• 06/18/2020 4:39 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    This post was submitted by AECOM, an ACRA member firm.

    AECOM archaeologists and cultural heritage specialists work on projects throughout the world, and Cambridge Scholars Publishing is coming out with a collection of these studies titled The Business of Heritage on August 1.

    Edited by AECOM Australian archaeologist, Darran Jordan, the intention was to collect diverse papers on AECOM projects to contextualise their work within a broader milieu of archaeological study and document the way in which an international business contributes to the development of academic knowledge on a global scale.

    Contributors to The Business of Heritage include:

    • Darran Jordan’s work on Aboriginal midden monitoring at Summerland Point in Australia; 
    • James Lyttleton and Neil Macnab detailing their work on the Ulster Scots Archaeological Services Project, archaeology of the early seventeenth-century in Northern Ireland; 
    • Scott K. Seibel on geophysical investigations of a nineteenth century fort in the USA; 
    • Helen Maclean and Jonathan Shipley on their work avoiding impacts to Roman Archaeology in North Yorkshire, UK for the A1 Dishforth to Barton road project;
    • M. K. Meiser on managing the cultural resources at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountainview, California;
    • Mark Service on managing cultural values in the industrial landscape of Cornwall, UK for the Luxulyan Valley project; and 
    • Andrew McLaren and Geordie Oakes on investigating prehistoric Aboriginal place use on Sydney's Cumberland Plain in Australia.

    You can pre-order The Business of Heritage now from Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  • 06/17/2020 1:08 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The voting period for the 2020 ACRA Board elections opens today! The candidates in this year's slate are vying for 4 open positions, including:

    • Vice-President - Government Relations
    • 3 At-Large Board Positions

    Each candidate has submitted a biography and statement to help you make your selection. The slate of candidates is strong, and thus we urge you to review the statements carefully and choose those candidates who you feel best understand the needs of our industry and are committed to providing leadership on the ACRA board.

    Read the Candidate Statements and Bios

    Per ACRA's bylaws, each member firm gets one vote. Only member firms are eligible - student and associate members do not vote in elections.

    Bundle administrators only should have received an invitation from SurveyMonkey this morning. If you do not receive your invitation by 5:00 pm EDT, please first check your spam folder. If you still do not see it, contact us. Voting will be open until July 3, 2020 at 11:59 pm EDT.

    Your firm can help shape the future of ACRA - submit your vote before the deadline!

  • 06/15/2020 11:35 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Earlier this month Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (PPPFA), which provided necessary updates for the program regarding the loan coverage period, eligible costs, and more flexibility for employee counts.

    We previously outlined the specifics of the program here, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) just released their updated interim final guidance to implement the PPPFA, which is available here. The SBA also updated its PPP application forms to conform to the changes in the legislation. The new borrower application is available here.

    If you have not applied for a Paycheck Protection Loan yet but are thinking of doing so, submit your application quickly. The new guidance confirms that the deadline for an application to be approved is June 30, 2020.

  • 06/12/2020 12:37 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    If you missed yesterday's webinar on resolving disputes in the section 106 process, it is now available on demand for you to watch on your own schedule!

    The Section 106 review process is critical to informing federal infrastructure planning and decision making. Key findings within this review process, including an agency’s findings about the eligibility of historic properties to the National Register and effects to them, can be the subject of disputes among consulting parties. In this advanced webinar designed by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), Blythe Semmer, Senior Program Analyst, and Jaime Loichinger, Assistant Director for Permitting, Licensing, and Assistance in the Office of Federal Agency Programs explore the diagnosis and strategies for resolving such disputes.

    As with the live session, this webinar is available to ACRA members at a discounted price. Members can get the discount code to access the presentation for free here.

    Watch Resolving Disputes in Section 106 Now

  • 06/11/2020 3:24 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    • President Trump issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to waive environmental regulations on infrastructure because of the economic emergency caused by the pandemic. NHPA is not specifically mentioned in the order. ACRA has issued a statement on the Executive Order that includes how you can help now. The Coalition for American Heritage is working with the environmental community as the situation continues to unfold.
    • The House Judiciary Committee is asking the Trump administration to turn over a list of deregulatory actions taken to bolster the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, arguing the White House has been inappropriately fast-tracking priorities unrelated to addressing the virus.
    • The Coalition and other preservation organizations is continuing to facilitate discussions on CEQ’s proposed changes to the regulations governing NEPA implementation, including meeting with federal agencies.
    • The Trump administration finalized a rule for the Clean Water Act that will set a one-year deadline for states and tribes to authorize or dismiss proposed energy projects and other developments that could pollute waterways, effectively curtailing the rights of the public and those entities to protest pipelines, hydroelectric dams, industrial plants and other projects. The EPA's move overturns how the country has applied a section of the Clean Water Act for nearly 50 years and has been hailed by the energy industry and lamented by environmental groups.
    • President Trump on Friday announced that he will reopen the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of Massachusetts for commercial fishing. This action is seen as a parallel to his attempt to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante monuments. The Conservation Law Foundation has already announced plans for a lawsuit.
    • The Great American Outdoors Act is scheduled for a vote in the Senate. Passage of the bill could boost Republican chances of maintaining their majority because the sponsors, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), are vulnerable. However, some Republican senators are expressing qualms about the legislation. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is concerned that the bill could undercut Alabama’s share of revenue from offshore drilling, money vital for the Gulf’s coastline preservation and restoration. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has similar concerns and will attempt to insert language into the bill to increase the amount of offshore revenue that Gulf Coast states receive to address coastal resiliency and restoration efforts.
    • Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is authorizing William Perry Pendley and David Vela to perform the duties of acting directors of BLM and NPS, respectively, using the secretary's "succession" of duties authority. Pendley and Vela will now be able to perform the duties of acting director indefinitely. In addition to Pendley and Vela, Bernhardt is also using his succession powers to keep Casey Hammond as acting Interior assistant secretary for land and minerals management, Lanny Erdos as acting director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and Jerold Gidner as special trustee for American Indians. 
    • An article in the Hill revealed that BLM needs to replace more than 100 staffers who chose to leave the agency rather than relocate to Colorado.
    • The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee will hold its first virtual hearing this week. Up until now, the committee has been hosting public forums. On-line hearings will enable them to complete legislative business instead of just receiving testimony.
    • The House Democratic transportation bill does not appear to contain any language that would be harmful in terms of lessening standards or shortening review windows in regards to NEPA or NHPA. Most references to NEPA and environmental reviews are in the context of program funding to provide for environmental reviews, types of projects that must satisfy NEPA requirements in order to be eligible for funding, etc. There are no references to NHPA or 4(f). 
      • There is a provision that allows for a Surface Transportation Board to mediate in rail rights-of-way disputes. It is within the Amtrak section of the bill and in the context of improving existing rail access and creating new passenger railways. There is also a section about non-emergency waivers, but it appears to be limited to train safety measures.
  • 06/09/2020 4:38 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Heritage Business International, L3C (HBI) has released the results of 2020 edition of their annual industry size report for CRM. From the press release:

    The United States’ heritage compliance sector contracted in 2019 by about 10 million dollars. This contraction marks the ninth year in a row of negative growth for the sector since its historic high in 2011. The compliance sector of the heritage industry includes work performed by heritage and environmental firms to achieve compliance with environmental and cultural resource requirements. It is sometimes referred to as the Cultural Resource Management or CRM industry.

    These figures come from the just released 2020 edition of the annual industry size report published by Heritage Business International. The report contains a preface on COVID-19, key sector-size statistics, a breakdown of size by U.S. geographic region, historical graphs, and a data table of nominal and real size in dollars and percent annual change going back to 1971. This year’s report includes a new breakdown of size by client industry and key notes throughout the report to assist readers in understanding these data. The report is available for purchase and download from heritagebusiness.org.

    Dr. Christopher Dore, the report’s principal author, added that “While 2019 only showed a small decrease in size, the nine-year negative trajectory of the sector is of concern. Since 2011 the sector has lost 22.8 percent of its value. This is both the longest and largest decline in the industry’s history.”

    ACRA members receive 50 percent off of U.S. and Canada CRM industry data reports from Heritage Business International. Get the discount code here.

  • 06/08/2020 10:37 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Coalition for American Heritage, of which ACRA is a founding member, has issued a new action alert for the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill that funds repairs at American’s national parks and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Congress is expected to  vote on the bill this week, so you need to take action NOW!

    Background on the Bill:

    The deteriorating infrastructure at America’s national parks and public lands includes roads, trails, historic structures and artifacts, battlegrounds, and memorials. The Great American Outdoors Act will invest $1.9 billion annually for the next five years in deferred maintenance for lands managed by the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education. Performing this work will also provide jobs in nearly every state.

    The bill would also provide full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for LWCF. These monies come from offshore oil and gas revenues – not tax dollars. Since 1965, the LWCF has helped preserve historic sites, cultural parks, battlefields, and archaeological sites. Examples of these sites include: Fort Monroe National Monument, Gettysburg National Military Park, Nez Perce National Historical Park, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

    Voicing your support for this bill is easy - simply visit the action alert page and follow the instructions to take action in just minutes. Urge your Members of Congress to support the Great American Outdoors Act now!

    Take Action Now on the
    Great American Outdoors Act

  • 06/05/2020 4:16 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Yesterday President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to waive environmental regulations to speed up infrastructure projects under the auspices of responding to the “economic emergency” presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that the Order does not attempt to create a blanket waiver of environmental regulations, but is limited to directing agencies to use existing emergency authorities to expedite projects.

    Nonetheless, ACRA, along with its partners at the Coalition for American Heritage, has concerns that agencies will invoke the Order to limit public involvement in federal projects, to deprive tribal governments of their rights to consultation, and to limit consideration of impacts to historic properties and cultural resources.

    The Executive Order directs agencies to use emergency authorities they already have under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA), and to review all statutes, regulations, and guidance documents that provide emergency or expedited treatment—which includes the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) regulations at 36 CFR 800.12.

    Our concerns include:

    • Emergency authorities have traditionally only been used to respond to emergency threats to national security and natural disasters. It is unclear whether existing emergency authorities can be invoked to respond to an economic slowdown.
    • The Order does not give an end date or any indication of when the Administration would decide the economic effects of the public health emergency have improved enough to return to the normal course of business.
    • Some emergency authorities, such as those in NEPA, do not require public notice that they are being applied. We are concerned that agencies will apply emergency procedures inappropriately, and we will not learn about it in time to object or litigate.
    • Invoking emergency authorities when not consistent with existing law will increase litigation risk for infrastructure projects and their proponents, creating uncertainty and delays for projects.

    The Order puts considerable pressure on agency heads to expedite projects, requiring that they submit reports in 30 days of how they are using the Order.

    Members of Congress have already expressed their disapproval (see Speaker Pelosi’s statement here and Chairman Grijalva’s statement here). ACRA and its partners in the Coalition will be communicating its concerns to Congress and to the agencies.

    How You Can Help

    Our greatest strength is our network of advocates across the country. Please let us know when you see agencies attempting to invoke this Order on projects on which you work, or even projects you hear about. We need to know how the Order is being applied so that we can formulate the most effective responses.

    As we learn more about the implications of this Executive Order, we will continue to update you and the CRM community on this. Visiting the ACRAsphere is the quickest way to get the most up to date information, as well as following us on both Facebook and LinkedIn.

  • 06/04/2020 4:34 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    UPDATE: The President has now signed this bill into law.

    As of yesterday, June 3, the House and Senate have both passed the

    Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act, and the bill is now on the President's desk awaiting signature. 

    The main points of the legislation touch on the loan coverage period, eligible costs, and more flexibility for employee counts. From the Journal of Accountancy:

    • Current PPP borrowers can choose to extend the eight-week period to 24 weeks, or they can keep the original eight-week period. New PPP borrowers will have a 24-week covered period, but the covered period can’t extend beyond Dec. 31, 2020. This flexibility is designed to make it easier for more borrowers to reach full, or almost full, forgiveness.
    • Under the language in the House bill, the payroll expenditure requirement drops to 60% from 75% but is now a cliff, meaning that borrowers must spend at least 60% on payroll or none of the loan will be forgiven. Currently, a borrower is required to reduce the amount eligible for forgiveness if less than 75% of eligible funds are used for payroll costs, but forgiveness isn’t eliminated if the 75% threshold isn’t met. Rep. Chip Roy (Texas), who co-sponsored the bill in the House, said in a House speech that the bill intended the sliding scale to remain in effect at 60%. Senators Marco Rubio and Susan Collins indicated that technical tweaks could be made to the bill to restore the sliding scale.
    • Borrowers can use the 24-week period to restore their workforce levels and wages to the pre-pandemic levels required for full forgiveness. This must be done by Dec. 31, a change from the previous deadline of June 30.
    • The legislation includes two new exceptions allowing borrowers to achieve full PPP loan forgiveness even if they don’t fully restore their workforce. Previous guidance already allowed borrowers to exclude from those calculations employees who turned down good faith offers to be rehired at the same hours and wages as before the pandemic. The new bill allows borrowers to adjust because they could not find qualified employees or were unable to restore business operations to Feb. 15, 2020, levels due to COVID-19 related operating restrictions.
    • New borrowers now have five years to repay the loan instead of two (Ed. note: this is for any funds not forgiven). Existing PPP loans can be extended up to 5 years if the lender and borrower agree. The interest rate remains at 1%.
    • The bill allows businesses that took a PPP loan to also delay payment of their payroll taxes, which was prohibited under the CARES Act.
    Forbes has an extensive article, including background information, on the changes here. Stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for additional information on this and other relief programs affecting the CRM industry,
  • 06/03/2020 3:52 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Did you miss last week's webinar on CRM health and safety issues in the 21st century? 

    If so, you can now view it on ACRA Webinars on Demand!

    Kimberly Morrell, SH&E Representative for AECOM’s East Coast cultural resources department, guided attendees through making sure their corporate programs are structured to meet today’s expectations. Topics covered include:

    • Adopting measures that mitigate risk; preserve facilities, property, equipment and the natural environment; and protect the safety and health of our people — employees, clients and the end users of our projects;
    • Practicing active safety leadership and training our professionals to design processes and projects in a manner that reduces strategic and localized risks and impacts;
    • Continuously improving and updating systems and procedures to adhere to ever-changing occupational safety, health and environmental laws and licensing requirements across all levels of government; and
    • Tracking safety performance metrics and maintaining a high level of transparency with employees, stakeholders and clients during this process.

    As with the live session, this webinar is available to ACRA members at a discounted price. Members can get the discount code to access the presentation for free here.

    Watch the Session NOW

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