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Last Updated: Friday, February 3, 2012 11:30 AM

EXHIBIT 5.6 Data Recovery Plan Format and Content Guide

Exhibit 5.6 PDF version here

Data Recovery Plan Format

Refer to Chapter 5 Section 5-8 for a general discussion of archaeological data recovery studies, also referred to as "Phase III" work.

The following information is provided to assist with archaeological data recovery plan preparation. The data recovery plan (DRP), is included as a technical appendix to the Finding of Effect (FOE) and/or the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which is submitted to the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) for review and approval. The DRP is different from a proposal in that it provides enough information for SHPO and the ACHP to allow for their concurrence on Caltrans’ general level of effort, but does not contain detailed discussions of project schedule, personnel, or cost. The DRP’s purpose is to demonstrate to SHPO and the ACHP that the level of effort appears justified and the expected costs are not unreasonable.

The plan should include at minimum the sections outlined below.

Title Page

Data Recovery Plan Format
  • Title page
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Site Description
  • Site Significance / Research Issues
  • Proposed Investigation
  • Public Outreach Plan
  • Native American Coordination
  • Personnel
  • Curation
  • Permits
  • Anticipated Scope and Schedule
  • References Cited
  • Maps
  • Appendices
  • In the title, identify the document as a Data Recovery Plan; cite the primary number and trinomial of the site, and the name of the transportation project.
  • Below the title, identify the proposed highway project and reference the District, county, route, post mile, and expenditure authorization.
  • Provide the name, title, and location of the plan's author(s). The senior author is to sign the title page of the plan.
  • Provide the name, title, and location of the District Environmental Branch Chief (EBC) for whom the plan was prepared. Approval of the plan is documented by the EBC's signature on the title page.
  • Provide the date (month and year) of completion of the report at the bottom of the page.

Table of Contents

List the major sections, subheadings, appendices, tables, and figures, with page numbers.


  • Discuss the goals of the study and the general nature of the research plan.
  • Identify the site(s) by primary number and trinomial.
  • Identify the National Register status of the site(s).
  • State why the DRP is required (e.g., compliance with NHPA and the Section 107 Programmatic Agreement1 (Section 106 PA).

Site Description

Concisely describe and discuss:

  • General topographic setting
  • Dimensions
  • Spatial relationship between the site and the project's Area of Potential Effects (APE) and Area of Direct Impact (ADI)
  • The general nature of artifacts and ecofacts found during prior investigations
  • Archaeological features
  • Temporal components and their chronological placement (for historic-period sites, discuss the site’s relationship to broader historical themes)
  • Functional interpretation (i.e., site type)

Refer reader to technical reports, as appropriate, for more detailed information.

Site Significance and Research Issues

  • Explicitly state that the site is eligible for inclusion in the National Register under criterion D.
  • Discuss under the appropriate subsections the research issues to which the site has the potential to contribute significant additional information (e.g., Chronology, Settlement Systems, Exchange, etc. for prehistoric sites, and specific historical themes for historic-period sites).
  • State what site constituents are important for generating the data to address the research questions including explicit links between the data expected and the proposed research goals. Pursuant to Section 106 PA Attachment 6, discuss how the public’s interest is served through the recovery of data related to the proposed research questions and themes.

Proposed Investigation

Discuss the general plan and procedures for all stages of the investigation. The discussion of methods and data needs identified must demonstrate cost effectiveness and be specifically linked to the research questions. Discuss in the appropriate subsections the provisions made for the following:

A. Additional background research (if needed)

B. Field investigations

  • Mapping: Identify how the site and features will be mapped and how the archaeological work will be documented.
  • Surface collection: Indicate areas and types of materials to be collected, and methods for documenting provenience.
  • Excavation: Identify excavation methods (manual, mechanical), amount of excavation (square and/or cubic meters; maximum and minimum), unit size, sorting method (wet, dry), screen size, and the records to be kept. Include a discussion of any special methods required for anticipated archaeological features.

C. Laboratory processing

  • Cataloging: State that all recovered material will be cleaned appropriately and cataloged following current professional standards and the requirements of the curation facility.
  • Analytical studies: Discuss expected analytical studies (e.g., chronometric, lithic, soil studies), and allow for other analytical studies if appropriate materials are recovered.
  • Reporting: Indicate that a final report will be prepared, documenting and interpreting the results of the data recovery program.

Public Outreach Plan

  • Discuss and identify specific measures for disseminating the results of the program to professionals and to the public
  • As in other aspects of site testing and data recovery, outreach efforts should be commensurate with the scope and scale of the project, and the nature and significance of the historic property

Native American Coordination

  • Describe the previous and anticipated future involvement of Native Americans through consultation and monitoring.
  • Describe the actions to be taken if human bone, associated grave artifacts, or items of cultural patrimony are found.


  • State that the data recovery program will be conducted and/or overseen by archaeologists meeting the Caltrans Professionally Qualified Staff (PQS) standards as identified in Section 106 PA Attachment 1.
  • State that, if appropriate, the services of specialists will be obtained as necessary.


  • Specify the facility that will curate the recovered cultural materials.
  • Provide the accession number, if known.


Discuss any permits that are needed to conduct the archaeological work. These may include federal or state permits, private landowner’s permission, and Caltrans’ encroachment permits.

Anticipated Scope and Schedule

Discuss anticipated funds required, timing and duration of proposed work, and any subsequent planning, such as the development of a Phase III proposal (see Chapter 5 Section 5-8.4). While specific costs and personnel may not be known at the time a DRP is prepared, an estimate is needed to inform agency commitments documented in an MOA.

References Cited

  • List all references used in the Data Recovery Plan text.
  • Bibliographic format should follow the most recent American Antiquity style guide.


All maps should display the district, county, route, post miles, and expenditure authorization for the project, and should feature a north arrow and a graphic scale. The following maps should be attached to the report.

  • Study Vicinity Map: Depict the location of the Study on a county or district map.
  • Study Location Map: Depict study location on portion of the appropriate USGS topographic map. Make sure to identify the topographic map by name, type (e.g., 7.5-minute), and date of latest revision.
  • Attach a map that shows the site boundaries in relation to the APE/ADI, as well as the portions of the site where Phase III excavations are proposed. Ideally, the map will indicate proposed locations of different types of excavation activities (shovel testing, control units, backhoe trenching or grading, etc.). The base for this map may be a topographic or planimetric map, or an aerial photograph. Most importantly, however, the map must be at a scale that is sufficient (e.g., 1":200’, 1":100’) to allow for clearly depicting the spatial relationship between the transportation project and the proposed test excavations.
  • Other Graphics: Include additional photographs, engineering cross sections, as-builts or other materials to illustrate project area conditions and support the proposal.


  • Updated site records for each site where testing is proposed
  • Native American Monitor agreements
  • Curation agreements
  • Other materials as appropriate

Peer Review and Approval

Caltrans PQS certified at the Principal Investigator level must peer review the draft DRP following the guidelines in Exhibit 2.14: Guidelines for Peer Review of Cultural Resources Reports. Peer reviewers’ names should be kept on record and comments retained in the project files. Chapter 2 Section 2-5.5 and Exhibit 2.11 Table C contain additional guidance on peer reviews and reviews for approvals.

Only Caltrans PQS at the Principal Investigator level may review the final DRP for approval, which the EBC approves. The Caltrans PQS or consultant who prepares the DRP signs, dates and includes his/her discipline, PQS level (as applicable) and District/Headquarters or affiliation. The Caltrans PQS reviewing the DRP for approval likewise signs, dates, and includes his/her PQS discipline, level and District. Finally, the EBC approves the DRP by signing and dating the document. See Chapter 5 Section 5-8.3 for more detailed information.

1 Programmatic Agreement Among the Federal Highway Administration, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the California State Historic Preservation Officer, and the California Department of Transportation Regarding Compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as it Pertains to the Administration of the Federal-Aid High-way Program in California