Meeting Notes, Council Representatives and the Project Advocates

----- Original Message -----
From: Bob Maslowski
To: CWVA Board of Directors
Sent: Monday, August 22, 2005 8:26 AM
Subject: McDowell County meeting

On August 18, Roger, Valerie and I met with the Huntington District and the McDowell County School Board to discuss Project Archeology and the mitigation plan for a new elementary school at War. I was contacted by the Corps about developing a curriculum on archeology for the school system as archeological mitigation for a site that will be covered by the school.

At first it sounded like a good deal for Project Archeology but as the plan unfolded it didn't look too good. The site is the only recorded site in McDowell County that produced pottery, about 139 sherds in ten one meter excavation units. There were 5 post molds uncovered but not enough excavation was undertaken to determine if these were parts of structures.

Attached [below] are some notes by Roger and Valerie about the meeting. The BOD has to decide whether to accept or reject the offer. If we reject the plan we will send a letter rejecting the offer and demanding an archeological mitigation plan.

Valerie will hold the proxy vote for Mike Anslinger since his company has a vested interest in the project.

MEETING NOTES

Attending:
  • Bob Maslowski, Roger Wise, and Valerie McCormack (CWVA)
  • A representative each from the State Board of Education, the School Building Authority (SBA), and McDowell County Schools
  • Three faculty from Marshall University Graduate School (MUGS)
  • Corps of Engineers staff, including the District Archaeologist (Brantley Jackson) and the head of their environmental branch

Corps spokesmen:

  • ACE is contributing $43M to a $63m project to relocate four schools in McDowell County.
  • Plans and specifications are in review [so why do they keep insisting the plans are not available?]
  • Expect to advertise for bidders in December 2005 with construction to start soon afterwards.
  • One remark was that the construction will or can start with activities that will not affect the two archaeological sites, such as razing the existing bleachers, some structures, and preparing a new athletic field elsewhere on school board property.
  • Project is already at the EA level [draft or completed?] for NEPA
  • They forgot to include cultural resources in their Environmental Assessment. [this is a stupefying factoid]
  • No money was allocated for archaeological and historical identifications when the environmental studies were started
  • They only undertook cultural resource identification after the school relocation contract was signed.
  • They did not respond to a question about how much the identification and evaluation studies have cost to date.
  • They were tentative, but seemed to say the previous studies came out of the $63M allocation.
  • The State and County will pay for mitigation out of funds that are capped at $43M (Corps money) or $63M (State money included).

Brantley Jackson:

  • Site size is 120x80' [36.6 x 24.4 m, or 892m2]. Slopes down c. 6' from east to west, with the archaeological site on the lower side Stated that the site evaluation located shallow pit features, postmolds, and Brantley estimated the possibility of one or more Late Woodland structure. Brantley acknowledged the possiblity that burials could be present.
  • Estimated it would cost $100K to excavate the site [unclear whether his size and cost estimates include both the Late Woodland and the historical sites]
  • Stated flatly there will be no excavation for data recovery or further evaluation
  • They cannot describe the disturbance caused by construction because neither the depth of the fill prism nor the location and extent of excavation for footers and utilities are known
  • Refused to discuss the context or data potential of the archaeological sites, only their mitigation proposal
  • Their mitigation plan is to cover the sites under fill of unknown depth, and build the elementary school on top of it, on a poured concrete slab.
  • Further, the Corps proposes to post archaeologists to opportunistically recover artifacts as footers and utilities are excavated, and if any artifacts are discovered, to map the wall of the trench in that area.
  • Finally, the Corps would provide funding to develop a curriculum in local prehistory for the county high schools to be included at the appropriate grade and class. Artifacts recovered from trenching would be used as a teaching aid in the curriculum component of their mitigation plan

General discussion notes

  • When queried the about construction, they replied that the sod layer will have to be stripped
  • The McDowell facilities manager said it is typical for a construction schedule to slip, and mentioned one year as not unusual
  • One or more of them said they will not place and compact the fill during the rainy season, even if it means delaying until suitable weather
  • School Building Authority spokesman assured us placing the fill will not impact the buried component
  • The McDowell facilities manager estimated the life of the school at 80 years, based on current experience.
  • RBW restated their argument to them pointblank, that they contend the $100,000 cost of excavation would break the project. They held to that position.
  • ACE has met with the SHPO and they contend a verbal agreement to this mitigation plan, but the MOA has not been signed.
  • After Valerie's discussion of Project Archaeology and the various partnersí interests, Bob turned to their funding offer for educational activities.
  • The numbers the Council and MUGS were using were $15K for each of the first two years for Project Archaeology (handbook production and teacher training), and another $15K for the high school curriculum.
  • MUGS stated that the cash could be a match to obtain teacher training grants, and there are several possible sources
  • Discussion brought out the 10th grade as the likely target of the high school program
  • Because they are so different, it might be best to separate Project Archaeology from the high school program
  • MUGS stated that 150% is a reasonable estimate of their overhead rate
  • Notably, the Corps, State Board, and SBA did not specifically respond to the funding levels the Council and MUGS were using.

© 2005
Council for West Virginia Archaeology (CWVA) unless otherwise noted.