Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Kansas: Construction of 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 of the project 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).
In May 1999, Council staff participated in a meeting and onsite visit at Haskell Indian Nations University regarding the South Lawrence Trafficway (SLT) project. Representatives of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Kansas State Historic Preservation Officer, the university, Kansas Department of Transportation, Douglas County, Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, and Bureau of Indian Affairs attended the meeting. Participants discussed the sufficiency of FHWA's efforts to identify historic properties for Section 106 compliance, project planning, and the Section 106 and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses.
Following the meeting, the Council wrote FHWA expressing its concern that past identification efforts had inadequately considered the historical, religious, and cultural significance of the Baker Wetlands to the university community and Indian tribes. This wetlands area, which formerly belonged to the university, is a National Natural Landmark. The Council also requested the National Park Service (NPS), in accordance with Section 213 of the National Historic Preservation Act, to prepare a report on the significance of the Haskell Institute, how the proposed project would affect this National Historic Landmark (NHL), and what measures would avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects.
The SLT is a four-lane, high-speed highway on the western and southern periphery of Lawrence, Kansas. The purpose of the project is to provide a linkage between routes K-10, U.S. 59, and the Kansas Turnpike (I-70) and thereby reduce congestion on local thoroughfares. Planning for the 14-mile-long SLT began as early as the 1960s. Under 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 of the project, 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 SLT.
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 Haskell Indian Nations 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 portion has historical, religious, and cultural significance to the university community and Indian tribes and has been determined eligible for the National Register by FHWA.
The preferred alignment would adversely affect this area, notably through noise and visual impacts. It would also cross adjacent wetlands known as the Baker Wetlands, the historical significance of which remains to be fully evaluated. The University Board of Regents, National Haskell Alumni Association, National Congress of American Indians, 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 SLT 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.
The 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 National Historic Landmark 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 to Indian tribes was generally recognized. Therefore, the NHL designation of the Haskell Institute recognized only its buildings and historic cemetery, not the area south of the campus which was historically part of the institution and contains properties of religious and cultural significance to tribes.
This area is also unique in that it is an important intertribal historic property. This challenges preservation guidance such as National Register Bulletin #38 on traditional cultural properties which emphasizes the importance of such properties to specific tribes.
Staff contact: Margie Nowick
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