Rider told BenitoLink on Sept. 6 that the delay is primarily because of a Native American site detected near the project.
“A variety of field tests must be conducted, meetings in the field with Native American partners to better understand the nature of the site, and an eligibility determination can often take 12 to 24 months,” she said.
She added that the California Office of Historic Preservation requires Caltrans to coordinate with its Native American partners.
“In the case of our project, an area of interest was identified,” Rider said.
While Rider said she could not share specifics about the discovery or which Native American tribes might be involved, she did say the initial finding was identified in August 2018.
“As part of our analysis, we coordinated our initial findings of ‘no effect’ with our partners,” she said. “Since there was information shared by our partners that indicated the impacts could be ‘adverse,’ we were required to do additional field analysis/testing and further coordination with the community that raised concerns on the features of this potential historic site.”
An analysis of what caused a portion of Highway 25 to collapse in 2015 took place between November 2018 and June 2019, she said. A draft report and eligibility finding is due in October.
“Once we complete this analysis, we will submit our findings to the state historic preservation office for concurrence on our findings,” Rider said. “We anticipate submitting our findings in December.”
BenitoLink asked Rider which Native American representative Caltrans was working with.
“Members of the Ohlone and Salinan Native American community have been consulted with since project initiation in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966,” she said on Sept. 12. “The Native American Heritage Commission provided a list of Native American individuals and organizations who may have knowledge of cultural resources within the project area. All of these contacts were contacted with initial project information (Nov. 3, 2011), and individuals and tribal bands who requested to be consulted with have been over the duration of cultural resources studies.”
However, Anne-Marie Sayers, tribal chairperson with the Indian Canyon Nation, told BenitoLink that neither Caltrans nor the Native American Heritage Commission has called her about the site. She said the commission has a list of the most likely descendants.
“They send that list to whoever owns the property or is doing the work, and then they have to consult with the people on the list,” Sayers said. “Then anyone who is familiar with that area makes a recommendation. It will probably be the Ohlone people. There are at least three tribes that were in that area.”
The Native American Heritage Commission did not respond to BenitoLink’s request for comment. State Historic Preservation Officer Julianne Polanco with the office of historic preservation said that Caltrans has not communicated with the organization yet.
Rider said the Caltrans team feels that the impact is still “no effect.” However, she said the office of historic preservation makes the final call.
“If they determine we are having an adverse impact to a cultural resource, then our schedule will be further delayed,” Rider said. “We are still optimistic that a finding of no adverse impact will be possible.”
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