State historic preservation officials are asking Constitution Pipeline to dig a bit deeper into sites where prehistoric artifacts were found along the proposed route of a natural gas pipeline the company hopes to construct.
Constitution Pipeline LLC is engaged in a pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with the intent to file a formal application to build a 122-mile pipeline from Pennsylvania to the town of Wright in Schoharie County.
A search for historic resources in the pipeline’s proposed path is one of several reviews required as part of the regulatory process, and the pipeline company submitted survey data to the State Historic Preservation Office in March.
According to a response submitted to Constitution Pipeline, state officials are looking for a more-thorough search in areas where artifacts were found depicting life before European contact with Native Americans.
Constitution Pipeline’s historic resources contractor, URS Group Inc., identified historic assets in roughly 7,000 acres of New York property during its review of a 600 foot-wide path along the pipeline’s proposed route.
The pipe’s proposed path in New York includes Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties, where there are a total of 71 sensitive sites that require more work or a need to reroute the pipeline’s path. Among them are two cemeteries, 20 archaeological sites, 24 prehistoric sites and two dozen areas with “stacked stones” believed to be Native American in origin, according to the resource reports.
In Schoharie County, scientists found 24 archaeological sites, including nine prehistoric period or pre-contact sites; seven historic period sites, one with both prehistoric and historic artifacts; and six sites with stacked piles of stones that may be Native American.
According to a Constitution Pipeline representative, there are four sites in New York where the pipeline’s archaeologists found only a “small number” of artifacts dating from before European colonization.
Details and locations of these sites are not being identified, to prevent intrusion on the sites.
After finding pre-contact artifacts, archaeologists pursued “supplemental testing” in an effort to ensure the finds were isolated and spread those sample tests out by 7.5 meters before determining the sites are “not eligible” for historic listing and recommended no further work be undertaken.
But state historic preservation officials are asking for those areas to be reviewed in more detail to make sure sensitive artifacts aren’t destroyed.
In an April 24 letter to Constitution Pipeline, state historic preservation representative Philip A. Perazio cites state statutes require investigation digs be closer together.
“The report indicates that supplemental testing surrounding initial find locations was conducted at intervals of no less than 7.5 meters. SHPO 2005 Phase I report requirements request that eight supplemental tests should be conducted at 1- and 3-meter intervals,” Perazio said in the letter.
“SHPO requests that this additional testing be conducted in such cases to establish whether these are indeed isolated finds or if they are small, tightly packed sites that mostly fall between the sampling points employed so far.”
Constitution Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton in an email Monday said the state’s request applies only to four sites which he described as a “very small subset” of the 71 sites identified during the review.
“We do intend to comply with the state’s request and have actually already begun that process,” he said.
According to information provided by Stockton, historic sites discovered in surveys are most often avoided altogether during construction.
In the event a significant archaeological site cannot be avoided, more excavations then take place to secure artifacts and get them to state officials.
Constitution Pipeline LLC is planning to submit additional archaeological testing data when it files its formal application for pipeline approval in June.
The state office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation did not return calls seeking comment Monday.