To the editor:
Stephen Manning's comments concerning the Utah Department of Transportation's archaeology project on Interstate 70 (Reader's Forum, Feb. 9) are the result of his lack of understanding in regard to the goals of the department's historical preservation policies and procedures.The contractor selected for the I-70 project offered the best overall approach to the unique problems associated with this project.
One major factor in the selection was their ability to perform the needed work during winter months, thus allowing the I-70 construction project to move ahead this spring instead of delaying the project a year while archaeological work was done this coming summer. There is no evidence to support Manning's charge of favoritism in the selection process.
The selection was made by a panel of professional archaeologists, only one of whom is employed by UDOT, using procedures approved by the Federal Highway Administration. The Utah Division of State History and the Bureau of Land Management were represented on the panel that made the selection.
Manning expressed concern over the possibility of heavy equipment operators disturbing sites or artifacts. UDOT recognizes this as a real and legitimate concern. Measures are taken, on this as well as all UDOT projects, to identify all archaeological sites.
In the case of this project, this included walking every foot of the 46 miles under construction to search for possible areas for investigation.
Further, procedures are in place, which have been reviewed and approved by appropriate historical preservation agencies, which govern the activities of construction personnel if and when they discover archaeological material.
The claim was made that amateur archaeologists were not allowed to participate in I-70 recovery work. Amateurs did have the chance to work on excavations, and several people took advantage of this opportunity. To my knowledge, no amateur archaeologists were refused the opportunity to donate time and work on this project.
The Utah Department of Transportation, working under federal and state regulations, is one of the largest contractors of archaeological services in the state. We are committed to adherence to both the letter and the spirit of historical and antiquity preservation regulations.
However, we must balance that commitment with one of equal importance: the development and maintenance of the state's highway system in as efficient and cost-effective manner as possible.
Eugene H. Findlay
Utah Department of Transportation