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Historic sites gaining protection

U.S. Army Corps agrees to 10-year preservation plan

Cultural resource specialists with the Portland District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have finalized an agreement that will enhance the protection of historic and cultural resources across the Willamette Valley, where the Corps manages 13 dams and reservoirs in addition to thousands of acres of land.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) requires federal agencies to consider any potential impacts their projects may have on historic properties. The new 10-year document, officials say, goes a step further by directing the Corps 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, the Corps’ 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 the Corps’ 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 the Corps to focus its time and energy instead on more complex projects likely to have a greater effect on the area’s resources.

The agreement defines roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols to ensure the Corps 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, the Corps 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 the Corps’ 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 process in the way that the legislation intended,” said Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Chrissy Curran, who also signed the Corps 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.”

The Corps estimates around 1,000 cultural and historical resources are located within its Willamette Valley area of operations - including historic buildings and landscapes with cultural or religious significance.


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