Section 106 Consultation for the PEIS
The review process specified under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act was followed for the West-wide Energy Corridor PEIS.
The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires federal agencies to consider the effect of their undertakings on historic properties. Regulations issued by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation under Section 106 of the NHPA specify the required review process. (For further explanation of Section 106 of the NHPA, see: https://www.achp.gov/protecting-historic-properties/section-106-process/
introduction-section-106.) Since this project resulted in amendments to land use plans, and did not result in direct effects to cultural resources, the agencies used the NEPA process to fulfill their responsibilities for compliance with Section 106 as permitted in the Section 106 regulations. Full compliance with Section 106 will, of course, occur when energy transmission projects are actually proposed within the corridors.
An important part of the Section 106 review process is consultation with the appropriate State Historic Preservation Officer(s) (SHPOs), all Federally recognized Native American tribes that have an interest in the area being affected, and with any persons or organizations that are interested in the cultural resources that could be impacted by the project.
Lead Federal Agency for Section 106 Review
The PEIS involved several agencies (the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Forest Service (USFS), and the Department of Defense (DoD)). The Bureau of Land Management was designated by the participating agencies as the Lead Federal Agency for the Section 106 review process. A working group consisting of representatives from each of the agencies was created to support BLM in this process.
Conducting the Section 106 Review
The regulations for Section 106 permit the Agencies to integrate Section 106 compliance with the NEPA process. Due to the scope and scale of the proposed action, the Agencies chose to implement this provision in order to reduce redundancies when complying with both laws; provide the broadest possible opportunities and greatest convenience for the public to review and consult on the Agencies' proposed actions; and ensure that concerns pertaining to historic properties were fully integrated into the PEIS and the records of decision (RODs). The Section 106 regulations clearly state that integrating the Section 106 compliance process with NEPA does not waive Agency obligations under either law. While the regulations do permit the Agencies to take advantage of the NEPA process, the Agencies must still adhere to the fundamental direction for compliance with Section 106.
The PEIS process attempted to identify the type and extent of the impacts associated with the designation of energy corridors on Federal lands in the eleven Western states. For this PEIS, compliance with Section 106 included a programmatic assessment of the types of historic properties known and likely to occur within the designated corridors and the development of recommendations to avoid, minimize, or mitigate impacts to historic properties that will guide the agencies in the review of any subsequent development projects.
The amendment of land use plans to designate Section 368 corridors does not have direct impacts on historic properties. Future projects developed within designated Section 368 energy corridors have the potential to adversely affect historic properties that may be located within the corridors. Specific projects will be subject to the Section 106 process, calling for development of actions to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects on historic properties. In addition, this PEIS identified interagency operating procedures (IOPs) that provide programmatic guidance for future development that will assist in satisfying the requirements of the NHPA and various other laws. The IOPs do, in effect, provide a robust suite of practices for the consideration of historic properties throughout the anticipated life of the corridors. The Agencies' responsibilities under Section 106 have been satisfied through a binding commitment to these IOPs with the signing of the ROD.
The BLM contacted the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Conference of SHPOs concerning the PEIS. Data requests for cultural resource information were submitted to all eleven Western SHPOs. The BLM, together with the interagency working group, consulted with interested parties and many of the Western SHPOs concerning cultural resources on this project. Government-to-government consultation was conducted with Tribes and will continue to proceed if any projects are proposed in the corridors; further information on this important part of the process is available on the Government-to-Government Consultation page of this website.
The PEIS provided the agency managers with information on how the various alternative actions would impact the environment. The affected agencies each signed a ROD in January 2009. These RODs amended land use plans and designated corridors for future energy development. As development proceeds, agencies will conduct Section 106 compliance and NEPA reviews for individual proposed right-of-way projects. The intent of the PEIS was to guide future development of the designated corridors in order to reduce the proliferation of rights-of-way across the landscape. However, on any given project, land managers will retain the ability to consider options for rights-of-way outside the designated corridors should conditions warrant. Furthermore, prospective developers are not constrained to remain within or use designated corridors.