The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is extending the comment period on the proposed Program Comment on Broadband deployment on federal land and property until February 24, 2017. A notice of this opportunity to comment was first provided on January 13, 2017, and the comment period is now being extended.
The ACHP received a request to issue a Program Comment for Broadband Projects on Federal Property in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and its implementing regulations, “Protection of Historic Properties” (36 CFR § 800.14(e)). The purpose of the Program Comment would be to assist federal land managing agencies (LMAs) and federal property managing agencies (PMAs) in permitting and approving the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure on their historic properties more efficiently. Additionally, the Program Comment would establish uniform approaches for addressing Section 106 compliance for the collocation of antennae on existing wireless towers; installation of aerial telecommunications cable; burying telecommunications cable in existing road, railroad, and utility rights-of-way; and construction of new telecommunication towers. Federal agencies are not obligated to use this Program Comment, and may still comply with the standard Section 106 review process outlined in the ACHP’s regulations, “Protection of Historic Properties” (36 CFR Part 800), or other applicable program alternatives.
Beginning in the spring of 2016, a group of federal LMAs and PMAs established a Working Group to discuss measures that could be implemented to expedite the deployment of broadband infrastructure on federal properties. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initially sought the development of a Standard Treatment under Section 800. 14(d) of the ACHP’s regulations. Several teleconferences were convened by the Working Group, and led by DHS, to explain to State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs) and Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations (NHOs), and industry representatives how the Standard Treatment could improve the delivery of broadband. Industry representatives and the Working Group were particularly interested in aligning select provisions in the two Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Nationwide Programmatic Agreements (NPAs) executed in 2001 and 2005, respectively, among FCC, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), and the ACHP for collocation and tower siting activities. These NPAs have been used successfully for more than a decade by applicants who were required to comply with the requirements of Section 106 before they could site towers, collocate antennae, and deploy broadband infrastructure on non-federal lands, which specifically are not covered by the NPAs.
During the ACHP’s review of the draft Standard Treatment, it became apparent that the exemptions included in the FCC NPAs could not be accommodated by a Standard Treatment. Further, other efficiencies that were important to the Federal LMAs and PMAs were likely to result in adverse effects on historic properties, requiring Section 106 consultation before broadband could be deployed on federal property. Recognizing the value of expanding the scope of this program alternative and the limitations in trying to develop the Standard Treatment, the ACHP received the support of the Working Group to convert the Standard Treatment into a Program Comment in accordance with Section 800.14(e) of the ACHP’s regulations. The Program Comment will enable the federal LMAs and PMAs to achieve the efficiencies they desired, such as establishing limits to the areas of potential effect, limiting the level of effort needed to identify historic properties, and applying FCC’s NPAs’ exemptions. In addition, this program alternative would be available to other federal agencies deploying broadband on federal property.
While the Program Comment presents a change in the type of program alternative initially sought by the Federal LMAs and PMAs, the structure and provisions are similar to those included in the draft Standard Treatment. Although the Program Comment includes new administrative clauses such as reporting, amendments, and duration, the overall intent remains the same. LMAs and FMAs would now be able to expedite project delivery of broadband infrastructure to underserved communities, rural areas, and tribal communities.
This Program Comment would not be applicable to undertakings on, or affecting, National Monuments, National Memorials, National Historical Parks, National Historic Trails, National Historic Sites, National Military Parks, and National Battlefields. Should federal agencies or project proponents want to deploy broadband infrastructure that may affect these properties, the responsible federal agency must follow the standard Section 106 review process outlined in 36 CFR Part 800. This requires consultation with the LMA or FMA, project proponent or applicant, SHPO/THPO, Indian tribes, NHOs, and other consulting parties.
Comments are due on the Draft Program Comment by February 24, 2017.
In accordance with 36 CFR § 800.14(e)(3-4), the ACHP is making this Program Comment available to all for review and comment. Comments or questions regarding this program alternative should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 24, 2017. In addition, at the request of several tribes, the ACHP will host a webinar to discuss tribal issues on February 21, from 3-4 pm EST. To participate in the webinar, please contact the ACHP at email@example.com, and we will provide you with login instructions.
The ACHP will review all comments and make appropriate revisions to the Program Comment in preparation for presenting a final document to its members for adoption. At the conclusion of the members’ review and voting process, the ACHP will promptly publish in the Federal Register the outcome of this initiative.
If you would like additional information on the process by which the ACHP issues a Program Comment, please visit our website at: http://www.achp.gov/progalt/#6. You can also contact Charlene Vaughn, AICP, Assistant Director, Office of Federal Agency Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 202-517-0207.