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Review Process

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The Project Review Form (PDF) lists the information consultants, applicants, or the responsible agency must provide to initiate environmental review with our office. Providing detailed and accurate project information, to the address indicated on the form, facilitates PA SHPO review and response time. PA SHPO's legally mandated review period is within 30 days of receiving a complete project submittal. PA SHPO makes every effort to provide comments within this time frame. When completing the form, please be aware that environmental review extends to the entire project area, whether licensed, permitted, or funded in whole or in part by a state or federal agency.

Please note:

The Interim Guidelines for Above Ground Environmental Review are now published and available for view.  To move towards PA-SHARE, these interim guidelines are intended to supplement Chapter 6. Compliance Investigations and Chapter 7. Report Standards of the Guidelines for Architectural Investigations in Pennsylvania, 2014.  They should also be utilized in conjunction with any other relevant guidelines, including but not limited to Survey Guidelines for Pipeline Projects Above Ground Resources, June 2013 and Guidelines for Projects with Potential Visual Effects, April 2020.

The interim guidelines focus specifically on Project Initiation, Identification, and Evaluation efforts and associated reporting procedures, including a sample Identification report for review.  In addition as part of these efforts, the Project Review Form has been updated so please replace any outdated versions.


Identification of Historic Properties

One of the first steps in the environmental review process involves identifying resources that may be affected by a project. The federal agency, its applicant, or authorized consultant must make a "reasonable and good faith effort" to identify any significant historic resources within the project area. These resources may already be known or they may be found through a survey of the project area. Extensive records are maintained and are available through the SHPO Archive and Research Room and Cultural Resources GIS (CRGIS), an online database of resources previously recorded in Pennsylvania. If field investigations are warranted for a project, consultants should follow all applicable PA SHPO survey standards.

Before conducting survey work, it is important to have a clear understanding of the needed scope of work. Contact the appropriate reviewer listed below for detailed assistance on the level of effort needed to identify historic properties within your project area.


Determinations of Eligibility

"Historic properties" are those resources (prehistoric or historic sites and buildings, structures, districts, objects) listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register criteria are standards by which all properties requiring consideration under the environmental review process are evaluated for significance and integrity. The PA SHPO provides guidance for evaluating the National Register eligibility of historic resources in Pennsylvania.


Resolution of Effects

Once historic properties are identified, the environmental review process works to avoid or minimize effects on historic properties through consultation. Avoiding an adverse effect is often accomplished in consultation with the PA SHPO through project redesign.

It may not always be possible to avoid an adverse effect while meeting the project needs, environmental or design constraints, or other requirements. Typical examples of adverse effects include:

  • Physical destruction of a historic building or archaeological site
  • Inappropriate alterations
  • Change of a property's setting or location
  • Introduction of visual or audible intrusions
  • Neglect of a resource that leads to its deterioration
  • Transfer of a property out of state or federal ownership without adequate restrictions to ensure its long term preservation

Adverse effects are resolved through further consultation among the agency, applicant and consulting parties and negotiation of an agreement document. The agreement document stipulates specific measures the federal or state agency and/or applicant will implement to mitigate the undertaking's adverse effects. Further guidance on preparing agreement documents may be found on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's website.