What is “Mitigation”?
Sometimes, the Section 106 Consultation process identifies adverse effects to historic resources. When this happens, the project must either be changed to avoid those effects; if the effects cannot be avoided, then the Federal agency has to “mitigate” for the impacts to the historic resource. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Federal agency, the SHPO, and interested parties will lay out what mitigation measures will be taken and can vary widely depending on the resource and complexity of the project. All mitigation should provide a direct public benefit and must be agreed to by all of the consulting parties.
When it is determined that mitigation is required, it is the responsibility of the lead Federal agency to reach out to any and all potentially interested parties. Interested parties will vary project to project, but can often includes such groups as the local community, any Certified Local Governments in the area, local historical societies and/or museums, any Tribal organizations, and the general public. The Federal agency will schedule a meeting with all of the interested parties, usually in or around the effected community. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the project, its impacts, and begin discussing compensatory mitigation options. For larger or more complicated projects, multiple meetings may need to happen to ensure that agreement is reached on what would be the appropriate mitigation measures.
Once the parties have agreed upon what will be done to mitigate for the adverse effect, the Federal agency and SHPO (and in some cases, the local government or other parties) will draft and sign a Memorandum of Agreement, which will spell out everything that is to be done as part of the mitigation, and by whom, and in what time frame. This is the legal agreement between all of the involved parties.
While the Federal agency and SHPO may already have some ideas of what might be done for mitigation, it is vitally important that the local parties take some time to consider what sorts of options they are interested in pursuing. Since the historic resource being adversely effected is a local resource, the local community should have a voice in what comes from the mitigation process.Â Things to think about when considering mitigation options might include:
- What is the value of the resource/site to others?
- Are the mitigation costs commensurate with the value of the resource?
- Are the mitigation efforts commensurate with the scale of the project?
- Are there other options that don’t include archaeological site excavation or historic building documentation?
- What, if any, partnerships are available?
Mitigation measures may include public participation activities, support for an alternate cultural resource, or general non site-specific mitigation. There is no such thing as a “standard mitigation” package. Please feel free to think outside the box and outside of the project area. Past mitigation projects have included, but are not limited to:
- National Register nominations
- Thematic or Multiple Property studies
- Local historic preservation plans
- Additional survey and inventory work
- Lecture or podcast series’
- Support for local preservation non-profit organizations
- Historic context studies
- Historic structure reports
- Facade improvement grants
- Heritage Tourism projects
- Website or mobile app development
- In situ preservation of cultural resources
- HABS/HAER/HALS documentation
- Ethnographic studies
- Museum Exhibits
- Digitization projects
- Archaeological excavations
- Interpretive signage
- Maintaining Idaho SHPO Cultural Resources Database & GIS systems (ACHP/NCSHPO letter on providing support)
This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, but rather to give an idea of the range of projects that might be carried as part of the mitigation process. Don’t be afraid to suggest creative ideas!