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Cultural Resources Compliance

A number of different state and federal laws guide how WSDOT addresses cultural resources, depending on such factors as location, land ownership and permitting. This site offers a general overview of historic preservation laws and WSDOT policies. For a comprehensive review of federal and state laws and regulations, please visit the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP).

WSDOT Compliance Procedures and Policies

The WSDOT Environmental Manual, Chapter 456 contains information on legal requirements and compliance procedures pertaining to historic, cultural and archaeological resources (including historic highway bridges).

Glass artifact, undefined.

Archaeological monitoring during construction activities for a bridge replacement project in Lewis County resulted in discovery of historic artifacts dating to the mid 20th century, including Japanese porcelain ware, American dinning ware (plates and cups) and the above mystery  object. The glass artifact measures 5/8 inch (1.5 cm) thick, 1 3/8 inch (3.4 cm) in width, and 8 5/8 inch (21.9 cm) in length (end to end).
Undefined glass artifact with etched/ grooved surface. 
Long grooves have been ground or etched into the glass surface.

Undefined glass artifact, manufacturing mark  
The back side of the object is etched with "Made in Germany", but otherwise lacks an identifiable manufacturer's mark. With assistance from the Northwest Railway Museum the mystery object was identified as a steam engine sight glass, a water level measuring device for steam boilers. The glass (similar to Pyrex) could withstand exposure to extreme heat and pressure. When submerged in water the glass appears black thereby providing an accurate and easily distinguishable water level reading. They were most commonly utilized on steam locomotives for logging operations (for more information visit This sight glass, and other historic artifacts recovered during the project help to provide valuable information on the early 20th century logging camp that once occupied the area but has since disappeared from the landscape.

Emergency Procedures / Unanticipated Discovery

Every project that includes ground disturbance should have an Unanticipated Discovery Plan (UDP; also called an Inadvertent Discovery Plan or a Post-Review Discovery Plan). WSDOT cultural resource specialists develop UDPs for transportation projects in the event archaeological or historical resources are identified during project activities. A UDP provides guidance through the notification process for an unanticipated discovery. As a public service, WSDOT provides the following Unanticipated Discovery Plan template for other agencies and local governments to use to assist with their cultural resources protection.

Section 106 Review and Compliance

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that federal agencies take into account the effects of their activities on historic properties. Historic properties include sites, districts, objects, or structures that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places

A WSDOT project requires a section 106 review if it has:

  • federal funding,
  • requires a federal permit or
  • takes place on federal or Indian/tribal land.

WSDOT, or the lead federal agency, must consult with Native American tribes, the State Historic Preservation Officer (DAHP), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation  (ACHP), and the public if there will be unavoidable impacts to historic resources. (Please visit the WSDOT Tribal Liaison Office site for more information on tribal consultation for transportation projects.) 

Regulations require that WSDOT, or the lead federal agency, seek out individuals or organizations in the community who have a demonstrated interest in the project to participate as Consulting Parties. The consultation process is an opportunity to participate in transportation projects and share information.

Statewide Section 106 Programmatic Agreements

In Washington, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has delegated section 106 responsibilities to WSDOT for transportation projects with Federal Aid-Highway Program funding under the Statewide Section 106 Programmatic Agreement (FHWA PA) . The FHWA PA defines how WSDOT will consult with Native American Tribes and the State Historic Preservation Officer (DAHP) under section 106.

WSDOT has entered into a similar Programmatic Agreement with the US Forest Service (USFS) and FHWA. Under the new USFS PA, WSDOT shall assume section 106 responsibilities for Federal-Aid Highway Program sponsored transportation projects on USFS land. 

Project Exemptions

The FHWA PA and USFS PA identifies certain project activities or undertakings that are exempt from section 106 review. Exhibit B of the FHWA PA and Exhibit 2 of the USFS PA provide a comprehensive list of the exemption criteria. A cultural resource specialist must review the project to determine if any exemptions apply. 

Each month a list of exempted transportation projects are posted online (link below). Check back often or register for the Cultural Resources Program E-mail Updates  to be notified when new lists are available.

Local agency transportation projects exempted under the FHWA or USFS PA are tracked separately by WSDOT Local Programs. Visit the Local Programs Cultural Resources website for more information on projects undergoing section 106 review.

Governor's Executive Order 05-05

State-funded capital construction projects, with no federal funding or permits, must comply with the Governor's Executive Order 05-05 (GEO 05-05). GEO 05-05 requires a similar cultural resources review process to section 106. The Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation administers the review process and provides guidance documents and compliance forms online. A cultural resource specialist must review and submit these documents to DAHP for WSDOT transportation projects. 

The WSDOT GEO 05-05 process flowchart provides a general overview of the compliance process as it relates to transportation projects. 

The exemptions listed under Exhibit B of the FHWA PA may be applied to WSDOT projects under GEO 05-05 review. GEO 05-05 exempted projects are included in the monthly Section 106 Exempted Projects Report. 

Links to more information on Cultural Resource Management Laws and Regulations

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