Below are answers to frequently asked questions concerning the mitigation for adverse effects to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site by the Columbia River Crossing Project.
Why was Fort Vancouver National Historic Site created?
Like other national parks, Fort Vancouver was deemed by Congress to be a site essential to understanding the American experience, a place for visitors to connect to our shared national history. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was first designated as a historic monument of the National Park Service in 1948 and was re-designated as a National Historic Site in 1961, expanding in size to its current boundaries. Fort Vancouver is also a National Register Historic District, which contains many individual and archaeological resources.
One of the most important locations in Fort Vancouver is the Village, which is located on the western edge of the park and directly adjacent to and underneath the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) Project. The Village was the earliest multicultural settlement in the region, home to Europeans, Americans, American Indians from over 30 tribes, and Native Hawaiians. The Village is nationally significant because of its ties to exploration and colonial settlement, and as the site of the transition from British to American jurisdiction in the west. Many tribes, Native Hawaiians, and other people consider this to be a sacred place because of ancestral and cultural ties.
Are there adverse effects to the park from the CRC project?
Yes, the CRC Project will adversely affect Fort Vancouver National Historic Site through direct and indirect effects. There will be a direct taking of up to 3 acres of the national park, resulting in a loss of visitor access and physical damage and destruction of portions of the Village. The project will increase noise and impact views: the higher bridge and off-ramp will increase highway noise, alter historic views from the Fort and Village, and disrupt connections between parts of the landscape. In addition, the project will destroy archaeological sites, necessitating salvage excavations and generating a collection of artifacts and archives that must be properly cared for.
Why is mitigation required?
Mitigation is required by several federal laws when there are adverse effects to national park land and resources. These laws include the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (Section 106), the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (Section 4f), the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act (Moss-Bennett Bill) of 1974, and 36 CFR Part 79.
What is the proposed mitigation?
Mitigation will address noise and visual impacts, and the effects to archaeological sites. Actions will include constructing sound walls and appropriate landscaping, and the recovery and curation of archaeological artifacts for future educational use. An existing building at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site will be renovated as a museum/curation facility, to care for artifacts from the project as well as appropriate future WSDOT projects in the vicinity.
What experience does the National Park Service have in caring for museum collections?
The National Park Service is the second largest museum system in the nation, after the Smithsonian, and oversees a collection of 42 million items. Fort Vancouver has professional archaeologists and curators with extensive experience in caring for collections. Currently, museum staff at this national park care for a complex collection of over two million artifacts from Fort Vancouver and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve, as well as additional collections from San Juan Island National Historical Park, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Whitman Mission National Historic Site, and the Cathlapotle and Meier Native village sites.
What is the museum/curation facility?
The facility will be created by renovating Building 405 in the southern portion of Vancouver Barracks, providing a climate-controlled area to store artifacts and archives, spaces for researchers, students, and other visitors to access the collections, and a public area to interpret the places and stories of the Village and other cultural resources that are being adversely affected by the project.
Is this mitigation part of the CRC project?
Yes, this is a component of the CRC project. As a part of the overall project, CRC is required by federal and state law to address impacts to natural and cultural resources. A Memorandum of Agreement defining mitigation actions, roles, and responsibilities was signed by the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington State Department of Transportation, Oregon State Department of Transportation, Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, and the National Park Service in 2011.
How much will the museum/curation facility cost?
The Memorandum of Agreement capped the cost at $16.9 million for design and construction.
What is the National Park Service's commitment to the operation of the facility?
The National Park Service has committed to funding the ongoing operations and maintenance of the building, and the preservation of the collections in perpetuity. This means that three-fourths of the life-cycle cost of the building over the next 50 years will be borne by the National Park Service. The initial renovation funding provided by CRC amounts to one-fourth of the life-cycle cost.