• 06/02/2020 4:37 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Resolving Disputes in Section 106

     June 11, 2020 | 2:00 - 3:30 PM (EDT) | Register Now

    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.

    Join us on June 11 at 2:00 pm EDT for Resolving Disputes in Section 106, an advanced webinar developed by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). In this session for advanced Section 106 practitioners, attendees will explore the diagnosis and strategies for resolving such disputes with Blythe Semmer, Senior Program Analyst, and Jaime Loichinger, Assistant Director for Permitting, Licensing, and Assistance in the Office of Federal Agency Programs.

    ACRA member firms receive a discounted rate for this webinar. Additionally, member firms enjoy a firm-wide registration fee during the COVID-19 pandemic - contact us for details on getting firm employees access.

    Register now to reserve your spot!

    Register for Resolving
    Disputes in Section 106

  • 05/29/2020 2:49 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Heritage Business International, L3C (HBI) released the results of its annual Cultural Resources Management (CRM) Financial Performance Survey for 2019 earlier this month. From the press release:

    The report is used by firms to benchmark their performance against competitors in the industry, as a check on financial health, and as a basis for strategic and operational planning.

    The 45-page report includes the background context, survey sampling information, performance statistics, annual change, graphs, and a data summary table. Major categories include gross sales, subcontracting, gross margin, contracting, labor, client retention, cost of capital, debt, and receivables outstanding. Most major categories are broken down into subcategories. The survey report may be purchased and downloaded from heritagebusiness.org.

    Highlights from this year’s survey include:

    • Revenue increased by 15 percent.
    • For the first time, organizations are doing more work as subcontractors than they are as prime contractors.
    • Net profit increased to 5.8 percent.
    • Client retention increased to 41.4 percent.
    • Profitability is below the weighted average cost of capital and what is required for value return.

    “The strengthening market and performance of firms that we knew had been happening can now be quantified” said Christopher Dore, Ph.D., a consultant and the survey manager at HBI. “During 2019, industry firms were stronger than they have been over the past few years. That said, though, overall mean net profits continue to be below the overall mean weighted average cost of capital and this indicates that industry firms continue to lose financial value. That’s not sustainable and should be a significant concern.”

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

  • 05/28/2020 3:48 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    After much deliberation and discussion, we are sad to announce that ACRA's San Antonio conference, originally scheduled for September 23-27, 2020, has been postponed. We have not made this decision lightly, but the health and safety of our attendees is ACRA's highest priority.

    A few weeks ago we sent out a poll gauging members' position regarding an in-person conference, and those responses made it clear that the majority of respondents are not comfortable with attending in-person conferences for the remainder of the year. Additionally, even as states begin to open in phases, large gatherings are still discouraged by both state and federal authorities.

    However, there is good news to accompany this disappointment - we will still be offering you the opportunity to get the networking and education you have come to expect from the ACRA Conference.

    What We Are Doing Instead

    We will be offering a partial virtual 2020 conference this fall! The ACRA Conference Committee is working hard to transfer some of our planned San Antonio content to a digital format - including networking opportunities. The virtual conference will also include increased visibility for ACRA sponsors. Stay tuned to your email, the ACRAsphere, and ACRA social media for further information in the coming weeks.

    There is more good news - we will still be heading to San Antonio, just now in 2022. From the beautiful Menger Hotel that is hosting us to the unique historic preservation discussions that the city provides, we don't want conference attendees to miss out on all that San Antonio has to offer. Our San Antonio conference will now be held from September 22-25, 2022.

    We hope you will also plan to join us at ACRA's 2021 Conference, which will be held in Alexandria,VA from September 9-12, 2021. Session planning has already begun, and Alexandria attendees will have the chance to participate directly in raising the profile of the CRM industry through meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill.

    Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have. Stay tuned for more information on our virtual conference shortly, and more importantly, stay healthy!

  • 05/27/2020 10:49 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a new 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.

    • The House passed HR 6800, the HEROES Act, on May 15th. It expresses the Democratic priorities on the next round of pandemic relief funding. The bill is focused on immediate relief – not economic stimulus. Senate Republicans called the bill dead on arrival, but they have yet to introduce their own legislation.

    • The House is set to be in session today and Thursday, for the first time under new rules allowing for proxy voting. The Senate is not set to return until June.

    • Some Senate Republicans are pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to begin moving on another coronavirus relief package in the coming weeks, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, among those pushing for the inclusion of infrastructure spending, something McConnell has resisted.

    • Congress is mulling an agreement on legislation that would double the amount of time businesses have to spend loans obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program to 16 weeks and extend the June 30 deadline for program applications to Dec. 31. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced support for extending PPP's deadlines, but legislation would need to be approved by both the Senate and the House, which is expected to take up legislation to alter the program's time frame this week.

    • Oil and gas companies have proposed more than 150,000 acres of federal land for potential development in the canyons of eastern Utah, some as close as a mile and a half from Arches National Park. The parcels could be auctioned off by the Bureau of Land Management in its September oil and gas lease sale in Utah, conveying drilling rights to the highest bidders for a period of 10 years. Acres nominated for leasing are also close to Canyonlands National Park, Green River and Bears Ears National Monument and encompass areas with wilderness designations and attributes.

    • BLM extended the comment period on the Chaco area drilling plan in response to public outcry can be effective in changing administration policy.

    • Sen. McConnell said he's scheduling a vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the LWCF and address the NPS maintenance backlog, after Memorial Day.

    • Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) is introducing a bill, H.R. 6889, the "Northern Nevada Economic Development, Conservation and Military Modernization Act of 2020," which would triple the acreage of its training complex, Naval Air Station Fallon, near Reno, Nev. The 148-page measure would address plans to significantly expand Naval Air Station Fallon and the Fallon Range Training Complex, as well as address land conveyances in a half-dozen northern counties and create wilderness designations. Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribal Chairman Len George likewise raised concerns about the "monumental impacts" enlarging the naval training center would have, particularly on cultural sites and burials. "Despite the fact that the bill disposes of thousands of acres of our ancestral homelands, we were not consulted in the development of this bill. We and the National Congress of American Indians stand united in opposition to any expansion of NAS Fallon," George told E&E News in a statement.

    • The ACHP has convened a task force on the historic trades. Nicholas Redding of Preservation Maryland will participate, along with representatives from NEA and several colleges and universities. They plan to publish a report this fall.

  • 05/26/2020 2:54 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has extended the use of emergency Section 106 procedures for projects related to COVID-19 until July 31. From the ACHP:

    On April 3, the ACHP authorized an extension to May 29 for all federal agencies to use the emergency procedures to implement COVID-19-related emergency undertakings. These procedures expedite the Section 106 review process for any federal agency that proposes to carry out, license, approve, or fund undertakings that respond to a disaster or emergency declared by the President, a tribal government, or the governor of a state, or which respond to other immediate threats to life or property. Considering the likelihood such declarations will remain in place into the foreseeable near future, the ACHP today extended the use of these provisions until July 31 to allow for the ongoing needs of federal agency response.

    Please note the section 800.12 emergency procedures can only be used for undertakings that will be implemented in response to a disaster or emergency or that respond to other immediate threats to life or property. Examples of such undertakings for COVID-19 response include but are not limited to new construction or adaptation of existing buildings for testing, treatment, or quarantining; creation of COVID-19 temporary facilities; and development of infrastructure specifically built to serve COVID-19 facilities and services. The expedited procedures in section 800.12 do not apply to non-emergency response or recovery undertakings. It is also important to note that the tolling (pausing) of Section 106 reviews by a State or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Indian tribe, or Native Hawaiian organization does not apply to consultation under these emergency procedures.

    The official extension amendment is available here, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for additional updates regarding COVID-19 and the CRM industry.

  • 05/22/2020 2:38 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Department of the Interior has extended the public comment period on the Resource Management Plan (RMP) for expanded oil and gas development near New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Thousands of sacred, ancestral sites of indigenous peoples including the Hopi, Navajo and Zuni are located in the Chaco Canyon region, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

    The extension comes after the agency faced criticism from numerous groups regarding the ability of the public to participate in the comment process during the pandemic. The concern particularly applies to tribal nations living near the Chaco Canyon, as many tribe members do not have access to the broadband infrastructure necessary to participate in the virtual public meetings. From Bloomberg Law:

    The extension announced Thursday heeds calls from the Navajo Nation, activists, and Congressional Democrats to allow Navajos living near Chaco Canyon, hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, to have more time to react to the proposal.

    The Bureau of Land Management, part of Interior, expanded the comment period for 120 days, to Sept. 25. BLM officials offered no explanation for the extension, and bureau spokesman Derrick Henry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

    ACRA members in the region are encouraged to engage in the public comment process. Comments can be submitted online here, and you can also find additional information on the public engagement process on that page. 

  • 05/21/2020 3:38 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    This post initially appeared on the Coalition for American Heritage website. ACRA is a founding member of the Coalition alongside other heritage organizations.

    On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) directing the heads of every federal agency to “waive, suspend and eliminate” all regulations that they consider unnecessary obstacles to economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Whatever changes are made will likely remain in place throughout the remainder of Trump’s term in office. These changes could therefore last eight months, or almost 5 more years, if he is reelected.

    What the Executive Order Does:

    • Requires agencies to identify regulations that may inhibit the economic recovery from COVID-19 and, within applicable law, take appropriate action to waive, repeal, or modify them.
    • Directs agencies to consider using temporary enforcement discretion, such as granting extensions of time for compliance or, possibly, issuing warnings rather than citations for minor violations.
    • Directs agencies to review the regulations they have waived or modified directly due to the COVID-19 national emergency and consider whether those actions should be made permanent.
    • Establishes “principles of fairness” that should be followed in agency enforcement and adjudication.

    Potential Impacts of the Executive Order:

    Much of the EO is a continuation of earlier Trump administration policies, which have focused on reducing regulations since the beginning of his term in office. The usual notice and comment process will still apply to regulatory changes except in those areas where agencies can reasonably cite some emergency authority.

    Notable Changes:

    • The EO directs agencies to use pre-enforcement rulings. Businesses could ask an agency to determine in advance if their proposed conduct is allowable.
    • The EO also directs agencies to decline enforcement action if a good-faith effort was made to comply with a requirement or guidance.
    • Expanded use of enforcement discretion is provided for as long as the economic recovery from the pandemic lasts, not just while the national emergency remains in effect.

    Impact on Historic Preservation:

    The Coalition for American Heritage is monitoring how agencies interpret this order, with a special eye on Section 106. If waivers are attempted, we expect that they will be challenged in court. As the situation develops, we’ll keep you posted about the impacts on the preservation field.

    You can help us with this effort! If you hear about agencies starting to use this executive order to waive Section 106, even it is not for one of your own projects, let us know ASAP. We want to be sure mobilize the CRM industry as quickly as possible if this becomes the case, and your experiences in the field can help us put boots on the ground.

  • 05/20/2020 1:09 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    President Trump signed an Executive Order on Tuesday that instructs federal agencies to consideration deregulatory actions that could potentially spur economic growth. From The Hill:

    The order directs agency heads to “identify regulatory standards that may inhibit economic recovery,” highlighting that regulations could be permanently or temporarily lifted.

    “Just as we continue to battle COVID-19 itself, so too must we now join together to overcome the effects the virus has had on our economy,” the order states.

    “Agencies should address this economic emergency by rescinding, modifying, waiving, or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery.”

    ACRA is keeping a close eye on how agencies interpret and implement this executive order, especially since environmental regulations have already been relaxed amid the pandemic. Read the full article in The Hill here, and you can read the full executive order here. Stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for further updates.

  • 05/19/2020 4:11 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Join us for another FREE members-only virtual happy hour on Tuesday, May 26 at 6:00 pm EDT.

    All employees of ACRA member firms, from field technicians to owners, are welcome to grab a drink of their choice and join ACRA President Nathan Boyless and Executive Director Amanda Stratton online. While the primary focus is allowing members to connect during the pandemic, there is no fixed agenda - we can talk about the industry response, get ideas from your peers about continuing to operate in the current climate, or even just vent about the challenges you have experienced. Members who join will also get a special update about the 2020 ACRA Conference.

    Simply sign up here and we will send you a link to join!

  • 05/18/2020 3:48 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The application for forgiveness for Paycheck Protection Program loans is now available. Many ACRA member firms have taken advantage of this program during the current pandemic, and the SBA and Treasury have been continually putting out guidance to help businesses navigate the PPP.

    The application provides the PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculation Form, the PPP Schedule A, the PPP Schedule A Worksheet, and the (optional) PPP Borrower Demographic Information Form. If you received a PPP loan, you must the PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculation Form and the PPP Schedule A to your lender in order to apply for forgiveness.

    Get the forms and instructions for submitting your application for forgiveness here, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for further updates.

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