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Update: State Agency Requires Watauga To Conduct Archaeological Survey on Cove Creek Medic Base Parcel

By Jesse Wood

June 12, 2014. The N.C. Historic Preservation Office has required that Watauga County conduct an archaeological survey on property it purchased for a new ambulance base along U.S. 321 in between Vilas and Cove Creek.

In a June 11 memo from County Maintenance Director Robert Marsh to County Manager Deron Geouque, Marsh wrote:

“The North Carolina Historic Preservation Office is requiring that we conduct an archaeological survey of the disturbed area at the Medic Base #3 site. Apparently, the Historic Office and the Army Corp of Engineers believe there is a possibility that the site may contain artifacts that need to be documented. I have corresponded with the Historic Office and the ACOE and thus far, been unsuccessful in dissuading them to not require this study.”

Linda Hall, assistant state archaeologist with the N.C. Office of State Archaeologist, said the site is considered a “high probability landform” because it is located at a stream intersection and other prehistoric archaeological sites have been identified in the vicinity of where the medic base is proposed.

She called the area a possible “central location” for a time period long ago – 8,000 to 2,000 BC:

  • more resources would be available to a hunter/gatherer group because of the streams
  • animals would be drawn to the area because of the available water
  • the wetter areas may have had a certain type of weedy grass harvested during the archaic period and so forth.

However, Hall did say this survey is practically a routine matter. She noted that legislation exists that requires the activity to be subject to the review of the N.C. Historic Preservation Office because it is related to the fact that a state or federal body, in this case the Army Corp of Engineers, requires a permit.

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners voted to purchase the 13-acre parcel in February for $102,000. The base will decrease response times to emergencies that occur in Western Watauga.

The commissioners will entertain a motion, recommended by county staff, to authorize Brushy Fork Environmental to conduct the survey for $1,900 at its next meeting on Tuesday, June 17.