The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Regulated Madness

As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows (and contrary to what I suspected before I placed traffic trackers, there's actually quite a few of you), I spend alot of time looking into regulations and case law to try to figure out how to apply historic preservation laws to specific projects.  Right now I am particularly confounded, though.

See, I have a project in the southern San Joaquin Valley.  This project involves historic-era archaeological sites that are related to the early use of the oil fields.  Now, back in the late 90s, the Department of Energy sold Naval Petroleum Reserve 1 (which is about two miles north of my project area) to a private company, and in the process had to go through the environmental revue process.  During this process, rumor holds that they developed a good set of criteria for determining whether or not a historic-era oil field site was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and therefore would gain some (admittedly minor) level of protection, and that the State Office of Historic Preservation agreed to these criteria in a programmatic agreement. 

Now, the project that I have is not on the old Naval Petroleum Reserve grounds, and therefore these criteria would not be directly applicable to my project, but they can provide guidance on how to apply the regulations in similar environments within the vicinity of the Petroleum Reserve grounds.  It is, essentially, a matter of hunting down precedent.

Which makes my current task as necessary as it is frustrating.

You see, the studies and documents that I need to find were produced in the late 90s, as federal agencies were beginning to gain a strong online presence, but before the early 2000s shuffling of various federal responsibilities under Bush.  In other words, it came into being during that magical internet time when all web sites had blue balls to illustrate bullet points (mind out of the gutter!), Geocities and Angelfire were where it was at, and federal agencies were sure that they needed to do something with this internet thingy, even though they weren't sure what, exactly.  So, I can find the Record of Decision in the Federal Register that describes the project and the documents, I can find the public comments to the documents, and I can find agency comments for the documents from the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Energy...but I can not find the document itself.  I can't even find PDF copies of one of the several documents to which the document I need would have been an appendix or attachment! 

Now, this wouldn't be bad if I could get a hard copy of the document.  But here's the problem - if I make a formal request to OHP or DOE, my project will be due before I actually hear about the possibility of receiving the document.  I could conceivably call one of my contacts at an agency that works with the documents, but I have already found that most of them are out of the office for extended periods of time on their own projects.  And the people I know at private companies who could get me a copy are currently so buried under their own work that they rarely respond to emails or phone calls anyway.

So, I continue trying to find it by some other sneaky way.  Oh joy!

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