This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Daina Penkiunas: David Ball will be speaking about the archaeological and biological assessment of submerged landforms off the California and Oregon coasts. He is the Pacific region historic preservation officer and the regional tribal liaison for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Dave joined BOEM, the gulf region office, in 1999 and transferred to the Pacific region office in 2010. He received a Bachelor of arts degree in Anthropology from Sonoma State University and a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology from Florida State University. Dave has almost 25 years experience in archaeology and has directed field research in both terrestrial and underwater archaeological sites across the country. He is currently serving a second 4-year term on the board of directors for the Advisory Council for Underwater Archaeology, an international advisory organization supporting underwater cultural heritage preservation. David Ball.
David Ball: Well, thanks. Apparently I’m the only thing keeping us from here and the reception this afternoon, so we’ll try to make it quick. I’d like to thank the organizers for inviting me to come talk to everybody about this project, which was just awarded in August of this year. It’s been going on for about 2 months now, so there’s not a whole lot activity I can talk about other than the potential that we have going forward.
Before I talk about this current project, I thought it would be good to back up just a little bit and talk about the previous study that was finished in 2013. The Inventory and Analysis of Coastal and Submerged Archaeological Site Occurrence on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf. You can tell by looking at the title of these things, you need to do something to shorten those names or come up with something better, and a mouthful. This project was basically desktop research to update our baseline information on archaeological resources on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf similar to what we had done in the Gulf of Mexico in 2003 and in the Atlantic region in 2012. This 2013 study of the Pacific updated studies that were completed in the Pacific region in 1987 and 1990.
It had 3 components to it. The 1st was to update our database of historic shipwrecks and provide a format that we could look at geo-spatially, so to put these resources on the shipwrecks in an access database that can be imported into RJS for management and decision-making.
The 2nd component was looking at coastal properties, more from a viewership concern for potential offshore renewable energy construction, looking at properties roughly within about a mile of the coastline. Part of the significance of those sites was an unobstructed view of the sea. We developed a geo-spatial database for that as well.
The reason I’m talking about that right now is this 3rd component of this 2013 study also updated our predicted model for submerged prehistoric sites on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf. Some of the results that came from that study was it looked at digital elevation modelling and updated that metric data for geo-spatial shorelines and reconstructed those shorelines back in 1000 year increments back to about 19,000 years ago. It assigned numerical values of 1-6 to 10 meter grid squares with the higher values indicating better resource areas and more favorable areas for site placement. It determined that stream corridors were expected to have the highest likelihood for containing submerged prehistoric sites. In this updated model, it demonstrated that the southern portion of the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf had better overall resource potential. However, the southern Pacific Continental Shelf has a narrower shelf and limited stream drainages. Therefore, there is actually more higher value areas concentrated in the northern half of the west coast than in the southern half. Better resource potential down there.
That brings us to this current study. As the title of that suggests, it’s a multi-disciplinary effort, looking at both archaeological and biological components of the submerged landforms off the West Coast. It was awarded in August of this year through California Cooperative Ecosystems Studies unit to San Diego State University, and, unlike the previous studies in 2013 and 1987, 1990 studies, which were desk-based research, this one has a strong field component to it, to actually go out and try to go after some of these targets which look like they might have high potential for submerged landforms. It’s a 4-year effort building on the 2013 project and gets at one of BOEM’s goals of improving identification of submerged cultural landforms on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf, and also supports our environmental analysis requirements through the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act.
We’ve pulled together a strong team of researchers for this project. Todd Gray, the principal investigator for this project down at San Diego State is here today. We also have the California State University of Santa Barbara, Oregon State University’s COEAS Institute of Oceanography, the University of Oregon, the Smithsonian, Channel Islands National Park Service, and Submerged Resource Center of the National Park Service. Then, 3 heads of the NOAA, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Jim Delgado with the Maritime Heritage program and the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research are all involved in the project.
Just to identify some of the geography for some of the areas of this particular project, we’re focusing specifically on the Northern Channel Islands off of Southern California and the Central Oregon Coast. You can see there’s quite a bit of shelf that extended out prehistorically about 60 kilometers offshore from the current coastline. The reason why we selected these 2 locations, for the Northern Channel Islands, which is comprised of 4 islands currently: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands, definitely shows some of the earliest evidence for maritime culture in the Western Hemisphere with sites dating back to 9-13,000 years ago, when those 4 islands actually composed 1 island which we refer to as Santa Rosa, and, as Todd mentioned to me earlier today, there’s actually the largest concentration of terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene sites are found in this area, concentrated primarily toward the Western end on San Miguel Island. We’ll talk a little bit more about the Channel Islands tomorrow, so you’ll get some more information on that.
In addition to the strong evidence of early maritime culture out here, there’s also … These are also protected areas, both through the Channel Islands National Park and the National Marine Sanctuary. In addition, there’s also a lot of oil and gas activities that occurred off this area for the last 40 or 50 years through the Santa Barbara Channel. There’s at least 15 oil and gas platforms out there. There’s been a lot of geo-physical survey work done in support of those efforts.
We’ve targeted the Channel Islands for those reasons. The Central Oregon Coast, we’re looking at more for its potential out there. As you can see, the shelf extends quite a bit out that way. There’s also a lot of interest now in development of renewable energy activity off the Oregon coast. We actually got 2 applications that we’re reviewing right now. One for floating wind turbines off the Coos Bay area which is just below where you can see on the map here on the image on the far right. Then another application for wave energy off the Newport area which is just northeast of the Stonewall Bank area. There hasn’t been a lot of survey activity conducted out there. We’ve identified this area as a target area of interest because it’s relatively unknown, so we want to learn more about that area.
What we’re hoping to do with the current study is to get BOEMs the information it needs by providing an assessment of our current geophysical survey guidelines for identifying submerged landforms and assess the biological features and also expand our knowledge base for prehistoric sites on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf. This supports some of the other research that BOEM has been doing in mapping of seafloor and hydrocarbon and methane seeps, archaeological inventories, and then the habitat studies. It also ties in with some related efforts we have going on in the Gulf of Mexico region and the Atlantic. In 2007, we funded a cooperative agreement with Louisiana State University to fund Dr. Amanda Evans dissertation research looking at submerged prehistoric sites off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. We currently have an ongoing project, which Doug Harris mentioned this morning, working with the University of Rhode Island and the Narragansett Indian Tribe off of the Atlantic coast, trying to identify best practices for identifying submerged landforms and also incorporating oral history and traditional knowledge into those best practices. We’re hoping to work with some of the Native American communities on the West Coast in the areas that we’re targeting for this project to see if we can incorporate some of those oral histories and traditional knowledge into this project as well.
Real quickly, the objectives, hoping we’re looking at field work in high probability areas and field testing and geo-spatial model for identifying these submerged landforms, improving the regional landscape models to assist in BOEM’s decision-making process, and identifying paleo-landscape features that may be indicative of sensitive biological habitats.
Just to wrap up quickly, I know we’re short on time, the methods we’re employing and the timeline for this. As I said, the project was awarded in August of this year and we’ve already started the first couple phases of the project. Trying to collect all available geophysical survey data and do some analysis on that to refine the 2013 model that was developed. Then we’ll go out, targeting the Channel Islands first in years 1 and 2, do tight grid, high resolution surveying off the Northern Channel Islands in 4 areas, doing 25 meter line spacing transects over 1,000 square meter areas. From the data that’s collected in that, we’ll identify areas for coring, vibro-core and box-cores, go out and collect the cores and do analysis on that, refine the model that we developed, and then move in years 2 and 3 up to the Oregon coast to test the model up there and further refine it. Then the final year will be completing the analysis and writing up the reports on the project. It’s scheduled for completion in August 2019.
To wrap up, beyond assisting BOEM in evaluating potential for encountering cultural resources on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf during future energy development, the post-study results will contribute to the Pacific and Marine Spatial Planning Efforts and a better understanding of submerged landscapes that we’re looking at out there. Thank you.