Uncertainties Over Federal Requirements for Archeological Preservation at New Melones Dam in California

CED-80-29: Published: Dec 21, 1979. Publicly Released: Dec 21, 1979.

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GAO examined efforts to preserve the archeological and historical resources at the New Melones Dam Project in California. These efforts have been clouded by the lack of Federal guidance on the adequacy of archeological preservation and who should direct the program.

The responsible agencies, the National Park Service, the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS), and the Army Corps of Engineers, have not developed criteria to use in deciding the extent of mitigation efforts needed to satisfy requirements of archeological salvage laws. The lack of guidance has also left a void regarding whether mitigation efforts should be centered on physical protection, such as preservation, avoidance and salvage, or the costly effect of accumulating information from all sources that may reflect on the past history of the project area. Also, the lack of Federal guidance on who should decide the adequacy and who should direct the mitigation program has clouded the direction of the cultural resources work at New Melones. HCRS has been developing its own research priorities and now apparently plans to assume the direction of the ongoing mitigation program and change it from the approach planned by the Corps. Neither the contractor nor the Corps was aware of how HCRS expected to reorient the program and this has led to delays on decisions on the final phases of the contract. Since this has been a rapidly changing program, with agencies responding differently, the magnitude of the problem is not known. In view of this, no legislative or administrative recommendations are being made until a more indepth review is completed.

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