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The Corps of Engineers recently conducted site visits to all 11 cemeteries potentially impacted by the F-M Area Diversion Project, and sent follow-up letters notifying each site POC of the plan to conduct Phase 1 and Phase II cultural resources surveys.

The cultural resource surveys are part of the Corps of Engineers’ Cemetery Study, which will lead to a mitigation plan for cemeteries impacted by the Diversion Project.

Landowners of the 11 cemetery sites will soon receive letters from the Diversion Authority containing a Right of Entry request for permission to access the properties in order to conduct these surveys. If Right of Entry is denied, a National Register of Historic Places eligibility evaluation cannot be completed, which would, in turn, delay or prevent mitigation of any adverse effects of the Diversion Project on the cemetery.

The surveys involve a walkover of each cemetery to record the cemetery on a state site form, which would include noting the number and type of headstones, the date range of burials, and the names of those buried there, plus any distinctive or unique cemetery features. Photographs would also be taken of the cemetery. A historian would also obtain additional historical information from county histories and through interviews with the cemetery owners and other knowledgeable individuals.

The surveys, research, and interviews will be used to determine whether the cemetery contains the graves of persons who had a great impact upon the history of the community, state or nation, and/or contains distinctive burial monuments, and/or is associated with important historical events.

No ground disturbance will take place in the cemetery by the archeologists and historians conducting the survey and evaluation.

A National Register eligibility recommendation for each cemetery in North Dakota would ultimately be submitted by the Corps to the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Archaeology and Historic Preservation Division (North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office) for its review and comment to arrive at a formal determination of whether the cemetery is eligible for listing on the National Register. National Register eligibility recommendations for each cemetery in Minnesota would be submitted to Minnesota’s State Historic Preservation Office.

The overall Cemetery Study involves site visits and interviews with cemetery owners and operators, inventories of all cemeteries in the greater Fargo-Moorhead area, establishment of points of contact, information gathering on the effects of flooding, the development of mitigation options, and the formation of the basis for development of a mitigation plan.  The Cemetery Study also outlines the current impacts to area cemeteries prone to flooding and the efforts that have been successful during previous floods to mitigate the impacts.

The mitigation options under consideration include clean up, anchoring gravestones, bank armoring, protective berms, flowage easements, and the most unlikely option: relocation.

The mitigation plan is expected to be released within a year.

Related article:

Impacts to Cemeteries to be Mitigated Fairly and Cooperatively