There are both federal and state laws that help protect historic and archaeological resources in Minnesota. Transportation projects using Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds, whether state or locally sponsored, must comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, before funds can be released. Review of projects to ensure compliance with the governing regulations of Section 106 (36CFR800) is referred to as “the Section 106 process” or “Section 106 review.” In Minnesota, the FHWA has delegated some of its Section 106 responsibilities to the staff of MnDOT’s Cultural Resources Unit (CRU).
When MnDOT carries out a project with state funds only, the CRU helps to ensure compliance with the state statutes termed the “Minnesota Historic Sites Act” and the “Minnesota Field Archaeology Act.” Among other things, these statutes direct state agencies to cooperate with the Minnesota Historical Society and the Office of the State Archaeologist to protect significant historic and archaeological resources.
The Section 106 regulations (36CFR800) require federal agencies such as the FHWA to consider the impacts of their undertakings on historic properties. This includes projects funded (in whole or in part), licensed or permitted by the federal agency. During the Section 106 review process, the federal agency identifies historic properties that may be affected by an undertaking, assesses the undertaking’s effects on historic properties, and then considers ways to avoid, reduce or mitigate any adverse effects. Historic properties are any building, structure, landscape, district, archaeological site, etc., that is considered eligible for or listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Section 106 review is carried out in consultation with the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and with other concerned parties, including members of the public. The intention of the Section 106 review is not to stop undertakings from being carried out, but to ensure that due consideration is given to historic resources in the project planning process.
The Minnesota Historic Sites Act (MS 138.661-138.669) directs state agencies to consult with the Minnesota Historical Society if projects they undertake or fund will impact properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places and/or in the State Register of Historic Places. The objective of the statute is to avoid, reduce or mitigate adverse impacts.
The Minnesota Field Archaeology Act (MS 138.31-.42) directs state agencies to consult with the Minnesota Historical Society and the Office of the State Archaeologist when projects they undertake will impact known or suspected archaeological sites. The aim of the statute, as with the Historic Sites Act, is to avoid, reduce or mitigate adverse impacts to Minnesota’s significant archaeological resources.