties, including those that may cause adverse effects. If issued by the ACHP, this Program Comment would fulfill the requirements of Section 11504 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, passed by Congress in 2015. The ACHP is working with the
Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Transit Administration, the lead agencies within DOT, to integrate public comments on the draft that were received last month into a final Program Comment. ACHP action on the request is expected this winter. For more information, contact Charlene Vaughn.
Program Alternative Proposed for Rural Utilities Funding
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Utilities Service (RUS), is continuing work to develop a nationwide Programmatic Agreement (PA) to better align its programs with Section 106 requirements. RUS convened a meeting with the ACHP, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation on September 22 to discuss its need for this alternative and the basic components of an agreement document. RUS is incorporating comments received in that meeting and plans to carry out further consultation on its development once it addresses comments received to date. For more information, contact Charlene Vaughn.
Program Comment to Address VA Property Disposals
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun work to request a Program Comment to address the vacant and underutilized properties Secretary David Shulkin prioritized in his June 2017 announcement. The comment will explore alternative measures for VA to fulfill its Section 106 responsibilities regarding the reuse and disposal of the vacant and underutilized buildings and structures within its inventory. The ACHP has been working with VA staff to refine the approach and plan stakeholder consultation. A formal request from VA is expected within a month or two.For more information, contact Angela McArdle.
A reuse and Section 106 Success at Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Report on Federal Historic Property Stewardship Shows Progress
Every three years, the ACHP compiles information reported by federal agencies pursuant to Section 3 of Executive Order 13807 (“Preserve America”) to assess the state of federal agency historic property stewardship. Twenty-three historic property-owning agencies have provided information on their efforts to identify, protect, and use their historic properties between 2015 and 2017. The reports demonstrate federal agencies are proud of their historic properties and their stewardship of them. Challenges remain, including limitations for agencies in carrying out historic properties surveys and making use of digital survey information that varies widely in format and availability. The findings point to opportunities, however, such as the utility of program alternatives to increase the efficiency of historic preservation compliance at federal facilities and resource protection strategies that
can be leveraged through agency partnerships. The 2018 report will differ from previous Section 3 reports by being web-based with links to other documents and preservation resources. The online report will provide access to many more successful examples and case studies to better illustrate the breadth of historic properties owned by the federal government and the myriad ways agencies care for them. Watch for the report’s online release on February 15.
NASA Control Room at Johnson Space Center, set for renovation and restoration in the coming years
FHWA NEPA Assignment Updates
The U.S. DOT’s Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program—for which all states are eligible—allows the Secretary of Transportation to assign, and the state to assume, full federal agency responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as related federal environmental laws. The program applies to highway projects, railroad, public transportation, and/or multimodal programs. Assignment of environmental review responsibilities to the state DOT may include environmental review, consultation, or other action required under any federal environmental law pertaining to the review of a specific transportation project, including Section 106.
The NEPA Program Assignment (23 U.S.C. 327) applies to all NEPA classes of action. Federal responsibilities are assigned through a Memorandum of Understanding that expires after five years, but is renewable. The sponsoring U.S. DOT agency initially reviews the state’s compliance with the terms of the MOU through audits and then through monitoring.
The Categorical Exclusion Assignment (23 U.S.C. 326) is a permanent but less expansive program for states to assume federal responsibilities for transportation projects classified as Categorical Exclusions (CEs). The federal responsibilities are assigned through a Memorandum of Understanding that expires after three years, but is renewable.
Under either program, the state DOT that accepts the assignment does not just take a lead in the process; it functions in every way as the federal agency. Any state that takes on either assignment must first pass a suspension of its sovereign immunity so that it takes on the full federal role, including the ability to be sued in federal court. Currently, DOTs in California, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Alaska are engaged in one or both programs with the Federal Highway Administration, while several other states are in the process of pursuing the assignment.
Permitting Council and Infrastructure Update
As the new year begins, there is anticipation of a forthcoming infrastructure initiative from the Administration. For Section 106-related updates, please visit the ACHP’s Section 106 and Infrastructure Projects web page. Recently, the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council) released a report on Recommended Best Practices for Environmental Reviews and Authorizations for Infrastructure Projects for Fiscal Year 2018. This year’s report includes an appendix of agency success stories related to highlighted best practices.
Three successes from the ACHP are featured, as are others from ACHP member agencies.
Federal agencies are encouraged to make improvements consistent with these recommendations, as appropriate, in carrying out environmental reviews and authorizations for infrastructure projects. In April, the Permitting Council will deliver its annual report to Congress on FAST-41, including assessments of agencies’ implementation of the FY17 best practices. The ACHP is collaborating with other Permitting Council member agencies on strategies to achieve some of the FY18 best practices.
HUD’s TDAT Database Has Moved
HUD’s Tribal Directory Assessment Tool (TDAT) has moved to a new URL. While the look has been updated to match other HUD eGIS applications, the functions remain the same. The database allows users to search by county for federally recognized Indian tribes who have an interest in consulting about the effects of Section 106 undertakings occurring within that county. The site now functions on mobile devices. HUD’s Federal Preservation Officer reports that the agency is now updating tribal contact information quarterly.
Angela McArdle began work in December as the ACHP’s new liaison to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ms. McArdle is an archaeologist by training who also has extensive experience with the built environment. Prior to joining the ACHP, she worked as a cultural resource specialist for two U.S. Army installations: Fort Irwin National Training Center (California) and Fort Drum (New York); as an archaeologist for several private consulting firms; and as an archivist at two Special Collections libraries.
MaryAnn Naber retired from the ACHP at the end of December. She served as a Program Analyst at the ACHP from 1991 to 2000 before becoming FHWA’s Federal Preservation Officer. Ms. Naber rejoined the ACHP staff in 2015 as Senior Program Analyst and FHWA liaison. Her extensive knowledge and experience with Section 106 and transportation planning will be sorely missed, but all in the Office of Federal Agency Programs wish her an enjoyable retirement!
Training and Upcoming Events
The 2018 Section 106 Essentials and Advanced Seminar schedule is now available! Check it out, including a new one-day Section 106 Basics course.
Have You Tried E-learning Courses?
The ACHP recently launched a new suite of online courses on integration and coordination of Section 106 reviews with NEPA. “Basics of NEPA and Section 106 Integration” is a free, 15-minute overview. A fee-based course provides greater detail on “Coordinating NEPA and Section 106,” while a forthcoming course will explore “Substitution of NEPA for Section 106.” The registration process for e-learning courses has been simplified. For more information, and to register, visit the eLearning portal.
The Spring 2018 Webinar Series schedule will begin in February. For details click here. For more information on upcoming courses or tailored training designed to meet the needs of your organization, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.