The following opinion piece appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday, March 13, 2015.
Halt Eastern Corridor Project to Protect History
Kenneth Barnett Tankersley is an archaeological geologist at the University of Cincinnati and an enrolled member of the Piqua Shawnee tribe.
I applaud state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr.’s sponsored legislation, which will use funding from the last phase of the Eastern Corridor project to replace and repair decaying road infrastructures such as the Western Hills Viaduct in Hamilton County. At the same time, the Mount Lookout Republican’s legislation will ensure that internationally and nationally significant historic and prehistoric sites in the villages of Mariemont, Newtown and Anderson Township will be preserved for many future generations of American citizens.
I applaud state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr.’s sponsored legislation, which will use funding from the last phase of the Eastern Corridor project
Mary Emery built the village of Mariemont upon the foundation of historic preservation. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark District, which extends from the banks of the Little Miami River to its boarders with Madison Place, Fairfax and Plainville. Within Mariemont are the American Indian Embankment and Village sites, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A similar situation exists in the village of Newtown, which includes the William Edwards Farmhouse, an American Indian burial mound in Odd Fellows Cemetery, and the American Indian Perin Village site, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On Newtown’s southern border is the Hahn Field Archaeological District in Anderson Township. All of these locations are federally recognized as significant historic and prehistoric sites and they are currently threatened with destruction from the Eastern Corridor.
To further complicate this issue, new archaeological discoveries have been made in the past few weeks in Mariemont and Newtown including two previously unreported American Indian burial sites and three American Indian habitation sites. Four of these sites were discovered in Mariemont’s Lower 80 Park and the other was serendipitously found in Newtown while putting in a buried fiber-optic cable. All of them are currently in the direct path of the Eastern Corridor. These sites are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the significant historic and prehistoric sites, which are buried beneath the surface in the Little Miami River valley.
When Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said, “I am grateful to the Southwest Ohio House delegation that came together in response to a threat to the program and gave it new life and a way to cut through the red tape,” he is asking American citizens to ignore federal historic preservation and environmental protection laws. Highway projects such as the Eastern Corridor are required to work in compliance of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the much more powerful National Environmental Policy Act.
The purpose of NEPA is to protect our environment. In addition to protecting endangered species and historic and prehistoric sites, it also protects the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil we use to grow food. NEPA requires government agencies, such as the Ohio Department Of Transportation, to give proper consideration to the impact highways have on our cultural and natural environment. Currently, ODOT is trying to write in language that would allow them to take over the NEPA process for the completion of the Eastern Corridor. As a fellow concerned citizen recently said, this situation would allow the fox to guard the henhouse.