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On Tuesday, February 7th, the Army approved the construction of the last mile and a half of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  That action came two weeks after President Donald Trump ordered an accelerated review of the pipeline project—a reversal from the Obama administration’s block of the pipeline amidst global protests two months earlier.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172-mile major infrastructure project capable of carrying 470,000 barrels of oil a day, has become a major controversy — again. Opponents include the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation in North Dakota is less than a mile from the proposed pipeline route, and the pipeline supporters who feel the 3.7 billion project is essential, and has already taken too long to complete.

Language has been heated. The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, Dave Archambault II, vowed to fight the Army’s decision in court:

As native peoples, we have been knocked down again… But we will get back up, we will rise above the greed and corruption that has plagued our peoples since first contact.”

In an emotional video from the protest camp, Linda Black Elk said:

“All of our hearts are broken… I’m just going to ask you guys to keep us all in your prayers. Pray for the water. Pray for the people. Pray for the water protectors. Pray for the tribe.”

A radically different statement was expressed by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum:

“This is a key step toward the completion of this important infrastructure project, which has faced months of politically driven delays and will allow for safe transport of North Dakota product to market.”

No matter where you stand on the issue, in the past, both sides would be standing on top of mountains of paper.

An actual Section 106 Consultation done with paper

The Paperwork of Preservation

The National Historic Preservation Act became a law in 1966, and is pages and pages of guidelines, procedures, and language addressing what to do when conflicts arise, so that “our modern society and our historic property can exist in productive harmony.”

Section 106 – more than 16 pages of tri-columned pages of small-font text – of the Act addresses cases involving Federal agencies and those to whom the Federal agency grants a license to undertake activity on historic properties, Native American reservations, cultural areas, or historically sacred sites (as in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline).

The Act says the agencies must give the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) (depending on what property is involved) the opportunity to review the action and submit their “comment”, a kind of formal report, on the issue at hand.

What does preparing and submitting a comment involve? Take a look at the 12-point checklist for Section 106 Consulting here to see just the outline of what is involved. And even it doesn’t claim to be comprehensive: the last line on the form says that “…the consulting parties may determine that additional information beyond this checklist may be appropriate.” And SHPOs and THPOs that miss deadlines for filing may miss their opportunity to make their voices heard.

If the SHPO/THPO finds the undertaking has no potential to affect the property, then the government agency may proceed with no further obligations. If, however, the SHPO/THPO finds there may be an adverse effect, the government agency begins consultation to seek ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the adverse effects. Where it can get interesting is if one party feels the adverse effect is unacceptable. At that point, if the consultation involves tribal lands, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (a separate organization) gets involved and provides its own comments, and the federal agency must “take into account ACHP’s written comments in deciding how to proceed.”

Whether done by the state or by the tribe, consultation usually results in a Memorandum of Agreement (read: MORE PAPER), which outlines the agreed-upon ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects. Sometimes, all parties involved agree adverse effects are unavoidable, and must be accepted in the public interest, so the project moves forward.

Moving Historic Preservation into the Future

If the above sounds complicated, and cumbersome, and time-consuming to you, there are many SHPOs and THPOs who would agree with you. One who would agree very strongly is Alvin Windy Boy, SR., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Chippewa Cree tribe of Montana.

Mr. Windy Boy pointed out the “amazing amounts of paperwork [required] for each consultation” under Section 106 to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a meeting late last year, and noted that it prompted him to seek out a technological advantage.

“I reached out to some software engineers at Northern Montana State University. Over a period of years, the engineers were able to develop a program we now call iResponse. It automates almost all of the Section 106 process.”

The cloud-based software program has been extremely successful in both simplifying and speeding up the Section 106 paperwork process and has officially received the FCC’s approval. Mr. Windy Boy feels the technology can be a huge help to THPOs. Access to the software is being offered free to all tribes and is already being used by some to navigate the Section 106 process.

Tribal Historic Preservation Officers Meet with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler; Pictured from left to right are: Sheryl Bird, THPO, Cherokee Nation; Alvin Windy Boy, THPO Chippewa-Cree Tribe; FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler; D. Bambi Kraus, President National Tribal Historic Preservation Officers Association; Everett Bandy, THPO, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma

“The FCC has actively worked with our tribe, as well as others,” said Mr. Windy Boy. “I appreciate Chairman (Tom) Wheeler and his staff’s consistent efforts to ensure industry undertakings mitigate any adverse effects on tribal lands. The dispute regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline shows what can happen when private interests intersect with historic preservation.”

Ancient sacred grounds and modern technology. Industrial interests, ecological concerns, government regulations, and Native American tribes. Navigating through a process designed to best protect and serve everyone involved—many of whom are geographically far removed from each other– can be complicated. But cloud-based technology makes the process faster, better, and more accurate. If iResponse can’t make the process controversy-free, it can make it virtually paper-free.

How can the technical advances of the cloud help your business with the burden of paper processes?

5i Solutions brings you the ability to convert virtually any kind of information and documents into digital smart data. We provide complete systems to manage your documents and make daily operations smooth, efficient and papercut-free. We can help you protect the information that is your history and your legacy. And 5i’s Cloud Vault brings encryption, penetration testing, and access level management for the highest level of security possible—as well as compliance with government mandated security protocols.

Access your data safely and securely from anywhere, anytime.

It can happen. The time is now. Bring the information of the past into the future. 5i Solutions is how.

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