Massachusetts Construction Issue

Will Massachusetts Allow Construction on Possible Sacred Native American Burial Ground?

This information was posted on the site's message board on Friday, 10-Apr-98 22:48:17

Message: writes:

These are the websites, addresses, and phone numbers to contact:

Town of Agawam Linkpage
Power Development Company
El Paso Energy Corporation
Berkshire Power vs. Agawam ZBA
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
Massachusetts Historical Commission
American Indian Movement of Massachusetts

El Paso Energy Corporation
Contact Information
El Paso Energy Corporation
1001 Louisiana Street
P.O. Box 2511
Houston, Texas 77252-2511

Internet Address

Electronic Mail Address

Transfer Agent
First National Bank of Boston
P.O. Box 644
Boston, Massachusetts 02102

Contact Person:
Meg Colclough
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge St. - 20th Fl.
Boston, MA 02202
(617)727-9800 x 218

The Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) is the State Historic Preservation Office and is authorized by M.G.L. Chapter 9, Section 26-27C to identify, evaluate and protect the Commonwealth's important historic and archaeological resources. The MHC administers state and federal preservation programs, including historic preservation planning (such as assisting communities with listing properties in the National Register of Historic Places and establishing local historic districts), review and compliance (including implementation of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as amended), grant assistance, and public information activities. The MHC is also the office of the State Archaeologist. (617) 727-8470; TDD: 1-800-392-6090

This is the situation:

From The Springfield Union-News, MetroWest edition (Springfield MA)
April 9 by Jeanette DeForge:

Power plant foes challenge artifact study
AGAWAM-In the latest twist in the Berkshire Power Plant fight, some are questioning whether American Indians may have been buried on the site where the controversial $185 million plant is to be built. Project opponents said artifacts have been found there, neighborhood legends speak of a hidden cave on the site, and a woman of Cherokee descent said research shows it could be a burial site. But Berkshire Power officials said a state-required archaeological survey of the site in 1995 revealed no significant artifacts. The survey was approved by the state Historical Commission and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

A consortium of companies led by the Boston-based Power Development Inc. is planning to build the 272-megawatt gas-fired Berkshire Power Plant on 30 acres off Moylan Lane. It is also in the beginning stages of building a similar $185million plant near the Summit Lock Industrial Park in Westfield.

The latest claim has frustrated the usually composed Berkshire Power officials. Lawsuits filed by opponents and Berkshire Power, political dogfights and other bizarre problems have delayed construction for four years.

"When does this stop? Is it (endangered) salamanders next?" asked Anthony L. Cignoli, a Springfield consultant and spokesman for Berkshire Power.

He also questioned the timing of the discovery. Berkshire Power began excavation work on Friday and it is expecting to receive a building permit this month.

Plant opponents said they are not trying to stop construction now. They want a more extensive study done so possible artifacts can be saved, said Karl H. Stieg, an opposition group spokesman.

"Abutters have found things there and there are rumors that there was a cave there," said Jani Leverett, director of the Massachusetts chapter of the native American Indian Movement and an American Indian from Holyoke. "It could have been a burial site."

Leverett and opponents are questioning the validity of a 40-page study done by Public Archaeology Laboratory Inc. of Rhode Island for Berkshire Power. The study found no significant artificats there. "It is full of errors," Leverett said. "They did not even dig below the plow line."

In 1995, 64 test pits were dug in parts of the 30-acre site to search for artifacts, said Deborah C. Cox, president of Public Archaeology Laboratory Inc.

The only thing discovered was a stone flake that is a by-product from a stone tool, she said.

"You cannot be 100 percent sure, but we have found nothing that would indicate a burial ground," Cox said.

Stains in subsoil and specific items linked to graves are usually found near burial grounds. Neither was found, she said.

But neighbors have found artifacts on and near the site.

"I found (four) white arrowheads there last year when I was digging for earth worms," said Dean R. Harrison, a plant opponent who lives on Shoemaker Lane.

Leverett said she wants Berkshire Power to "do the right thing" and order another study.

Opponents have also asked the state Historical Commission to re-examine the study to see if there are mistakes, Stieg said.

Officials for the Commission did not return phone calls.

Cignoli said there is no reason to do another study.

"The study is quite valid," said John P. Pretola, curator of anthropology for the Springfield Library and Museums.

"Agawam in general tends to have a high archaeological significance," he said. However, he siad, if the site had many artifacts, the survey would have shown that.


April 10 by Jeanette DeForge:

State panel won't put stop to construction

AGAWAM--- The state Historical Commission will not halt construction of the $185 million Berkshire Power Plant, saying that concerns of American Indian graves located there are invalid. "At this point, there is no legal reason to stop or delay this project," said Sandra A. Curro, public relations director for the commission, yesterday.

The commission has also refused to order Berkshire Power to perform a new antrhoroplogical study of the sire, as was requested by the opponents…

Four days after Berkshire Power started excavation work on the site, plant opponents and a woman of American Indian heritage announced that they had uncovered evidence showing there could be ancient graves and artifacts on the site.

They also claimed that the state-required archaeological survey of the site in 1995 was flawed and should be redone…

"We feel it was very adequate, and she (the anthropologist) was very thorough," Curro said.

If human bones are unearthed during construction, state law requires the company to halt work immediately and notify the commission, she said.

It cost Berkshire Power about $1million to have the archeological study undertaken, and the company feels it is accurate, said Anthony L. Cignoli, a Springfield consultant and spokesman for Berkshire Power… He argued that opponents had no evidence to back up their theory of a burial site located on the property, and said the claim was just another ploy to stop the plant.

But opponents said neighbors have discovered a number of artifacts on the 40 acres Berkshire Power purchased in January. They said the survey is flawed because neighbors were never interviewed. "It is very disappointing," said Karl H. Stieg, spokesman for a plant opposition group. "We are not trying to stop the project by this. It is a shame that they are willing to see the history of the town be buried."

Owen R. Broadhurst---

And a Follow-up

Thursday, 23-Apr-98 21:42:17 writes:

All e-mail addresses listed for Massachusetts state senators now follow:

i have yet to compile all available e-mail addresses for state representatives, but detail what i have amassed below:

RepCeleHahn RepChrisHodgkins

(snipped due to broken links)

The Power Development Company has a website to contact:

Relevant State Agencies:

Meg Colclough
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge St. - 20th Fl.
Boston, MA 02202
(617)727-9800 x 218

Websites for relevant state agencies:
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
Massachusetts Historical Commission

The website should assist in enabling you to contact other state and municipal offices.

Please e-mail
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