April 20, 2023

Cultural Resources Mitigation & Promotion through Multi-Media

Navigating the growing and changing world of environmental regulations requires an understanding of the project’s impacts on plant and animal species and finding creative solutions to balance the needs of both the human and natural environments. Lochmueller Group’s Environmental team, especially our Cultural Resource Specialists, ensures that environmental regulations and specifically compliance with Section 106 are met. But what exactly is Section 106?

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), a federal law protecting cultural resources from unchecked development, was passed in 1966. It established the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO), and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). Section 106 of the NHPA charges federal agencies to “take into account” effects on historic properties from federally funded undertakings by identifying properties, assessing the level of effects/impacts to properties, and mitigating/resolving adverse effects to properties when necessary. It also requires consulting parties be identified and invited to comment on effects to historic properties.

ad•verse ef•fects (noun) – negative changes that affect the environment due to people’s actions.

Each federal entity does Section 106 different, but State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) acting on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), follow this process:

1. Identify and notify consulting parties.

2. Within the Area of Potential Effects (APE), identify historic properties either listed or considered eligible for the NRHP, including archaeological sites.

3. Assess potential effects to historic properties.

4. Make an effects determination.

5. Avoid, minimize, or mitigate any adverse effects through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

But what exactly is considered a historic property? A property must meet one of the four NRHP criteria in order to be considered historic:

A. Associated with events significant to the broad patterns of history.

B. Associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.

C. Embodies distinctive characteristics (architectural significance).

D. Must show, or be likely to yield, important information to history.

After the historic property has been identified, effects to the property have been assessed and determined, it’s time to avoid, minimize, or mitigate for any adverse effects through the development of a MOA. Typical MOA stipulations include NRHP nomination, signage, establishment of preservation easements, brochures, and other literary documentation intended to preserve the resource’s legacy. However, in some cases, a more creative media approach can be used for cultural mitigation, to go beyond buildings and sites to understand the people they represent. Media can be used to convey a story of past cultural triumphs or transgressions and memorialize the legacy of a culture within an area of historic significance. For example, working with our DOT partners, Lochmueller’s Environmental team has advanced ways to take more creative media approaches through the creation of the I-69 Cultural Audio Tours and The Foot: A Community Remembered Video Documentary.

Southwestern Indiana represents a large region with rich cultural landscape and pre-historic and historic people of multiple ethnicities, which inherently lent itself to a creative media approach for mitigation associated with the sometimes controversial development of the sections of new interstate highway (I-69) between Evansville and Indianapolis. A series of twelve audio vignettes were created for INDOT after extensive research and production. From the rolling landscape of Buffalo Trace to the history of the Native American tribes that first inhabited the region, the 152 miles of terrain I-69 traverses holds histories and stories that detail its discovery and settlement. Although some challenges were presented, we were able to create unique, engaging, memorable, educational audio tours that are accessible to motorists while driving on I-69 by accessing the website.

The Rex Whitton Expressway in Jefferson City, Missouri, has a combination of unique neighborhood/cultural history, relatively modern history with residents still living, and the contested history of urban renewal. Therefore, a video documentary telling the cultural history that has been previously “dismissed” was used as a creative mitigation approach. The Foot: A Community Remembered is a unique, intriguing, engaging, memorable, educational, powerfully emotional video documentary that performed cultural mitigation in order to cement the legacy of this African American neighborhood. For more information or to obtain a copy of the documentary, which is still in production, contact MoDOT.

Our Environmental team not only understands the importance of preserving historical properties and ensuring compliance with environmental regulations, but they also understand the importance of telling the stories of the people behind the projects. To learn more about our Environmental Services, visit our website.

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