What are program alternatives?
Federal agencies sometimes need a more flexible approach to ensure the requirements of Section 106 review are achieved and historic preservation concerns are balanced with other federal mission requirements and needs. The Section 106 regulations “Protection of Historic Properties,” (36 CFR Part 800), offer program alternatives through which agencies can tailor the Section 106 review process for a group of undertakings or an entire program that may affect historic properties.
Program alternatives can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Section 106 reviews and streamline routine interactions while focusing effort on the more complex projects or historic properties most important to communities. They can also help interpret and raise awareness about important historic properties and strengthen the state, tribal, and local partnerships critical to their care.
The five program alternatives (36 CFR § 800.14) are:
- Programmatic Agreement, including Prototype Programmatic Agreement
- Exempted Categories
- Standard Treatment
- Program Comment
- Alternate Procedure
A program alternative might be considered in situations such as when:
- An agency will carry out a certain type of undertaking repeatedly
- Addressing effects to or treatment of a category of historic properties is more efficient or consistent than individual reviews
- Tailoring the four-step process to agency programs could increase specificity, reduce delays, or allow applicants to take on more responsibility.
Developing a program alternative
All of the program alternatives require consultation with stakeholders, though the specifics of the development procedure for each vary according to the regulations. Consultation may occur throughout development, both before the agency makes a formal request or notification to the ACHP and during the ACHP’s (and other parties’) consideration of the request.
First, the federal agency identifies and documents the challenges it is experiencing in applying the Section 106 review process to an undertaking or group of undertakings. Second, the agency identifies its goals for the program alternative, which may include metrics to assist the agency in selecting the best type of program alternative and evaluating its success once implemented. Agencies are advised to contact the ACHP at this point to discuss their ideas and to ensure the agency selects the program alternative best suited to addressing the identified needs. The schedule for this effort, before the formal request or notification to the ACHP, is set by the agency and will vary.
The various program alternatives have different time frames for action or approval by the ACHP, some of which only start once a fully-developed request, supported by documentation of a consultation effort, arrives at the ACHP.
Proposals for program alternatives can be refined through feedback from consulting parties and the public, reaction from other involved federal agencies, and ACHP review. Agencies should plan enough time for a concept to evolve through consultation.
Additional information on each of the program alternatives is available on the pages linked in the list above.