Remote Sensing: A cost-effective alternative.

Early in 2019 one of our clients received a letter from the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office (NJHPO) requesting an intensive-level architectural survey. Our client, a non-profit health organization, needed the survey as support for a Federal grant application to assist with constructing a new health center. Background research on the two residential properties chosen for the new facility revealed that one of the standing structures dated back to the eighteenth century. Despite that neither of the standing structures on these properties were eligible for inclusion on the New Jersey State or National Registers of Historic Places, the NJHPO then asked for an archaeological survey of the two properties given the eighteenth century association. This new request raised an interesting concern: how to best conduct the survey while keeping project costs reined in.

Given our client’s status as a non-profit health organization and the facts that 1) these studies were required prior to completing the grant application and 2) any funds for these projects would be taken from daily operating expenses, E2PM sought to provide the most cost-effective solution possible.

Typical strategies for conducting a Phase IB archaeological survey involve excavating shovel test pits (16- to 18-inch diameter holes) through the ground surface at a regular spacing interval. Usually, this is a 50-foot interval for undeveloped farm field/wooded properties, but can often be 12.5 to 25-foot spacing when dealing with early historic or urban/suburban properties where space is at a premium. In this case, shovel testing was problematic as large portions of both properties had been paved at some point in the past. In order to conduct a shovel-testing survey, we would need to use heavy equipment to remove the asphalt paving—a costly prospect. Instead, E2PM developed a different solution and conferred with the NJHPO for approval on our approach.

E2PM’s cost-saving approach consisted of conducting a ground penetrating radar survey of the paved areas and limited shovel testing in unpaved areas. Where GPR encountered anomalies, we would open a window in the asphalt to ground truth the location and verify the presence/absence of archaeological resources. The NJHPO approved our scope and we presented it to our client. Overall, this approach saved our client a significant amount of money by eliminating the need to heavy equipment, equipment operators, and/or disposal fees for the removed asphalt. Through applying this approach, our investigations uncovered one possible privy shaft, a well shaft, one former Underground Storage Tank location, and several natural geological anomalies. Excavation of the well and privy features revealed historic-period artifact deposits dating to the late-nineteenth to early twentieth-centuries. Based upon our findings, the NJHPO concluded that no significant archaeological resources were present and approved the grant application.

Our takeaway from this experience was that through creative solutions we were able to successfully guide our client through the Section 106 process while remaining sensitive to their budget. This is the value we provide our clients at E2 Project Management LLC.