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Federal Projects in Historic Preservation

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 (as amended) requires federal agencies to work closely with state historic preservation officers to:

  • Identify historic properties that may be affected by federal agency undertakings
  • Take into account the possible effect on such sites when planning construction projects
  • Identify historic properties that may be affected by federal agency undertakings
  • Take into account the possible effect on such sites when planning construction projects
  • Afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (an independent federal agency) an opportunity to comment

The review process established for such undertakings is described in the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's "Protection of Historic and Cultural Properties" (US Code of Federal Regulations, 36 CFR Part 800, as amended in 1986). In addition to federal agencies and state historic preservation officers, the regulations also invite the participation of other interested parties and the public.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (as amended)

Compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA is required for all undertakings that involve properties owned, leased or controlled by the federal government, including those undertakings which require federal licenses or permits, or are assisted by federal funds. Undertakings requiring review include construction and rehabilitation projects; planning services; licenses, permits, loans and loan guarantees; grants; federal property transfers; and many other forms of federal activities or assistance.

 The activities may range from federally assisted state highway construction, through municipal improvement projects, to FHA or VA-financed private housing developments. Thus Section 106 affects federally funded projects of the District of Columbia Government and those of private developers, as well as those implemented by federal agencies.

How Section 106 Review is Initiated

Each federal agency is responsible for initiating and completing the review process. The agency must consult with the State Historic Preservation Officer whenever a proposed project may impact in any way a historic property (i.e., an historic or prehistoric archaeological site, building, district, structure or object) that meets the Secretary of the Interior's criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. This consultation is required even if the agency believes that there will not be an adverse effect to such properties. 

The National Capital Planning Commission, which licenses and coordinates all federal projects in the District of Columbia, cannot approve a federal undertaking until Section 106 review has been completed through the State Historic Preservation Officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. For more information about the review process, contact the Historic Preservation Office at (202) 442-7600.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is an independent federal agency with offices in Washington, DC, and Denver, Colorado. It is composed of 19 members, including: (a) eight private citizens appointed by the President of the United States (four members of the general public and four historic preservation experts), (b) one mayor, (c) one state governor, (d) the Secretary of the Interior, (e) the Secretary of Agriculture, (f) the Secretary of the Treasury, (g) the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, (h) the Secretary of Transportation, (i) the Director of the Office of Administration and the Budget, (j) the Architect of the Capitol, (k) the Chairman of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and (I) the President of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers.

Assistance Provided by the State Historic Preservation Officer

The ACHP's guidelines for Section 106 review, and the established practices of the DC State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), stress the need for early consultation with the SHPO office. Informal consultation early in the planning process will avoid the need for work delays if historic properties are affected.

The first informal contact between the agency and the SHPO may be made by telephone and should be augmented by one or more meetings, preferably at the site. This early contact must be followed by a letter requesting SHPO concurrence in the agency's evaluation of the potential effects on any historic properties within the scope of the project. The letter must:

  • Describe the anticipated effects of the project or program on the properties
  • Explain how predicted adverse effects will be avoided or mitigated
  • Provide a timetable for the project and the review process
  • All of these factors should be discussed in detail with the SHPO before the letter is submitted.
  • Additional information related to archaeological sites and surveys are detailed in a Archaeology in the District of Columbia page.
  • The DC SHPO reviews Cellular Antenna Installations with responsibility for Section 106 review under federal law and as the staff to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB).

The Historic Preservation Office maintains an inventory of designated historic properties within the District of Columbia, which is available to agency representatives and the public. The staff of the SHPO office offers other forms of guidance in Section 106 cases. However, it is the responsibility of the agency to identify and document the historic properties within the scope of its project.