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Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
July 1999


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Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
July 1999

Ohio: Development of Buffington Island Sand and Gravel Mine

Agency: Corps of Engineers

Criteria for Council Involvement:

  • This undertaking will result in destruction of Ohioís only Civil War battlefield (Criterion 1).
  • There has been substantial public controversy, but the relationship of the Federal involvement to the undertaking limits preservation options (Criterion 3).

Recent Developments

On June 18, 1999, the Council executed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Corps of Engineers and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) for development of a sand and gravel mine and barge loading facility at Buffington Island on the Ohio River, the site of Ohioís only Civil War battlefield. Under the terms of the MOA, the Corps will condition its permit for the project to ensure that a variety of mitigation measures are carried out. The developer will fund a metal detector survey of the area to be mined in order to locate metal objects, such as bullets, sword and bridle parts, and cannonballs. (For more information on the battlefield archeology underway, visit the Heidelberg College Archeological Project.)

Special care will be taken during mining to ensure that any Civil War-era burials are not inadvertently destroyed, and any human remains that are discovered will be reinterred. A 40-acre parcel of land near the middle of the battlefield will be protected from disturbance, then donated to the State of Ohio after the mining operations are completed. In addition, the applicant will provide matching funding for erecting historical markers tracing the route of the Confederate cavalry raid that culminated in the battle of Buffington Island. Finally, there are numerous prehistoric Native American sites that will be excavated prior to their destruction.

If the Corps was to deny the permit for the project, as desired by many members of the public, it is the Councilís understanding that the project could be redesigned so that it could proceed anyway, without the need for a Corps permit. If the permit is granted, the MOA will at least ensure that much new information about the course of the battle of Buffington Island is generated and presented to the public, and that important data from the many prehistoric and historic archaeological properties will be recovered.


The developers of the proposed mine and barge loading facility are required to obtain a permit from the Huntington District of the Corps in order to construct a barge loading area in the Ohio River. The developers own approximately 500 acres where the cavalry battle took place in July 1863, and this area will be destroyed in the mining operations. Only about four acres of the battlefield are now protected as a State historic site.

In February, the Corps held a public meeting in the town of Pomeroy, in southeastern Ohio near the battlefield. Approximately 200 citizens attended the meeting, and virtually all were adamantly opposed to the planned mining operation. Veterans groups, Civil War organizations, and private citizens whose ancestors fought at Buffington Island spoke out against the project. Council staff attended the meeting and discussed Federal agency responsibilities under Section 106. Representatives of the Meigs County Historical Society and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Chicago office also attended the public meeting. In the following months, Council staff worked with the Corps and the Ohio SHPO to seek agreement on how to resolve the adverse effects of the proposed development.

Policy Highlights

This case illustrates two current and interrelated preservation issues, Civil War battlefield preservation and the limited extent of Federal oversight of non-Federally-funded development projects. Development continues to encroach upon many significant Civil War sites such as Buffington Island. While the site is Ohio's only Civil War battlefield, it is private land and is scheduled to be developed with private funds. The only Federal action is issuance of the Corps permit, which limits the ability of the Federal Government to promote preservation of the site through the Section 106 process.

Staff contact: Tom McCulloch

April 1999 report on this case

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