The State Historic Preservation Office
The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is a key participant in the section 106 process. The SHPO is commissioned by section 101b of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA). In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission serves as the SHPO. In addition to participating in section 106 review, the SHPO is responsible for the following activities: surveying historic resources, maintaining a historic resource inventory, advising Federal, State, and local governments on preservation issues, and providing public education.
A Federal agency or an applicant for Federal funds or permits initiates the section 106 process. The agency provides the SHPO with information on known and potentially eligible historic resources within the project’s Area of Potential Effects (APE). The SHPO maintains an inventory of the State’s historic resources. While this list does not include all of the State’s historic resources, it provides a starting-point for agencies to identify previously evaluated historic properties. The agency evaluates the resources present and submits an eligibility determination to the SHPO. The SHPO may concur with the agency’s findings or the SHPO may object to the eligibility determination.
The Federal agency is also responsible for determining the effect an undertaking will have on historic resources. The agency submits a finding of effect to the SHPO. The SHPO has thirty days to review the finding and respond with concurrence or objection. If there is an adverse effect to historic resources, the agency, SHPO, other consulting parties and Tribes work towards mitigation of the effect.
The SHPO is not only involved with the preservation of historic buildings, but also with archaeological sites. Pennsylvania maintains an archaeological sites survey, and provides information as needed to project consultants in the section 106 process. The section 106 process also requires the Federal agency to conduct survey testing if there is a probability that unknown archaeological sites are in the project’s Area of Potential Effect (APE). This allows the agency to plan for sites, or more appropriately, to plan around sites.
Records for both historical and archaeological properties are maintained at the SHPO’s office in Harrisburg. The SHPO partnered with PennDOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Army Corp of Engineers to provide historic resource information to the public through Pennsylvania’s Cultural Resources Geographic Information System (CRGIS). This is an online mapping and database query tool that allows users to map historical resources such as buildings, districts, and even linear resources throughout the State. The CRGIS includes National Register listed and eligible resources. In addition, CRGIS records properties and sites identified through project review. There are restrictions to the use of the CRGIS for archaeological sites locations. Sensitive information is made available to those with appropriate credentials and justification.
In Pennsylvania, the SHPO has several standing agreements with PennDOT such as the New Statewide Section 106 Programmatic Agreement (PA). The PA allows PennDOT Cultural Resources Staff to make determinations on eligibility and effect findings.
The SHPO is just one of the key participants in section 106 review. The SHPO represents the interests of the State and its citizens in the preservation of cultural heritage, advises, and assists Federal agencies to carry-out section 106 responsibilities.
For more information about the SHPO, visit the PHMC website, or contact the PHMC with questions.