Taos Broadband Project

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) hired Tierra to conduct extensive cultural resource and biological surveys and environmental permitting for the Taos Broadband Project, which entailed the installation of a fiber-optic network that will parallel the existing KCEC electrical distribution system within Colfax, Rio Arriba, and Taos Counties in New Mexico. 

The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Initiative Program and was located on lands under the jurisdiction of multiple State and Federal agencies, including the New Mexico State Land Office, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), Carson National Forest (CNF), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Taos and Picuris Pueblos.

Carson National Forest Surveys
The buried portion of the KCEC network crossing CNF lands totaled approximately 8.4 miles distributed over 148 segments of scattered and discontiguous utility easements. Tierra performed pedestrian cultural resource surveys over a total of 51 acres along these segments. Fieldwork took place in July and September of 2012, and two newly discovered sites, seven previously recorded sites, and three acequias were documented. Tierra also completed a biological survey report, wetland report, and a Categorical Exclusion for the project, which were reviewed, processed, and approved following a 45-day public notice period. Tierra’s report on the cultural resources survey has been accepted by all reviewing agencies involved, and the Taos Broadband Project has been permitted to proceed on CNF lands.

NMDOT Surveys
The portion of the Fiber-to-the-Home project area within NMDOT rights of way consisted of 179 segments totaling 10.2 miles in length, with an estimated average width of 50 feet. The survey area measured approximately 64 acres in total. A total of 7 previously recorded sites were updated, and 2 newly discovered sites, 3 acequias, and 64 historic buildings were fully documented. The resulting survey report has been accepted by the NMDOT, RUS, and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and the project has been permitted to proceed in the areas surveyed.

BLM Cultural Resource Inventory and Environmental Assessments
During the cultural resource inventory of approximately 610 acres of BLM TFO–managed lands, 76 isolated occurrences, 53 archaeological sites, 3 historic buildings, and 2 acequia segments were documented. A large portion of the survey area was located on the Taos Plateau, and many segments fell within the newly established Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. In addition to the three historic buildings, three archaeological sites were historic homesteads that contained multiple abandoned historic buildings and structures. Highlights of the inventory include the documentation of 17 sites with Archaic period (8500–1500 B.P.) components, eight Northern Rio Grande Classic period (A.D. 1325–1550) agricultural sites, and five segments of the abandoned railroad grade of the Denver & Rio Grande (D&RG) Railroad Chili Line.

A report detailing the results of the investigation was completed in the Fall of 2013. Tierra also completed a biological survey and subsequent Environmental Assessments of the Taos Broadband Project for the BLM’s Taos Field Office and Picuris Pueblo.