3 Rivers Communication Fiber Optic

3 Rivers Communications is embarking on an ambitious Fiber To The Premises (FTTP) project for their entire network. 3 Rivers Communication’s service area, generally speaking, covers a broad swath of North-Central and Southwestern Montana, extending from Browning to Augusta to Neihart and from Melrose to Big Sky to Lima. Fiber optic cable allows large amounts of data to pass quickly from one end to another. The speed of data delivered via fiber optic cable is not distance-dependent and fiber optic cable has a much greater bandwidth capacity than traditional copper wires. Fiber optic cable is a thin strand of glass that allows pulses of light (data) to pass from one end to the other. Since light can travel great distances over fiber optic cable without any weakening of the signal, the speed of data delivered via fiber optic cable is not distance-dependent.

Western Cultural recently completed a cultural resource survey for the Dupuyer, Pendroy, and Fort Shaw Exchanges for 3 River’s FTTP project. The Dupuyer Fiber Optic Exchange Survey covered 106 miles of line in Pondera and Teton Counties. The Pendroy Fiber Optic Exchange Survey covered 104 miles of line in Teton County. The Fort Shaw Fiber Optic Exchange Survey covered 230 miles of line in Cascade, Lewis and Clark, and Teton Counties.

Western Cultural utilized a standardized methodology during the field investigation for the three projects. The surveys crossed various parcels of land owned by the State of Montana and administered by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. The vast majority of the survey area was located on private agricultural lands in rural counties. 3 Rivers contacted all of the property owners along the proposed route to inform them of the cultural survey. Western Cultural followed this with telephone calls to state and federal agency archaeologists to discuss the methodology and to inquire about any concerns or requirements for the project that crossed lands under their management. The methodology was shared with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) prior to the start of the field work in telephone conversations and a formal letter. The purpose of this early outreach to the various federal and state agencies and the Montana SHPO was to ensure the consultation process would proceed as smoothly as possible.

The methodology included a file and literature search along both sides of the fiber optic cable route searching for previously recorded sites and previous cultural resource surveys. If the search revealed the presence of recent previous cultural surveys, this effort would not duplicate those earlier surveys. 3 Rivers provided a set of staking sheets for the exchanges showing the preferred location of where the cable would be buried. The pedestrian survey, 30 meters wide, extended from the center of the road out along the side of the road where the cable will be buried. Field crews were particularly cognizant of those areas in the right of way where road ditches may have cut or exposed buried cultural resources. The survey revisited previously recorded sites within the survey area. When the survey area entered various small communities such as Simms, Fort Shaw and Sun River, the field crews did not survey the route to each house, cross every maintained grass lawn and traveled down each alley. However, if the line extended to a house or ranch in a rural setting, field crews followed the route along these private roads or rural lanes to search for cultural resources.

Field crew members carried field maps showing the route at a 1:24,000 scale, Magellan GPS unit, digital camera, digital range finder, compass, photograph logs, blank Montana SHPO site forms, previously recorded site forms, and maintained daily field notes. The GPS units recorded the UTM coordinates for the sites encountered, digital photographs were taken of every site and recorded on the photograph logs, and site information was compiled in the field onto the appropriate site forms.

The surveys encountered a wide variety of sites including tipi rings, lithic scatters, isolated projectile points, prehistoric travel routes, historic trash scatters, homestead foundations, irrigation ditches, historic roads, historic bridges, military forts, a historic ranching family cemetery, and more.

The Fort Shaw inventory covered approximately 2,730 acres and located 15 new cultural resources, two isolated finds, and revisited 17 previously recorded resources. Two of the newly recorded sites are recommended as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and five of the previously recorded resources are recommended as eligible for the National Register. One site, 24CA0084, Fort Shaw, is formally listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination form noted the presence of historic artifacts scattered across the Fort Shaw site, which was confirmed during the survey. The final recommendations in the report included simple archaeological monitoring occur during the installation of the fiber optic cable at Fort Shaw, that the proposed undertaking will have no effect on any of the remaining cultural resources, and that the proposed undertaking proceed as planned.

The Dupuyer survey covered approximately 1,264 acres. The inventory located ten new cultural resources and revisited two previously recorded resources. None of the resources are recommended as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The final recommendations in the report stated that the proposed undertaking will have no effect on any of the cultural resources, and that the proposed undertaking proceeds as planned.

The Pendroy survey covered approximately 1,264 acres. The inventory located ten new cultural resources and revisited two previously recorded resources. None of the resources are recommended as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The final recommendations in the report stated that the proposed undertaking will have no effect on any of the cultural resources, and that the proposed undertaking proceeds as planned.


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