Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Kansas: Construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway (Lawrence)
Agency: Federal Highway Administration
Criteria for Council Involvement:
- This project will adversely affect the Haskell Institute, a National Historic Landmark (Criterion 1).
- Controversy over the project's impacts and attempted segmentation resulted in litigation (Criterion 3).
- National Indian organizations and more than 47 tribes have raised concerns regarding identification of and impacts to properties of traditional religious and cultural significance (Criterion 4).
At the request of the Council, the National Park Service (NPS) has agreed to prepare a report, pursuant to Section 213 of the National Historic Preservation Act, on the Haskell Institute, now known as the Haskell Indian Nations University, a National Historic Landmark (NHL). The report will facilitate consultation on the South Lawrence Trafficway project by providing NPS’ perspective on the significance of the NHL, how the proposed project would affect it, and what measures would avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects of the highway.
NPS has indicated, however, that it will complete the report upon receipt of additional studies from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to identify and evaluate the significance of the adjacent Baker Wetlands, a National Natural Landmark, historically part of the Haskell Institute and also affected by the proposed project.
The Council wrote to FHWA in June asking for additional studies of the wetlands because it was concerned that they might contribute to the significance of the Haskell Institute and have historical, religious, and cultural significance to both the university community and Indian tribes. The Council has not received a response from FHWA to date; however, in light of the Council’s letter, the Army Corps of Enginerers’ Kansas City District has informed Baker University, their present owner, that the Corps may have Section 106 responsibilities with respect to permitting actions in the Baker Wetlands.
The South Lawrence Trafficway is a four-lane, high-speed highway on the western and southern periphery of Lawrence, Kansas. The project would link routes K-10, U.S. 59, and the Kansas Turnpike (I-70), thereby reducing congestion on local thoroughfares. Planning for the 14-mile-long highway began as early as the 1960s.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FHWA issued its Record of Decision to fund the project in 1990. Thereafter, the project was split into two independent legs and construction commenced on the nine-mile western leg.
After several years of dispute regarding the environmental impacts of the five- mile eastern leg, Douglas County withdrew its application for FHWA funding for that phase of the project. This led to two successful challenges in Federal court by several university students and alumni on the legality of FHWA’s “de-federalizing” the eastern leg of the federally funded project.
Three of the proposed alignments for the highway’s eastern leg would adversely affect the Haskell Institute, one of the first large off-reservation boarding schools for Indian students established by the Federal Government. Eleven of the university’s buildings and a cemetery are included in the Haskell Institute NHL.
In addition, the southern portion of the university contains a medicine wheel and an area where sweat lodges are used. This area has historical, religious, and cultural significance to the university community and Indian tribes; FHWA determined it eligible for the National Register. The preferred alignment would adversely affect this area, notably through noise and visual impacts. It would also cross the adjacent Baker Wetlands, the historical significance of which remains to be fully evaluated.
The University Board of Regents, the National Haskell Alumni Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Native American Church Association, and more than 47 tribes nationally have opposed the county’s preferred alternative. Local environmental and civic groups also oppose the project.
In February 1999, FHWA resumed environmental analyses of the proposed highway pursuant to a court order. Since then, FHWA has issued a supplemental draft environmental impact statement under NEPA and a draft 4(f) statement pursuant to the Department of Transportation Act, as well as initiated consultation with the Council. In May, Council staff attended a meeting and onsite visit.
Controversy surrounding this project emanates from inadequate consideration of properties of historical and traditional religious and cultural significance to many Indian tribes nationally. Both the NHL designation for the Haskell Institute and the county’s initial planning for the SLT took place in the 1960s, before the significance of such properties was generally recognized.
The NHL designation of the Haskell Institute therefore recognized only its buildings and historic cemetery, not the area south of campus, historically part of the institution that contains properties of religious and cultural significance to tribes. This area is made even more unique by its significance as an important intertribal historic property.
Staff contact: Margie Nowick
July 1999 report on this case
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