Cultural Resources Preservation
Rocky Mountains U.S.
As a part of Kern River's environmental commitment through its 2003 gas pipeline expansion project, three consulting firms were retained to ensure protection of cultural resources along the approximately 717-mile pipeline corridor. Through field inventories and a review of archives, nearly 650 cultural sites were identified in the four-state area of the pipeline route. Of those sites, 25 in Wyoming, 163 in Utah, four in Nevada and 26 in California were determined to be significant and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. These sites were representative of a variety of property types from Native American resource processing and campsites to wagon roads. To ensure the preservation of these areas, Kern River pursued traditional and innovative approaches to the archaeological mitigation.
The archaeological work associated with the expansion project provided Kern River the opportunity to not only generate knowledge about the history of the states through which the pipeline runs but also utilize new methods and strategies that are recognized as offering as much insight into the past as actual excavations. Since excavations were previously conducted at each site during the original pipeline construction in 1991, the goal of the effort was to build upon existing information. Detailed analyses of previous work were conducted to identify those sites with the greatest potential for data recovery. At chosen sites, excavations were conducted outside of the pipeline corridor to fully capture the characteristics of the entire site. In addition to conventional excavations, a number of innovative mitigation techniques were employed, ranging from thermoluminescence dating, which looks at the light emitted from heated minerals to determine age, to the development of a geographic information system database and historic context for linear features such as canals. In addition, a process called obsidian hydration was conducted, which analyzed the absorption of water on exposed surfaces of lava glass. The cultural resource mitigation activities began in August 2002 and were completed in 2005. The result of this work will not only be a great contribution to the history of the four states involved, but a demonstration of the value both excavation and non-excavation techniques have as effective mitigation strategies.
Although only 33 archaeological sites were subjected to conventional excavation, impacts to each site along the route eligible for the National Register of Historic Places were mitigated through other strategies.
Kern River subsequently funded an archaeological report, From Hunters to Homesteaders, which was mailed at no cost to schools, libraries, museums, historical societies and government agencies throughout Utah. The 2,000 copies of the book and interactive CD were part of the company's mitigation efforts for the Kern River 2003 Expansion Project. Compiled by SWCA, Inc. Environmental Consultants and Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Inc., under the guidance of Kern River's land and environment department, From Hunters to Homesteaders explores Utah's early heritage using the environmental and archaeological research collected for the 2003 expansion project. Subjects in the materials include Native American culture, early Euro-American settlement of the state, laws governing cultural resources, and the scientific methods and techniques used to study cultural history.