9 Cultural Resources

Hydroelectric project operating and maintenance can affect cultural resources, including archaeological sites, historical built resources, and traditional cultural properties, as outlined in the Project Effects Matrix (Part I). Significant archaeological resources within the Area of Potential Effect (APE) are in the care and stewardship the project owner as part of their obligations under FERC. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 (amended in 2000) declares the importance of historical and cultural heritage, and requires the federal government to "accelerate their historic preservation programs and activities" through cooperation with state and local governments, Indian tribes, and private entities. For hydroelectric licensing, FERC is bound by the provisions of the NHPA, which, under Section 106 of the Act, requires Federal agencies, including FERC, to "take into account the effect of the action on any district, site, building, structure, or object that is included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), and to give the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) a reasonable opportunity to comment on a proposed action" (FERC 2004). Compliance with Section 106 is the primary legal basis for the cultural resources studies conducted for FERC licensing of hydroelectric projects.

The NHPA was amended in the early 1990s to allow federally recognized Indian tribes to take on more formal responsibility for the preservation of significant historic properties on tribal lands in relicensing, and other processes. Tribes are currently entitled to assign a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) to assume any or all of the functions of a State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) with respect to tribal land. The decision to participate or not participate in the program rests with the tribe. As a formal participant in the relicensing process, the THPO may assume official responsibility for a number of functions aimed at the preservation of significant historic properties, including the approach that is used to identify and maintain inventories of culturally significant properties. Additional information on the authority of the THPO is online >>

Described below are approaches related to addressing effects of an existing hydroelectric project on modern, historical, or archaeological cultural resources.