Chronicle Heritage Perspectives: Army Corps of Engineers Proposes Modernizing Historic Preservation Regulations

Mar 6, 2024

In a decisive move toward enhanced alignment with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works recently unveiled a proposed rule aimed at streamlining the protection of historic properties under the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Regulatory Program. This proposal, which entails the removal of Appendix C (USACE’s protocol guidance on how to comply with NHPA) from the Corps’ permitting regulations allows this agency to mark a significant step forward in fortifying consistency, clarity, and compliance within the realm of cultural resource management.

At Chronicle Heritage, we view this proposed rule as a pivotal development in the landscape of federal historic preservation efforts for USACE, particularly within the domain of Department of Defense (DOD) projects and other governmental undertakings. By transitioning to an exclusive reliance on Section 106 of the NHPA to account for historic properties, the Corps endeavors to ensure uniformity across its districts while effectively integrating recent legislative amendments into its regulatory framework.

Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, emphasized the imperative of this regulatory evolution, highlighting its role in fulfilling commitments to State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs/THPOs). Notably, this initiative not only reflects a dedication to uniformity, but also underscores a concerted effort to address concerns surrounding Tribal consultation practices and the safeguarding of cultural resources.

The decision to retire Appendix C in favor of the comprehensive provisions outlined in the 800 regulations underscores the Corps’ commitment to better aligning to evolving legislative mandates and stakeholder expectations within that process. By consolidating regulatory procedures and eliminating redundancies, this proposal holds the promise of expediting permit processing while upholding the integrity of historic properties.

It is important to recognize that the proposed rule represents a cornerstone of the broader Modernize Civil Works initiative, which seeks to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of Army Corps of Engineers operations.

At Chronicle Heritage, we commend the USACE for aligning its approach to existing historic preservation regulations and applaud its commitment to fostering clarity, consistency, and collaboration in the management of cultural resources. As stewards of our shared heritage, we must embrace initiatives that prioritize the promotion of historic properties and manages their preservation for future generations.

In conclusion, the proposed rule on the protection of historic properties represents a significant stride toward modernization and harmonization within the realm of federal cultural resource management. By aligning regulatory practices with the core tenets of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Corps reaffirms its dedication to responsible stewardship and paves the way for a more transparent and equitable approach to permitting processes. As stakeholders, it is incumbent upon us to actively engage in this discourse, contributing insights and perspectives that will shape the trajectory of historic preservation efforts for years to come.