Before building for the future, we dig to preserve the past

By Jeff Norwood

Archaeologists working on a National Grid site

You walk past a National Grid substation, or through a field dotted with our transmission towers and notice there are homes or businesses nearby. Do you ever wonder what the neighbors think about our facilities being there?

You’d be correct to imagine that when we plan and construct electric transmission projects, we consider how they affect and are perceived by abutting neighbors, communities, and the general public.

You might be surprised to learn that we also respect and honor the effect on past neighbors, too. Namely, Native American Indian tribes that once densely populated large areas of New England and New York.

A ceremonial rock marked to be preserved on a site

In fact, depending upon the type of the project and the project location, both federal and state law  require a thorough review process for projects that may impact historic properties, including Native American areas of interest.  Archeological experts have identified objects including arrowheads, chipping debris from ancient tool making, ceremonial artifacts, historic stone walls, ceramic parts, and colonial-era foundations on project sites.

According to Erin Whoriskey, lead environmental scientist in Environmental Permitting, New England, we work with archaeologists and tribes to minimize project impact on tribal interests.  She noted that National Grid works with tribes to identify sensitive areas, then collaborates with the tribes to preserve them. This is accomplished with measures such as employing archaeologists to remove and/or document artifacts from the site, as well as installing protective fencing around the artifacts and grounds.  In some cases planned transmission structures are relocated.

Chipping tools and other artifacts recovered from a site

“We have great respect for all of the tribes and our region’s history, which is why we do the right thing by carefully following the processes that are in place to protect historic and cultural resources,” said Wendy Levine, assistant general counsel for Environmental Permitting.

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