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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Spring 2005 arrow Oklahoma: Clean Up of Tar Creek Mining Pollution, Ottawa County
Update/Closed Case:
Oklahoma: Clean Up of Tar Creek Mining Pollution, Ottawa County

Agencies: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bureau of Indian Affairs

As reported in the winter 2005 Case Digest, Ottawa County, Oklahoma, had been the world’s largest producer of zinc and lead ore, but it now considered the most polluted area in the United States. Much of it is on Quapaw tribal land and contains historic structures and abandoned mines, and possible archeological resources.

The ACHP participated in creating an agreement to coordinate and streamline Section 106 compliance among numerous agencies that have various Tar Creek clean-up projects.

Tar Creek, Ottawa County, OK
Tar Creek, Ottawa County, OK (photo: USGS)

During a January 2005 interagency meeting hosted by the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, the agencies developed a Programmatic Agreement that outlines mitigation measures for the site’s historic properties.

Since then, the ACHP and other consulting parties to the Tar Creek clean-up project concluded consultation and executed the agreement. Signatories include the ACHP, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Tulsa District), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and the Oklahoma Archeological Survey (OAS).

A major purpose of the agreement is to establish a coordinated, interagency approach for the agencies to use to address historic preservation in their clean-up projects. To streamline implementation of the agreement, the Corps is the designated facilitator, assisted by an interagency/tribal cultural resources technical team. The agreement enables the agencies to proceed with certain types of clean-up activities in the most severely polluted area, without further

One key component of the agreement is the agencies’ preparation of the Tar Creek Heritage Study. This study will document the history of the area, with particular emphasis on 1) its lead and zinc mining legacy; 2) historic associations with Indian tribes; 3) property types and integrity criteria for National Register evaluation; 4) historic properties worthy of possible preservation; and 5) field recordation.

The study also will examine the history of a parcel known as the Catholic 40, which was 40 acres owned by a Catholic mission and that was the site of a historic school of interest to the Quapaw Tribe. The study will include a list of persons knowledgeable about the history of the area who might be candidates for oral history interviews, as well as a bibliography of audio-visual resources and other resources pertaining to the history of the project area.

The Corps will use the study to determine the National-Register eligibility of the project area, in consultation with the SHPO, OAS, Quapaw Tribe, and other Indian tribes.

Other notable provisions of the agreement address the archeological potential of the project area, remediation of the Catholic 40 parcel, how historic preservation will be considered in the post-remediation reclamation of the project area, inadvertent discoveries, emergencies, and mechanisms for interagency coordination in the agreement’s implementation.

The agreement will promote both efficiency and consistency in identification, evaluation, and treatment of historic properties in both the conduct of cleanup activities and post-cleanup land reclamation activities. It provides for a single historic preservation program that would be shared among the involved agencies, for improved historic preservation and to save resources for needed cleanup goals.

For background information on this case, see the winter 2005 Case Digest.

Staff contact: Marge Nowick

Posted June 9, 2005

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