Borough submits archeological work plan for former Institute property

It’s looking like April for archeological field work to start at the former Institute property — or so the borough hopes — as it awaits a response from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State Historic Preservation Office on a draft plan submitted March 3.

The borough last September tasked Ketchikan-based R&M Engineering to help it figure out a plan for searching the former Native boarding school site for any human remains or cultural artifacts. The Bureau of Indian Affairs operated the school 1932 to 1975.

The federal government in June ordered an investigation into former boarding schools nationwide over concerns of unreported gravesites.

The borough is looking to develop the 134-acre property near Shoemaker Bay into residential lots.

The borough already had a contract with R&M for survey and subdivision work at the Institute site and other properties in town and last fall amended the work orders to include archaeological planning at the Institute site.

R&M contracted the archeological work to True North Sustainable Development Solutions, of Wasilla, which has an archeology team on staff.

“There is an archeological plan to conduct field work that was submitted to the regulatory agencies for comments but no feedback yet,” Trevor Sande, principal at R&M Engineering said last Wednesday. They’re hoping to hear back in the next week or so.

“Once the feedback is received the plan will be modified and resubmitted for final approval,” he said. “Once the agencies all concur field work will proceed. We were targeting April, so hopefully we are still on track to do the initial work then.”

Borough Manager Jeff Good last Wednesday declined to share a copy of the draft plan.

The Army Corps of Engineers has the final decision, Sande said, but will rely heavily on expertise of the State Historic Preservation Office.

Robert Meinhardt, president and principal consultant of True North, told the Sentinel in December that when a work plan is approved he will send two of his employees to Wrangell — Walker Burgett, a forensic archeologist, and Tiffany Curtis, a historical archeologist — to conduct the field work, which will likely take a week.

Wrangell Cooperative Association tribal administrator Aaltséen, Esther Reese, last Wednesday said the borough sent her a copy of its draft field work proposal.

The borough asked the tribe for names for the development, and WCA responded with the historical name for the site — Keishangita.'aan in Tlingit, meaning Alder Top Village.

Historical and archaeological ground searches are required before the borough can move ahead with permitting for residential development. An Army Corps permit for wetland fill to develop the property for residential use is on hold until the issues surrounding cultural resources or artifacts are resolved.

The borough has owned the land since 1996.


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