Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Assessments without panic

By Andrea McDowell

Given the focus put on Natural Heritage and Public Consultation in the Class EA and REA processes, it’s easy to let the archaeological and cultural heritage assessments slide. This can be dangerous, as weather restrictions are every bit as real for archaeology as for natural heritage; it’s easy for a last-minute change to a layout to derail a project if the archaeological study has not been properly planned. Following are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Plan on snow
It’s tempting to hope for good weather and plan your archaeological field surveys later in the fall or earlier in spring, but if Mother Nature has a long winter in mind, you could find your work and your project delayed by a season or three. Fields not only need to be clear of snow and crops, they need to be recently ploughed and weathered for at least a few weeks. Give yourself enough time to get the project location ploughed and weathered well before there is a chance of snow in the fall, or you could be waiting until April or May to get the field work done.

2.    Plan on layout changes
No matter how final your layout is today, there is always the possibility that it will be less final tomorrow. New noise receptors, new natural heritage information, new agency guidelines, new turbine model specs, geotechnical studies, and newly endangered species all have a way of shifting final turbine locations and roads by a few to a few hundred metres when you can least afford new field studies. Try to give yourself the space to move project components later when you need to by surveying a much larger area than you plan to use. If the budget allows it, you may want to consider having entire usable fields surveyed, as a single pass at the beginning over a large area is much less expensive than multiple smaller passes later on when project components shift.

3.    Plan on agency delays
Archaeological studies can take several months to review, revise, and receive confirmation letters for. Anticipate at least seven months between the submission of the report and receipt of the MTCS sign-off.

4.    Plan on a cultural heritage study
It’s tempting to push back against the requirement for a cultural heritage study, particularly if you are in a relatively undeveloped area with few apparent cultural heritage resources. However, cultural heritage studies typically cost less than $10,000, can be completed in a few weeks at any time of year, and take less time for agency review than archaeological studies do. They are typically the least troublesome part of any energy project approval application. Unless your project truly cannot afford the six weeks from contract signature to MTCS confirmation letter, consider completing the cultural heritage study before the MTCS requests it.