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Technical Brief 21 Peer Review of Federal Archeological Projects and Programs


Scope of Work for the Peer Review Team, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Memphis District, Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway Project


At the request of the Memphis District Corp of Engineers (Memphis District), the Departmental Consulting Archeologist (DCA), National Park Service (NPS) will conduct a peer review of the archeological work in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway in southeast Missouri. The peer review will consider the cultural resources work that the Memphis District conducted in the upper portions (O'Bryan's and Rush Ridges) and Barns and Sugar Tree Ridges of the New Madrid Floodway between 1989 and 2004. In order to comply with various Federal laws and regulations , the Corp of Engineers had to identify archeological resources (historic properties) within the project impact area; determine whether they were significant (eligible for the National Register of Historic Places); and if so, develop, in consultation with the Missouri State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and other consulting parties, a plan to avoid or mitigate adverse impacts.

The peer review will assess the choice of archeological resource identification, evaluation, and data recovery methods and techniques, the effectiveness of their application in the project area, and whether they were appropriate for compliance with required archeological and historic preservation procedures.

The Memphis District has been conducting archeological work (surveying, testing, and mitigation) in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway since 1989. During this period, the Memphis District identified and tested approximately 250 sites. The Memphis District, SHPO, and Advisory Council signed a Programmatic Agreement in November 1995/May 1996 regarding the project. The SHPO and Memphis District determined that it should mitigate adverse impacts to 25 sites. Currently, four sites remain to have adverse impacts mitigated.

In 2003, the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma contacted the Memphis District with concerns about the professional quality of the archeological work. Subsequently, the Memphis District asked the DCA to conduct a peer review of the Memphis District's archeological work to date in the New Madrid Floodway. The peer review report may also serve as a planning tool by providing guidance for future archeological survey, testing, and mitigation in the floodway.

Duties of the Peer Review Team.

The peer review team will review existing reports, records, and other materials relevant to the administration, method, strategy, techniques and results of archeological projects carried out under the Programmatic Agreement among the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers, Memphis District; the Advisory Council On Historic Preservation; and the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office regarding implementation of the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway Project. The peer review team also may request other documents that it deems pertinent to its review. The review will include -

The peer review team also will meet and interview the Corps district archeologist in charge of the project, project managers, and archeologists who designed and carried out the investigation; representatives of the contracting firms that contracted the archeological work, SHPO, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, and Advisory Council; and other agencies or individuals who are relevant and necessary in the opinion of the review team, including other tribes, landowners, and the general public. If meeting in person is not feasible, the peer review team may conduct interviews by telephone conference calls or by e-mail.

The peer review team will compile and present a written report that describes in detail the observations and recommendations of the team (see suggested outline below). The DCA will provide a hard copy and an electronic copy of the final report to the Commander, Memphis District.

The peer review manager will be the point of contact between the peer review team and any person having comments related to the peer review. Discussions between peer review team members and anyone associated with the peer review or the New Madrid Floodway project will be limited to information gathering contexts and interviews (no independent phone calls, letters, etc.).

Duties of the Memphis District Corp of Engineers.

The district archeologist for the project will serve as the Memphis District representative for the peer review. The district archeologist will develop the scope of work in consultation with the DCA and peer review manager and assist in identifying potential members of the peer review team. The district archeologist will coordinate with other officials of the Memphis District and others as necessary, including the Quapaw Tribe, Missouri SHPO, Advisory Council, and archeological contractors. The district archeologist will provide the peer review manager with materials for the peer review team, including maps showing the area of the peer review and all relevant documents produced to date.

The Memphis District will make the travel and logistical arrangements for the on-site visit.

Peer Review Schedule.

Task Schedule
Define the peer review's scope and schedule. complete
Plan the peer review team's composition and choose its members. June - July 2005
Compile documentation and send it to the peer review team. July 2005
Schedule the on-site visit. July - August 2005
Make on-site visit arrangements, including -
  • travel and lodging,
  • identify peer review topics,
  • appointments for interviews,
  • agenda and itinerary,
  • arrange for office and meeting space,
  • arrange for office and field support for the peer review team,
  • identify and arrange for necessary equipment, and
  • arrange to visit field locations, as necessary.
July - September 2005
Conduct the on-site visit. October - November 2005
Prepare the draft report. October - November 2005
Assemble the peer review team member's revisions to the draft report. October - November 2005
Revise the manuscript. November 2005
Obtain the peer review team's approval of final report. November 2005
Produce the final report. November 2005
Compile recommendations for the agency. November 2005
Complete remaining administrative tasks. November - December 2005
Provide final report to agency officials. December 2005

Suggested Topics.

The review team will address the following questions -

  1. Were the archeological methods used for identification and evaluation of sites appropriate?
  2. Were the archeological methods for mitigation of adverse impacts appropriate?
  3. Considering the operational plan for the floodway and landowner restrictions, what other forms of mitigation, besides data recovery have been feasible?
  4. Given the operational plan for the floodway were the sites chosen for mitigation chosen properly?
  5. Were the data and materials recovered consistent with the needs of the research designs?
  6. Was the approach to treatment of archeological human remains adequately planned for and addressed in the Programmatic Agreement, Memoranda of Agreement, and Scopes of Work?
  7. Did artifact analysis and preparation of the archeological materials and data conform to the plans for ultimate, long-term curation?
  8. Are the technical reports and any public outreach products or programs adequate and appropriate?
  9. Taking into account the SOWs, research designs, and MOAs, was the proper archeological work conducted for each site? What could have been done differently?
  10. Based on the peer review, what are the peer review team's recommendations for how the SOWs, research designs, MOAs, or Programmatic Agreement might be modified before work begins on the remaining sites? What factors does the peer review team recommend that the Memphis District consider for future cultural resources work in the floodway?
  11. Were appropriate consulting parties brought into the process once their concerns were made known?

Suggested Report Outline

Appendix 1: Memorandum Requesting Peer Review
Appendix 2: Scope of Work for the Peer Review
Appendix 3: Brief Biographies of the Peer Review Team

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