• 07/16/2020 10:43 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Trump Administration has released the final version of its new regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

    ACRA is concerned about many of the changes to NEPA implementation, including:

    1. Fewer actions will be subject to NEPA review;
    2. The ability of the public to raise concerns about effects is reduced;
    3. The types of effects to be considered by the agencies are limited;
    4. Arbitrary timelines and page limits may reduce consideration of cultural resource impacts; and
    5. The regulations introduce confusing new terms that will invite litigation and delay projects, the opposite of what the Administration says it intends with these new rules.

    Given the decades of precedent and case history surrounding NEPA, America’s bedrock environmental law, ACRA maintains that any changes should be made with care, consideration, and robust stakeholder involvement. Instead, the Trump Administration rushed through the comment period during a global pandemic and failed to include meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribes.

    At each step in the process, ACRA and its partners at the Coalition for American Heritage raised concerns about the rule’s anticipated effects on consideration of historic resources. ACRA members submitted letters to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) using their expertise to outlinehow the proposed rule could harm historic preservation efforts. Both ACRA and the Coalition also submitted comment letters to CEQ in which we highlighted the potential dangers to cultural resources. To read a ACRA's comments, click here. In addition, the Coalition met with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House to provide additional details of our concerns. We are therefore disappointed that the Administration failed to meaningfully address our concerns.

    It is likely that this rule will be challenged in court, and Congress and/or a future Administration could take steps to reverse these changes. ACRA will continue monitoring the impacts of the new rule as it goes into effect. We invite our members to contact us with examples of the impacts they see these new regulations having on the projects on which they work.


  • 07/15/2020 5:01 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Trump Administration has unveiled its finalized changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The finalized regulations can be accessed here.

    From the New York Times:

    President Trump on Wednesday unilaterally weakened one of the nation’s bedrock conservation laws, the National Environmental Policy Act, limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects to speed up the permitting of freeways, power plants and pipelines.

    In doing so, the Trump administration claimed it will save hundreds of millions of dollars over almost a decade by significantly reducing the amount of time allowed to complete reviews of major infrastructure projects.

    Revising the 50-year-old law through regulatory reinterpretation is one of the biggest — and most audacious — deregulatory actions of the Trump administration, which to date has moved to roll back 100 rules protecting clean air and water, and others that aim to reduce the threat of human-caused climate change.

    Because the action is coming so late in Mr. Trump’s term, it also elevates the stakes in the November elections. Under federal regulatory law, a Democratic president and Congress could eradicate the NEPA rollback with simple majority votes on Capitol Hill and the president’s signature.

    Republican lawmakers, the oil and gas industry, construction companies, home builders and other businesses have long said the federal permitting process takes too long, and accused environmentalists of using the law to tie up projects they oppose.

    ACRA is reviewing the changes and will provide more information for members shortly. Read the full New York Times article here, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for more information.

  • 07/15/2020 12:41 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Thank you to all who voted in the 2020 ACRA election! This year's election was extremely close, and we eagerly anticipate welcoming new members to the Board of Directors in the fall. We greatly appreciate the service of our departing board members and look forward to their continued leadership on essential committee projects.

    Congratulations to the winning candidates below! Their terms will start in the end of September at the fall board meeting. Be sure to add your congratulations in the comments below!

    Officers

    Officers are elected for two-year terms, with those below serving from 2020-2022.

    • Vice-President - Government Relations: Shawn Patch (New South Associates)

    At-Large Board Positions

    At-Large Board Members are elected for three-year terms, with those below serving from 2020-2023.

    • Daron Duke (Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.)
    • David Harder (Plateau Archaeological Investigations, LLC)
    • Erin Hudson (Environmental Solutions & Innovations, Inc )


  • 07/13/2020 2:20 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Preservation Virginia is partnering with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for two webinars that may be of interest to ACRA members:

    Making Historic Preservation More Inclusive
    Friday, July 17
    10 a.m
    .

    Telling the full story of our history is vital. Audrey P. Davis, director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, and representatives from this year's listing of Virginia's Most Endangered Historic Places will share their perspectives and how their work is expanding narratives that have often been suppressed, excluded and misrepresented in the mainstream telling of history.

    The Role of Historic Preservation in Recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic
    Friday, July 24
    10 a.m.

    Join PlaceEconomics, the Department of Historic Resources, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, the Norfolk Preservation Collective and Preservation Virginia in a discussion on adapting preservation during the pandemic and the role of historic preservation in economic recovery.

    You can register for both of these webinars here, and don't forget about ACRA's own 2020 webinar series - our next session on emerging technology for heritage management and Section 106 compliance is this Thursday, July 16 at 2:00 pm EDT!


  • 07/10/2020 10:00 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team


    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    • Duke Energy and Dominion Energy announced that they are cancelling the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Despite their victory in the Supreme Court over a permit from the U.S. Forest Service, they cited the likely risk and expense of future litigation as the cause for their decision. They also focused on the recent court decision to suspend the Army Corps’s use of Nationwide Permit 12. Following that announcement, Dominion announced it is selling its Natural Gas assets to Berkshire Hathaway.
      • The Supreme Court subsequently lifted the stay on the use of Nationwide Permit 12 all but Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines.
      • A district court ruled that the Dakota Access pipeline must shut down by August 5 while the court-ordered environmental review takes place. The review is likely to end into 2021. If this decision is upheld on appeal, it will mark the first time that a major, in-service oil pipeline is forced to shutter because of environmental concerns.
    • The Department of Homeland Security deployed a special task force charged with protecting federal monuments over the July 4 weekend. On Twitter the President reminded everyone of his executive order threatening prison sentences of more than 10 years for anyone convicted of harming a federal statue. In similar news, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced a bill requiring a minimum 1-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of defacing or destroying a veteran’s memorial.
    • President Trump used his July 4 celebration at Mount Rushmore to announce that he was signing an executive order creating a National Garden of American Heroes. The order proposes statues of 28 Americans, among them John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Harriet Tubman and George Washington. It also mentions Christopher Columbus and Junipero Serra as possible candidates for inclusion. No Native Americans or Latinos are included in the list of possibilities. All statues would have to be realistic and lifelike – nothing abstract or modern. The order also establishes an inter-agency task force whose membership would include the Chairs of the NEA, NEH and the ACHP.
    • Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and 35 of her fellow Democrats introduced legislation that would require removal, within one year of the law’s enactment, of any Confederate names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia from any Defense Department asset. An exception would be made for grave markers. President Trump has taken a hard line, resisting calls to do away with vestiges of past celebrations of Confederates and has threatened to veto the defense bill over the issue.
    • The House passed its $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. President Trump threatened to veto it because it doesn’t eliminate or reduce environmental reviews. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) submitted an amendment to the bill regarding the NHPA, but it was not included in the final package of amendments. The text of her amendment said:

      “Expresses a Sense of the Congress affirming the requirement that the Department of Transportation ensure that when funding an infrastructure project follow the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires steps to be taken to preserve and protect historic places that may be near construction or infrastructure improvement projects.”

    • William Perry Pendley was formally nominated by President Trump to head the Bureau of Land Management, a position he has held in an acting capacity since summer 2019.
    • John Frey, a Connecticut State Representative, has been formally nominated to be a member of the ACHP. We previously reported this appointment on the ACRAsphere in late June.
    • Following decades of legal battles over potential oil and gas development in the Badger- Two Medicine, the Blackfeet Nation has publicly released a legislative proposal to designate the 130,000-acre wildland as a Cultural Heritage Area.
    • John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, which memorializes Tulsa's bleakest days – the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot - of and one of its most distinguished sons, has been added to the National Park Service's African American Civil Rights Network.
    • Congressman Joe Neguse, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Congressman Ed Perlmutter and Congressman Jason Crow (all from Colorado) called on the House Committee on Appropriations to include $515 million in future Coronavirus relief funding for State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), and small museums. This effort was spearheaded by a lobbying group in Colorado.
    • House Democratic appropriators are proposing the federal government spend $13.83 billion to fund activities within the Department of the Interior for fiscal 2021 — $304 million above what was allocated in fiscal 2020 and $1.8 billion beyond the administration's initial request. They are suggesting the National Park Service remove "all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques."
    • The draft House Interior appropriations bill provides the following for the Historic Preservation Fund:
      • $136,425,000 for HPF (an $18 million increase over FY2020)

      • $7.5 for restoring sites of national, state, local significance

      • $10 million HBCUs

      • $22.25 for grants honoring Civil Rights movement

      • $1 million for underrepresented communities grants

      • $25 million for Save America's Treasures

      • $7.4 million for the ACHP

  • 07/08/2020 4:36 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Readers can now find relevant news items compiled all in one place! In our CRM Firms in the News series, we feature recent mentions of ACRA member firms and their projects across the country. Was your firm recently featured in a news article or on social media? Send it to us to be included in our next volume of the series!

    • A project from Gray & Pape, Inc. found evidence suggesting that people once lived in an area that is now buried 20 feet below the Gulf of Mexico. Read about these findings in The State.
    • The Alexandria lab of the Veterans Curation Program, administered by New South Associates, was recently featured on Fox 17. Head over to the article to learn more how this program uses archaeology to train military veterans for civilian life - even outside the industry.
    • Employees from both South River Heritage Consulting and Dovetail Cultural Resource Group have both been featured on Digging Delaware, a quarantine video series from the Archaeological Society of Delaware. You can view the these installments on our previous blog post, and can view them all on the ASD YouTube channel.
    • Gray & Pape, Inc. has also been working with the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center and the Houston Archeological Society on a volunteer project to uncover the ruins of a former World War I training camp. Read more about the project in Houstonia Magazine!
    • CRM firms are integral to helping local communities record their history: for example, New South Associates is working to identify the locations of unmarked graves in the African-American section of a cemetery in High Point, NC. Read more in the High Point Enterprise.
    • Archaeologists with Cardno has been searching for a lost all-Black cemetery in Tampa - and now it has been found! After detecting anomalies via ground-penetrating radar, team members were able to confirm that those anomalies are coffins. More information on this project is in the Tampa Bay Times.
    • Another New South Associates project was featured in the Northside Neighbor - this time for helping the community of Buckhead, GA learn more about a historic cemetery in their town. At the time of the article, the New South team had uncovered more than 330 gravesites but said there were likely more.


  • 07/07/2020 3:36 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team
     
    Emerging Technology for Heritage Management & Section 106 Compliance

    July 16, 2020 | 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm EDT | Register Here


    When the Section 106 process results in adverse effects to historic properties, federal agencies often use mitigation measures to preserve data for the public benefit. As new means of information visualization are embraced by the general public, new opportunities to comply with the goals set out by the law can be explored to ensure that the historic data is not only accessible to a wider audience, but also conveys it in an engaging and innovative way.

    Join us for Emerging Technology for Heritage Management & Section 106 Compliance on July 16 at 2:00 pm EDT. Our expert presenters will provide an overview of emerging technologies such as:

    • Augmented reality (AR)
    • Virtual reality (VR)
    • Digital reconstructions
    • Interactive interfaces
    • Downloadable apps

    The webinar will review examples of the technologies, showcasing how these resources can be employed to support Section 106 compliance as alternative and creative mitigation packages.

    Participants will also learn about existing and emerging visualization platforms along with practical examples, guidelines for adopting solutions that maximize longevity of the digital assets, and best practices for recruiting service providers, such as organizing RFPs and RFQs.

    Space is limited, so register now to reserve your spot. As a reminder, we have implemented a firm-wide registration fee for ACRA members during the pandemic - once one person from a member firm registers, others can register for free. Contact us for information on subsequent registrations.

    Register Now


  • 07/01/2020 2:03 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

     All employees of ACRA member firms, even those not directly involved in CRM work, can use the Savings Marketplace! 

    Get the Code NOW


  • 07/01/2020 11:00 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Update: The extension passed by the Senate has also been passed by the House and signed into law by the President.

    Late last night the Senate reached a deal to extend the Paycheck Protection Program for an additional 5 weeks - hours before the program was set to expire. From the Washington Post:

    The Senate acted by unanimous consent to extend the Tuesday midnight deadline for when the PPP can accept applications for forgivable loans for an additional five weeks. It came as the program was poised to shut down to new users with more than $130 billion left untapped. Lawmakers were working on legislation to redirect the remaining funding to additional businesses, but no such deal was expected to be reached until late July, and meanwhile the money left in the program would be sitting unspent.

    “We want to make sure the money gets out, and we also want to make sure those who really need it get the funds,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Small Business Committee, said on the Senate floor.

    A similar deal has not been reached in the House, and it is not clear whether the chamber will take up the issue before adjourning at the end of the week: 

    Even if the House manages to pass the measure before adjourning this week, though, thorny questions still remain unresolved about how to repurpose the funds left in the program. Demand for the remaining money has slowed to a trickle, a dramatic change since the program was launched in April and immediately overwhelmed by demand.

    Read the full Washington Post article here, which includes information on the existing proposals for repurposing the remaining funding in the program.

  • 06/29/2020 1:25 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    On Friday the White House announced that John Frey, a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, has been appointed by the President to serve on the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation (ACHP). From the Hamlet Hub:

    “It is truly an honor to have been asked to serve, combining my deep appreciation of history and love of public service,” said Representative Frey. Completing twenty-two years as Ridgefield’s state representative, he is the longest serving state representative in Ridgefield’s history. The second longest was the first, Col Phillip Burr Bradley, who served for 13 years starting in 1776.

    A four-year term, Representative Frey’s tenure will begin immediately. The ACHP meets several times a year in Washington, DC.

    Additionally, Rick Gonzalez, whose appointment as an Expert Member to the ACHP was previously announced, was sworn in on June 24 for a term that ends in June 2023. From the ACHP press release:

    “We look forward to utilizing Rick’s expertise as the ACHP enhances opportunities for minority architects and incorporates a preservation ethic for those in the architecture and building fields,” Chairman Jorjani said. “Rick has a lot to contribute to the national historic preservation conversation, through his many efforts within Florida and the local preservation community. We have already enlisted his help in the Traditional Trades Training Task Force we recently launched.”

    Born in Cuba, and raised in Miami and later, Costa Rica, Gonzalez earned two architecture degrees from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he first discovered his love of historic architecture. He also studied design in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Italy. Gonzalez is president of REG Architects in Palm Beach, Florida, which he co-founded with his father Ricardo in 1988, with a focus on building a strong relationship with the community.

    “I am honored that President Trump appointed me as a member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation,” Gonzalez said. “As a Cuban American architect, never in a million years would I think that my work in historic preservation and urban renewal for more than 30 years would result in such an honor. Advocating for historic preservation statewide over the past decades will serve as inspiration to share my time and talents at the national level to help set historic preservation policy to protect our amazing American historic places.”

    Gonzalez is known for his historic preservation work in the West Palm Beach area, including Mar-a-Lago, a National Historic Landmark built from 1924-27 by cereal company heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post; the Harriet Himmel Gilman Theater, which was constructed in the 1920s as the First United Methodist Church of West Palm Beach; and the historic 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse.

    Gonzalez is a board member on the Florida Historical Commission, a past president of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, former chairman of the Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design, and is actively involved with community organizations such as the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. He also is the writer of a popular Facebook blog, Florida Historic Places.

    Chairman Jorjani invited Gonzalez to join the Traditional Trades Training Task Force that was formed last month, which will work to promote the development of a robust workforce in the skilled preservation trades, and he participated in the first meeting that took place June 18.

    Read the full ACHP press release on the swearing in here





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