Cultural Resources

ESI’s Cultural Resources Program assists clients in meeting the full-spectrum of regulatory requirements – from desktop analyses to field inventories to National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) eligibility statements to creative mitigation solutions. Understanding the nuance of historic, archaeological and cultural regulations, specifically applying regulations to different situations, and importantly communicating subtleties to clients set ESI’s cultural resource professionals apart from other consulting firms. Providing exceptional client service remains the same regardless of whether project needs involve National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Section 106 compliance for an individual building site or a suite of services including meeting facilitation for an energy project encompassing thousands of acres and involving multiple jurisdictions.

ESI’s Heritage Resource Program includes a wide variety of private and public sector clients with projects spanning the U.S. Projects are client-based and provide the highest levels of professional quality and regulatory consultation. ESI’s subject matter experts complete desktop study, fieldwork, laboratory analysis, reporting, and planning endeavors across historic, archaeological, architectural, and ethnographic contexts presented by clients.

Consultation is the heart of the Section 106 process. Federal agencies and those seeking federal approval, funding, permitting, or licensing are required to identify and engage a variety of consulting parties to meet legal obligations under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA). ESI’s cultural resources staff understand consultation intricacies and ensure regulatory requirements are met along each step of the process. Archaeologists and historians regularly work with various State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPO) initiating consultation, soliciting information regarding historic properties, and submitting project-related documents. ESI professionals also offer exceptional public outreach and consultation expertise with local governments, advocacy groups, residents, and others with a vested interest in a project. If an undertaking results in a finding of adverse effect to historic properties, ESI experts work with consulting parties and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to resolve concerns and avoid costly project delays.

ESI archaeologists regularly complete Phase I archaeological surveys for various public and private clients, including government, utilities, energy, and land development sectors. Projects involving a federal nexus often require an archaeological survey under Section 106 of the NHPA to identify and consider impacts to cultural resources. The Phase I archaeological survey process comprises background research, fieldwork, documentation, and recommendations for additional work if significant sites are encountered. The ESI team comprises Secretary of the Interior (SOI)-qualified and Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA)-approved staff leading archaeological field surveys and testing in accordance with regulatory needs and in consideration of overall project goals. Depending on the project’s state or regional location, fieldwork methods vary from pedestrian survey transect intervals to inclusion of shovel test pit (STP) intervals in high-probability areas and approaches (surface and subsurface) for delineating archaeological resources. Following fieldwork, professional laboratory staff process, analyze, and catalogue artifacts. Key to ESI’s success, archaeological professionals transcend simply completing field work and understand the nuances of cultural resource regulations, how regulations apply in different situations, and how to communicate subtleties to any audience.

While a Phase I archaeological survey identifies sites and facilitates preliminary NRHP eligibility recommendations, a Phase II evaluation is potentially necessary for establishing spatial boundaries and temporal associations, ensuring accurate evaluation of a site’s significance. ESI archaeologists develop and implement Phase II work plans that meet regulatory requirements. Results of gathering additional critical information often allows projects to move forward as planned or minimizes avoidance measures required. If an unavoidable adverse effect determination requires mitigation associated with impacts to significant archaeological resources, ESI collaborates with clients and consulting parties to develop a Phase III data-recovery plan.

ESI’s team of historians and architectural historians expertly complete historical research and documentation to satisfy federal and state regulations. SOI-qualified specialists routinely engage in projects with diverse objectives such as documenting historic buildings potentially impacted by development activities or facilitating preservation of historic neighborhoods and communities. Research and fieldwork focus on accurately evaluating historic resources for listing in the NRHP and subsequently completing complex documentation required to nominate and list resources. County-wide and area-specific architectural surveys are routinely completed to assist in planning or mitigate adverse effects resulting from project development.

ESI archaeologists offer a full suite of geophysical survey and geomorphological services. A variety of tools are employed for geophysical survey, including metal detectors, ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and magnetometers, aimed at identifying archaeological resources quickly and with little to no destructive intrusion. When landforms indicate potential for deeply buried archaeological resources, ESI analyzes and implements geomorphological testing using a variety of tools, including hand excavation and mechanical trenching, ensuring soils are thoroughly investigated.

Historic cemeteries exist across every landscape and require careful consideration when encountered during project development. ESI archaeologists and historians regularly identify and document Native American, European American, and African American graves and cemeteries. Many small, family cemeteries require simple documentation and avoidance; however, poorly maintained or unmarked burials present challenges. The ESI team ensures known cemetery resources are identified and documented, including NRHP evaluation and consulting party coordination. If detailed burial delineation, construction monitoring, or relocation is required, ESI collaborates with agencies and descendent groups to develop a mitigation plan in accordance with regulations.

When project impacts to significant archaeological or historic resources are unavoidable or potential impacts are unknown, construction monitoring offers a positive and, in some cases critical, move toward meeting regulatory requirements. ESI develops and implements monitoring plans aimed at identifying, recovering, and documenting resources potentially impacted by or newly discovered during construction. Proactive construction monitoring facilitates uninterrupted project scheduling and precludes costly delays resulting from unexpected impacts.

The NRHP is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation with listing primarily achieved via grant-based studies or tax-credit programs. NRHP listing also results from the Section 106 process. ESI’s professionals are experienced with researching, documenting, and coordinating with agencies to successfully list a resource if mitigation to resolve adverse effects involves an archaeological or architectural property.

ESI’s historians are experienced with the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) programs administered through the National Park Service (NPS). Work is primarily completed as mitigation to adverse effects resulting from project development and executed as the result of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or other type of agreement between parties. The documentation process involves historical research, photographic documentation, and measured drawings based on NPS guidelines.