At its meeting tonight the Arcata Planning Commission will discuss the Arcata Community Health Center project — a new clinic proposed to be built on the vacant lot at Sunset and Foster Avenues. But the commission will not be making a recommendation on the project as initially planned. After the Wiyot Tribe unexpectedly requested an additional archeological study for the site planners must delay the process until they can address the tribe’s concerns.
According to the staff report, after the circulation period for the Environmental Impact Report ended, “the City received a request from the Wiyot Tribal Historic Preservation Officers for an archaeological study to verify the absence of potential tribal cultural resources at the building site.”
An archaeological study is standard for any projects on Wiyot land. However, many studies have been done on the area for other development projects, including the Foster Avenue extension and the construction of the Sunset Terrace Apartments. According to the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report, the tribe did not request an additional survey of the site for this project.
Archaeological surveys undertaken at the site by tribal preservation experts from 2008 to 2010 “found no previously recorded or newly discovered archaeological resources,” the report states. “No prehistoric artifacts or sites were located during the field surveys or appeared in any of the on-site soil borings.”
Arcata Senior Planner Joe Mateer told the Outpost that when the city sent out a request for comment for the project, the tribe recommended proceeding with the condition of “inadvertent discovery” — meaning project development could begin but must cease if any artifacts are found. This would be standard practice for any project, Mateer said.
So why is the tribe now requesting an additional archeological study on the site?
Arcata Health Center Project Manager Laura Kadlecik told the Outpost it is due to the discovery of a “paleoenvironmental interest” — a buried creek drainage on the site, which the Wiyot tribal historic preservation officers (THPOs) fear would be disturbed by the project.
Although the drainage had already been discovered during a past site study, Kadlecik said, the tribe is now concerned about the depth of digging planned for this project’s construction. The tribe was made aware of the depth of the project per an Army Corps of Engineers wetland study, Kalecik said.
Most likely, Kadlecik said, the tribe will want to hire someone to document the creek for a geological record of the site. Planners will be meeting with the THPOs this week and Kadlecik said she hopes they will come to an agreement that does not require another archeological study.
“I’ve been pretty adamant that it’s not necessary,” Kadlecik said. “And I hope they agree.”
Once an agreement is reached with the THPOs, the EIR can be finalized. The continuation of review of the EIR is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11.
The Outpost’s attempts to reach someone from the Wiyot Tribe for comment were unanswered at the time of publication.
The Arcata Planning Commission will discuss this project and take public comment tonight at 6:00 p.m. at Arcata City Hall — 736 F Street.
You can view the full agenda here.