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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Society of Georgia Archaeology’s Opposition to Georgia Senate Bill 346
The Society for Georgia Archaeology (SGA) is deeply concerned by Senate Bill 346. It proposes to exempt state-funded road projects under $100 million from review under the Georgia Environmental Policy Act (GEPA). The GEPA process ensures state agencies like the GDOT take environmental effects into account during government undertakings. In our view, this proposed exemption is arbitrary and threatens Georgia’s irreplaceable archaeological sites and our shared cultural heritage.
The great state of Georgia is home to world-class archaeological sites, from evidence of ancient Clovis peoples, the first known inhabitants of North America, to monumental American Indian mound sites and villages. In Georgia, you can find the encampments of Spanish Conquistadors, among the earliest historic sites in the entire nation, as well as antebellum plantation and slave sites, Civil War battlefields and POW camps, and other spectacular historic places up through the modern day. These places are important to our heritage and contain extremely important information about Georgia’s past. Some are also final resting places and hallowed ground. If the GEPA process is eliminated, we will lose our unique and important history as Georgians and Americans.
The State of Georgia history is a major draw for tourism and relies on proper preservation efforts to thrive. Archaeological sites and burials can only be protected if they are identified, recorded, and reported. An important example of an unmarked, previously unrecorded historic site is the Avondale Burial Place, discovered during a study for a road widening project. We believe Georgia should focus on preservation and study efforts. Preservation is widely supported and benefits the state, as evidenced by the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2015. This act enjoys support broad public support as well as that of Georgia Senators Isakson and Perdue, Representatives Bishop, Scott, Cole, Carter, and Hice, as well as the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes which represents over 50,000 Indian peoples across the U.S.
The SGA spoke to Senators of the Transportation Committee on Tuesday, February 24 and asked them to consider these facts in considering this legislation. We asked them to remember that GEPA does not regulate private construction or put any burdens on the state’s businesses. GEPA simply makes sure that state government undertakings are done conscientiously, with due consideration to environmental resources such as water quality, ecology, history, and archaeology. We think public deserves to hear more about SB 346 and ask that you discuss the subject to raise awareness and follow its progress in the Senate. For more information about Georgia archaeology or the issues raised, please use the above contact and the SGA website.