Q: I've been told I need to contact the Texas Historical Commission or the State Historic Preservation Officer. What do I need to do?
A: There are several reasons you may have been directed to contact the Texas Historical Commission (THC). Any project with a federal component—permit, license, or funds—must be coordinated with the THC under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. If your project is on land owned by the State of Texas or one of its subsidiaries (city, county, school district, university, et al.), it may require coordination under the Antiquities Code of Texas. These FAQs address Section 106 and Antiquities Code review.
If your project includes work on a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, the property owner must notify the THC 60 days prior to commencing work. If your project involves a historic county courthouse, you must follow state courthouse statutes. Your project may involve other historic designations, such as State Antiquities Landmark, which requires a permit from the THC for any construction activities, destructive testing or demolition. Sometimes a project can require coordination for more than one reason, such as a federally funded restoration of a city-owned property with a state historic designation.
Q: Why do I have to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act?
A: Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act obligates the federal government to consider local and statewide input on the effects of projects on historic and cultural resources. Projects range from multi-county highway construction to small homeowner assistance grants, so the impacts vary widely. At the heart, though, is the opportunity for Texans to have a voice in the projects carried out in their communities. Under Section 106, it is the federal agency's obligation to coordinate these projects. Failure to follow their procedures and expectations for coordination could jeopardize funding, licensing, or permitting.
Q: What do I need to send for a project review, and what happens then?
A: Please consult our What to Send for a Project Review page to find out what we need for review under the National Historic Preservation Act or the Antiquities Code of Texas. Consider how the information will be used before you send it—make sure any documentation is legible and that you’ve correctly described the project and identified the parties involved. Once we receive the information from you, reviewers from our History Programs, Archeology, and Architecture divisions work together to get a response back as quickly as possible, almost always within 30 days.
Q: How long does the federal or state review process take?
A: The majority of projects are reviewed by THC within a single 30-day period, but some require additional information and time. Sending good information with your submittal reduces the likelihood that staff will need to request more information from you.
Q: When does the review clock start?
A: The review clock starts the date we receive the information in hard copy. If we need additional information to complete the review, the clock begins again with receipt of that information.
Q: Can you fax me or email me a copy of your response?
A: We try to respond as quickly as possible, sometimes that includes faxing or emailing in addition to sending responses by mail. Please understand that we have limited staff and resources to review over 2,000 projects each month, each representing a person or community with an equally important project.
Q: How do I know if I have to consult with Indian tribes?
A: Whether or not you have to consult with Indian tribes depends on which laws, if any, apply to your project (see next question below). If your project or activity occurs on federal, state, tribal, or public lands, or if it requires funding, licensing, permitting, or other involvement by the federal government, and if your project may have an adverse effect on Native American cultural or historic resources, you may have to consult with Indian tribes. Additionally, if you are an institution that receives federal funding and is in possession of Native American human remains or cultural items, you may have to consult with Indian tribes in order to comply with NAGPRA regulations. See the THC's Tribal Consultation Guidelines and Tribal Consultation FAQ pages for more information.
Q: How do I find out whether my project is using federal funds?
A: If you are not working directly with a federal agency, please consult the grants administrator for your program or their literature for references to U.S. agencies. Note that federal permits and licenses also trigger compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Sometimes a project may receive funds from one agency and permitting from another. If you are unsure, please provide pertinent project information so our staff can best assist you in determining which agencies are involved or may be involved in the future.
Q: Why is the State of Texas involved with a federal review?
A: Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires coordination with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) for any projects with a federal component to ensure impacts to historic and archeological resources are considered. This allows Texans to have a say in how federally funded, licensed, and permitted projects affect Texas resources. In Texas, the SHPO is the executive director of the Texas Historical Commission.
Q: My project is on public land. What authority do you have over my project?
A: Projects on federally owned property are subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Those occurring on property owned by the state or a political subdivision (city, county, school district, university, et al.) are subject to the Antiquities Code of Texas. Please refer to these sections of our website for a description of the laws, notification requirements, and the review process.
Q: How do I know if it's a state or federal review project?
A: The Antiquities Code of Texas applies to projects on non-federal public land, in other words, property owned by the State of Texas or a political subdivision of the state (city, county, school district, university, et al.). The National Historic Preservation Act applies to projects undertaken by a federal agency or those that involve federal funding, licenses, or permits. Both laws may apply in some circumstances, such as improvements to a public park that require a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, or repairs to a State Antiquities Landmark-designated building funded in part by a federal grant.
Q: What information do you need for a review?
A: The Texas Historical Commission needs basic information to understand what historic and cultural resources might be impacted by your project. Please review our webpage What to Send for a Project Review for guidance on what we need, and be sure your submission is legible and correctly describes your project.
Q: Do I have to fill out the Request for SHPO Consultation form? How do I fill out the form?
A: At this time, the form is optional. Feel free to submit the project with a letter, but please be sure to include the information requested in the form with your submission. Please refer to the instructions for complete directions on how to use the form and the type of information we need as attachments to the form or cover letter. Both the form and instructions can be downloaded from our webpage, What to Send for a Project Review.
Q: Am I a delegate of the federal agency?
A: Although most federal agencies have not formally delegated their obligations under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, many rely on the recipients of their funds, permits, and licenses to fulfill some or all of the coordination with our office. Consult your contact with the federal agency to determine your role in the process.
Q: How many photos do you need of the building and project area, and what kind of pictures?
A: The number and type of pictures that we need depends on the type of project, but please always provide clear images. Outdated or blurry photographs are not acceptable, nor are images printed from free online mapping services. Always include photographs of the project site, even if a vacant parcel. For projects that indirectly impact a building, a clear image of the street-facing façade(s) should suffice, although with pictures of all sides of a building, our staff can better understand whether or not it is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. For a project that will directly affect a building, also include photos of the areas in which work will be performed. Please review the instructions for the Request for SHPO Consultation form for more comprehensive directions.
Q: How do I define an Area of Potential Effects (APE)?
A: Please refer to the instructions for completing our Request for SHPO Consultation form for basic directions. Also see our Guidelines for Defining Areas of Potential Effects under Guidance and Agreement Documents.
Q: What do I put for my eligibility or effects determination?
A: Please refer to the instructions for completing our Request for SHPO Consultation form for directions on using the form. If you are not working with a consultant and are not sure how to make the determinations, provide all other requested information and our staff will make determinations on that basis.
Q: Do you have a list of consultants who can help me with the Section 106 or Antiquities Code review process?
A: As a state agency, the Texas Historical Commission cannot recommend anyone in particular and does not maintain a database or list of consultants. Searching online for “cultural resource management” firms may be a good place to start. Many engineering and environmental firms also have archeologists and historians on staff. Check our page on Finding and Hiring a Preservation Consultant for additional information.
Q: How can I find training for Section 106 consultation?
A: The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation holds regular training for Section 106 around the country, including an Essentials course, as well as an advanced course. The National Preservation Institute also offers a variety of related courses on cultural resource management.
Q: Do I have to take money away from my project to hire a consultant?
A: The Texas Historical Commission works with project sponsors and cultural resource consultants to develop solutions for complying with the state and federal laws. These studies must follow professional standards regarding survey and reporting methods.
Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the federal agency is responsible for compliance. If the agency is directly responsible for the project—if, for example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were building a reservoir—the federal agency pays for the cultural resource studies. If a private developer or a state political subdivision, such as a city, receives a federal permit to undertake a project, the project's sponsor usually assumes the cost of the studies. For projects that occur on land owned or controlled by state agencies or Texas political subdivisions, the cost is incurred by the entity that is building the project. If a private company is developing on public land, the company usually pays for the cost of the cultural resource studies.
Q: How is Section 106 different from NEPA?
A: The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 predates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by three years. Both laws require that projects with a federal component—ownership, funding, permitting, or licensing—consider impacts to resources and residents in the project area. NEPA does take cultural resources into account but not to the extent that NHPA does through Section 106. NEPA coordination does not take the place of Section 106 coordination unless agreed upon in advance by the agencies involved.
Q: What is Section 4(f)?
A: Section 4(f) of the US Transportation Code of 1966 provides additional protection of cultural resources for resources impacted by projects related to any agency that falls under the US Department of Transportation, which includes several different entities, such as Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and Surface Transportation Board. Through Section 4(f), these agencies must show there is no prudent and feasible alternative to projects that have an adverse effect on resources, such as historic properties eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Q: I received a request for more information from the Texas Historical Commission, but I do not understand what I need to send. How can I get clarification?
A: The basic information we need to complete a review of our project is listed on our website, but if this does not answer your questions, please contact the person who sent you the request for more information to find out specifically what he or she needs to complete the review.
Q: This building has no historical designations and is not important. Why do I have to send you information on it?
A: Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to consider impacts to any resources that are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Texas has thousands of resources that have not been nominated for historical designation but may still be significant at the local, state, or national level. Sometimes these resources are important on their own, but even a modest house might be important as part of a historic neighborhood that demonstrates a notable era in the community’s development. Similarly, some resources may be important not for their architecture or design but because of ties to key events or persons in history.
Q: Why can I not make changes to my building?
A: We appreciate efforts to extend the life of a building and its use, but well-intentioned work can sometimes have undesired consequences. Modern treatments and products can have detrimental effects on historic materials, and other alterations may take away from the historic character of a property or district. We will work with you on ways to meet your goals and needs while also ensuring work complies with accepted preservation practice. We review all work for compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and often reference the National Park Service’s Preservation Briefs for information on how to avoid damage to historic properties.