Cultural resources can connect wind project developers
with local communities
By Sydne B. Marshall
Increasingly, wind energy project developers are recognizing that
consideration of cultural resources can be helpful in gaining local
project acceptance, financing, and timely approvals.
Cultural resources include archaeological sites, standing structures,
cultural landscapes, and traditional cultural properties. Attention to
cultural resources can serve as a gateway for communication with locals
and an avenue for community project support.
Developers who choose to inventory, evaluate, and avoid impacts to
cultural resources demonstrate their understanding of, concern for, and
appreciation of the cultural heritage of their project's host
communities. With planning, such activity may be embraced without
significant negative effect on project schedules and budgets.
Managing cultural resources follows the same paradigm as managing other
environmental issues: establish baseline conditions; perform surveys in
areas of potential effect; evaluate if inventoried cultural resources
qualify as significant; avoid impacts to significant resources;
understand the historic preservation priorities of local communities;
develop reasonable, acceptable, and community-worthy mitigation of
impacts to significant resources; and keep permitting agencies informed.
Savvy cultural resources management can form a lasting connection with
local communities. Given the pride that many communities have in their
towns, villages, and landscapes, addressing cultural resources in a
sensitive manner presents a perfect opportunity for a developer to gain
the favor of a host community. Working in partnership to sponsor a
local preservation project, record an archaeological site, or develop
cultural education tools can benefit the developer, the community,
future local generations, and new visitors to the area.
Cooperative support can involve something as simple as providing public
interpretation of a local landmark through signage, input to a
community website that educates viewers about local history, or
sponsorship of a project implemented by the local historical society.
A developer's contribution to local historic preservation may even
involve arranging occasional access to private lands that historically
were of spiritual or ceremonial significance to a group. Another type
of support might involve collecting oral histories that result in a
rich and valuable historical resource for community members to share
with each other, their children, and future generations.
These types of activities can be part of a strategy to help make wind
development projects more acceptable to a broader community audience,
and they may be implemented without disruption to the development
schedule and without significant cost. Further, by sponsoring field
surveys to identify archeological sites, historic architecture,
cultural landscapes, and traditional cultural properties, a developer
will have added substantial information to state cultural resources
data bases and thereby contributed positively to future regional
scientific studies of cultural resources.
Community stakeholders may welcome a new wind energy project while
still feeling strong connections to place. Developers' planning and
permitting processes need to address these feelings. Sentimental
connections to landscapes, vegetation, and structures represent shared
community memory. While connection to place tends to be rooted in
emotion and lacks quantitative and objective scientific rationality,
place attachment is best respected by planners and developers. Project
planning and permitting should take these stakeholder connections into
These connections present opportunities for creative responses.
Mitigating impacts to cultural resources will result in positive
lasting contributions to a host community. Mitigations need not be
elaborate nor excessively expensive, but they must be locally
Involving stakeholders in selecting and implementing appropriate
mitigation activities results in added good will and project support.
Through these activities, a developer's project becomes more integrated
into the local community, bringing added meaning to being a good
neighbor and community participant. The local State Historic
Preservation Office and other oversight entities will also view a
developer's company in a highly positive light, a useful consequence
especially if additional projects are considered within the state.
Developers who determine early in planning and site selection if there
are significant cultural resources within a project area can make good
decisions about minimizing and avoiding impacts or addressing them
through mitigation. Throughout the development period, determining and
evaluating whether a project triggers requirements for specific
permits, or if cultural resource surveys are desired even if not
required, will serve the project well. Involving cultural resources
specialists in the planning stages will also be helpful. They have
useful information that may save time, money, and aggravation as your
project and micro-siting progresses. Maximizing avoidance of
significant sites early on will translate into fewer sites to be tested
and fewer that will undergo mitigation of adverse impacts. If faced
with adverse project effects, involving stakeholders in decisions about
the types of historic preservation activities that may be performed as
mitigation for adverse effects to archaeological sites, historic
architecture, cultural landscapes, or traditional cultural properties
will leave a lasting positive contribution to the community.
Sponsorship of historic preservation activities that benefit local
stakeholders are a way to connect with a host community. Meaningful
consideration and mitigation will demonstrate good will and put into
action intentions to be a good, long-term neighbor.
Sydne B. Marshall, Ph.D., RPA, is
Cultural Resources Discipline Lead at Tetra Tech EC. Over her 30-year
career, she has been involved with many alternative energy projects
throughout the U.S. She has also developed and implemented community
outreach efforts for numerous projects.