by Sarah Squires
Winona County’s proposed new ordinance aimed at protecting Native American burial sites has been hailed as cutting edge legislation. And Tuesday board members agreed to do a county- wide known burial survey that will both draw down landowner costs for building and help identify areas that are considered free from archeological sites.
The new ordinance language would require landowners in the highest probability areas for burial sites to do a Phase 1 archeological study for large new developments, and a scaled down soil test for smaller additions and other projects.
Now, the county is expected to contract for a “literature review” of known archeological sites within the county. That will help determine areas that won’t need any study for development because they’ve already been studied, and will cut down on costs for those that an archeological study is deemed necessary for development.
Commissioners met with a representative from the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center, which has proposed to do the work for no more than $4,133. Although exact locations of burial sites are not considered public information in Minnesota due to the risk of vandalism, sites will be made available for county staff to assist landowners in determining the need to survey land for building projects.
Over 125 burial sites have been documented in Winona County, and the fact that there are many undocumented and unfound sites in the county is well-known. Supporters of the Phase I archeological survey say that requiring such a study could save property owners money in the long run. Federal and state law currently requires that all work on a project be stopped when archeological remains are found, and ceasing work and changing building plans can be costly.