How Fast Can You Do That Cultural Resources Survey?

(originally posted January 27, 2012)

Four things a client can do to speed up a survey before the contract is signed

Quite often, when planning their cultural resources surveys (typically for compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act), our clients ask us, “How soon can you finish your survey?!” We’re always eager to start a project as soon as possible, of course, and the length of time it takes to reach the finish line depends on a number of factors. Some are pretty much fixed (like how long it takes to dig an archaeological test pit or complete a building inventory form), and weather can always help or hinder, but many other factors that affect the schedule are well within human control. With a little foresight and planning, that is.

Clients and consultants should of course choose the correct survey method, or consider alternatives that avoid areas that are likely to have archaeological sites or historic buildings.

But before the contract is even signed, clients can accelerate the process by thinking ahead and following these common-sense tips:

  • Before you ask a consultant to provide a proposal, make sure you have initiated consultation with your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and know exactly what type of cultural resources services are being requested.
  • At the time you are selecting a consultant, make sure that your contracting department is prepared to initiate and execute a contract.
  • Before the contract is signed, have plans in place to stake the survey area or geo-reference your project footprint, so that as soon as the contract is signed, you can send the information to the consultant.
  • Before the contract is signed, prepare a letter to all of the property owners notifying them that survey crews will be on their land within a specified time period. As soon as the contract is signed, send the letters. Always give your consultants copies of this letter so that the survey crew has something to show the property owners to justify their presence on the property. And…your consultant will love you if your letter reminds the property owners to restrain aggressive pets and livestock (Yes, we’ve been threatened by dogs foaming at the mouth, flocks of nasty geese, at least one menacing ram, and numerous territorial bulls and excitable horses!)
So remember, there’s a lot of things that you can do, both large and small, to help speed up that survey!