Where in the hell am I?

January 12, 2009

Another state of mind

Filed under: archaeology, archeology, Louisiana, survey — John @ 3:41 am

So I drove up to Shreveport, Louisiana today for a weeklong reconnaissance survey project. This is my first time actually doing fieldwork in Louisiana, although I’ve been to Baton Rouge a couple of times to do background research.
Not only is this my first time working in Louisiana, but I am actually the field director for this job, overseeing 5 crew members. This is my first time as a field director, so I’m a little nervous. OK, very nervous, as this is something of a test. This isn’t exactly a normal project, although now that I think about it I’m not exactly sure what a normal project is. It’s going to require a lot of flexibility and improvisation. Fortunately, the months spent on the Keystone pipeline project definitely required plenty of those things.
The work is being done for a seismic survey. Their project area is 165,000 acres. We did a background review which identified all of the previously recorded sites in the area. We also identified the High Probability Areas based on the sites, soils, geology and drainages in the area. We gave this to the client to develop an avoidance plan. Unfortunately, there were still 20,000+ acres of HPA, which was too much for the client to avoid impacts, and too big to survey effectively. The Louisiana SHPO wasn’t very specific about what to do, so we worked with the client to develop a workable plan. We identified 10 areas within the HPAs that had the highest probability of having significant sites (basically, the areas most likely to have Caddo sites), and will survey those. We will also revisit the potentially significant previously recorded sites to make sure that the recorded site boundaries are correct, to assist in avoidance.
Now, the kicker. There’s some obstructionist contractors (I guess with at least some say over how work is conducted) who have been very difficult. They freaked out at the idea of shovel testing. I don’t exactly understand why, something about landowners withdrawing their access (I can’t remember if I’ve blogged before about landowners misunderstanding of cultural resources laws, who fear that the government will take their land if we find a site). So we’re not doing any shovel tests, only examining ground surface and exposures. They also are uncomfortable with the concept of the HPAs. However, somehow, they were cool with everything when it was explained as “places where sites were found but not properly recorded.” So that’s how we’re selling that.
Honestly, this isn’t really how cultural resources management should be done, and none of us are really comfortable with the process. On the other hand, it makes for very easy field work if one can compartmentalize and look at it as “At least we’re doing something.”
Oh, last thing to mention before I turn in for the night. Almost all of this has happened (except the original background review and avoidance plan) since last Wednesday.

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