Cultural resources policies & procedures

Transportation agencies must address cultural resources affected by their projects. Follow the policies and procedures on this page to ensure your project appropriately addresses the cultural resources it affects. The treatment of the resources depends on their location, land ownership, and type of resource.

Read Chapter 456: Cultural Resources of our Environmental Manual for legal requirements and policies pertaining to historic, cultural, and archaeological resources.

Find compliance requirements by topic below:

Each WSDOT Region and Division has a designated Cultural Resources Specialist (CRS). Contact your regional specialist for assistance with project scoping, project review, consultant scopes of work (doc 49 kb), tribal consultation, and technical advice. If you are working on a project involving a state highway bridge, contact WSDOT’s Historian.

Evaluating Impacts to Cultural Resources 

Federal and state laws mandate that all projects be evaluated for their effects on cultural resources. Your project will require a federal Section 106 review if it has:

  • Federal funding
  • Requires a federal permit
  • Takes place on federal or tribal land

If your project has no federal nexus, you must comply with the Governor’s Executive Order 05-05. 

Exempt projects

If your project or activity has no potential or minimal potential to impact cultural resources, it may be exempt from Section 106 and GEO 0505 review per stipulations of the Statewide Programmatic Agreement. Contact your regional CRS to see if your project meets the established criteria as an exempt activity.

Each month an Exempted Projects Report (pdf 82 kb) is posted online. Register for the Cultural Resources Program email updates to be notified when a new list is available.

Section 106 review

For nonexempt projects, see our Section 106 Process Flowchart (pdf 66 kb) as an overview of the Section 106 compliance process for Federal-aid Highway projects per the Statewide Programmatic Agreement. This process may differ between federal agencies. Contact your regional cultural resources specialist (CRS) to complete the Section 106 review process.  

Find information about how Section 106 applies to historic highway bridges below.

Governor's Executive Order 05-05

If your non-exempt project is state-funded with no federal nexus, you are required to comply with the Governor’s Executive Order 05-05 (GEO 05-05).

Review the WSDOT GEO 05-05 Process Flowchart (pdf 58 kb) for a general overview of this compliance process. Contact your regional CRS to complete GEO 05-05 review.

Historic bridges on project sites

WSDOT maintains an inventory of historic state highway bridges in Washington state that includes all bridges recommended, nominated, determined eligible or listed on the NRHP by WSDOT.

If your project affects a federal interstate highway bridge included in one or more of the following lists, maintained by the Federal Highway Administration, you must include it in your Section 106 evaluation. 

Preconstruction planning for cultural resource discovery

If your project involves ground disturbance, you are required to develop an Unanticipated Discovery Plan (docx 62.5 kb) (also known as an Inadvertent Discovery Plan or a Post-Review Discovery Plan). Contact your regional CRS to develop a project specific UDP. A UDP provides guidance through the notification process for an unanticipated discovery of archaeological or historic resource during project activities.  

If reconnaissance studies indicate there is a probability of finding cultural material on your project site of a type that will require monitoring, review the General Special Provisions for Discovery of Archaeological and Historic Resources (pdf 16 kb).

Construction compliance

Refer to our Environmental commitments & compliance page for general construction compliance information.

If your project encounters cultural resources during construction, refer to your project’s Unanticipated Discovery Plan (docx 7.48 mb).

See Cultural Resources Compliance during Construction (pdf 3.18 mb) for a description of the requirement to report potential cultural resources found during construction. This document includes visuals to help you identify objects and features that would require reporting.

See Procedures during Construction Pertaining to Cultural Resources (pdf 50 kb) for an overview of compliance procedures and policies pertaining to historic and cultural resources encountered during construction.


The following links, organized alphabetically, provide additional background information on cultural resource management laws and regulations.