Lifeways

Historical Resources Impact Assessments (HRIA)

A Historical Resources Impact Assessment (HRIA) refers to the process by which archaeological, historical, and palaeontological resources are located, studied, and managed in the Province of Alberta. Before industrial, private, and government organizations undertake development in the Province, they may be required to do HRIA work to assist in the protection and understanding of historical resources on affected lands.

A referral process was developed that identifies various classes of development projects in order to determine when and where Historical Resources Impact Assessments are required. An abstract of the Provincial historical resources inventory data set (i.e. the known archaeological sites etc.), primarily legal locations of important sites, is provided to developers and the public as the Listing of Historic Resources (formerly the Listing of Significant Sites and Places, Public Version). This listing is used by many, but not all, developers and regulators as a trigger for the need to implement HRIA work. The Listing allows regulators, industry, and consultants to know if a proposed development may impact known or unknown historical resources.

Referrals can be made by the developer of a proposed project whether private or public, or a governmental planning/regulatory agency (municipal and regional planning commission, ERCB, EUC, SRD, etc.). The proposed project is reviewed by staff of Alberta Culture , and a determination is made whether or not an HRIA is required. Much of this depends upon the location of a project relative to the legal descriptions found in the aforementioned significant sites listing. This determination is communicated by letter signed by the Assistant Deputy Minister of Historical Resources on behalf of the Minister of Alberta Culture. HRIA work can also occur as the result of a Historical Resources Overview (HRO) or Statement of Justification (SoJ) recommending that the work be required and undertaken.

An archaeological site sketch map produced during an HRIA.
An archaeological site sketch map produced during an HRIA.
If an HRIA is required, the study is undertaken by the developer, at their cost, before the Minister will approve the development project. The developer is required to retain a qualified archaeologist (or historian or palaeontologist if the project requires it) accredited by Alberta Culture. This archaeologist will undertake the HRIA on the developer’s behalf and prepare and submit a report to the Historical Resources Management Branch of Alberta Culture. They will internally review and comment on the report and its recommendations regarding any historical resources encountered. Once the review process has been completed a letter is issued by the Assistant Deputy Minister of Historical Resources and Cultural Facilities. The letter will either set out site specific mitigation requirements that are to be met prior to the approval of the development project, and/or clear specific sites and the development project from any further requirements under the Alberta Historical Resources Act. This is often referred to as Historical Resources Act clearance. This clearance will also be granted once any specific mitigation requirements have been met.

Alberta Culture creates a file for each development project with which it deals. These files contain copies of all correspondence relating to projects and specific sites within these projects. These may include overview letters from consultants requesting clearance for projects, letter reports, clearance request forms, ACCS requirements, and clearance letters. In some cases concern over privacy issues or protection of historical resources prevent open public access to these documents. The HRIA site/project paper trail therefore involves letters, forms, and reports. These are on file in the ASA library in Edmonton. The ASA, on an annual basis, also makes microfiche copies of all permit reports for that calendrical year. These microfiche files are being transferred to more widely usable Portable Document Format (PDF) files, that also now need to be submitted at the conclusion of each project. Two copies of each final report as well as the PDF are filed with the ASA. One copy now goes to the Provincial Archives of Alberta. These reports are integral to our understanding and management of historical resources in the Province of Alberta.

Archaeological Reports and the Alberta Historical Resources Act

The regulatory process established under the Alberta Historical Resource Act imbeds a reporting system within the permit regulations. As noted above, an archaeologist is required to hold a permit for any field archaeological project. Permits are of two kinds: those for mitigative research projects, and those for archaeological research projects. Mitigative research project permits can only be held by archaeologists with at least a Masters degree who has been accredited by the Archaeological Survey of Alberta. An archaeological research permit can also be held by students pursuing graduate studies in archaeology, subject to the sponsorship of the students’ applications by their graduate studies program supervisors. Of the more than 500 permits issued every year by the ASA in Alberta, less than 5% are archaeological research permits.

Mitigative research permits are issued for two types of management/development project related studies: Historical Resource Impact Assessments (HRIA), and mitigation excavations, or Historical Resource Impact Mitigations (HRIM). Two distinctly different kinds of reports with different sets of archaeological data result.

The HRIA report details the location, description, and evaluation of archaeological sites within a specific project area, descriptions of the artifacts collected, and any other information pertinent to a development and its potential impact on Historical Resources. It will contain recommendations for or against further site studies. Alberta Culture will review these recommendations in determining final site mitigation and disposition requirements. These reports, depending on the size and complexity of the project and the number, kind, and significance of the sites found, range from 10 to over 1000 pages in length.

While all HRIA projects will result in an HRIA report, only those HRIAs in which significant sites are identified that cannot be avoided by development projects will result in a follow up mitigative research project, and a follow up mitigation excavation/study report.

Recording a tipi ring site on the Plains during an HRIA.
Recording a tipi ring site on the Plains during an HRIA.
Shovel testing a site in the Boreal Forest during an HRIA.
Shovel testing a site in the Boreal Forest during an HRIA.

 

Did you know that...

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