FEDERAL LAWS PROTECTING HISTORIC RESOURCES
The federal government has established several laws designed to protect historic resources from harmful government actions. These laws were in response to the loss of so many historic buildings as a result of federal government-supported programs like the federal highway system and urban renewal. The Soldiers Home falls under the protection of at least three of these laws, based on (1) its status as a historic property on federal land; (2) its designation as a National Historic Landmark (NHL); and (3) potential impacts from adjacent federal transportation projects.
HISTORIC PROPERTIES ("SECTION 106")
Federal agencies – like the Department of Veterans Affairs – are required to take into account the effect of their actions on historic properties under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) (16 U.S. Code § 470f). The goal is to accommodate historic preservation concerns through consultations beginning early in project planning.
NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS [NHLs] (“Section 110”)
NHL properties like the Milwaukee Soldiers Home are further protected under NHPA Section 110(f) which says, “The head of the responsible Federal agency shall, to the maximum extent possible, undertake such planning and actions as may be necessary to minimize harm to such landmark…” [16 U.S.C. 470h-2(f)]
FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS
In addition, federal transportation projects requiring the use of publicly owned land of historic significance can only be approved if: (a) there is no prudent and feasible alternative to using that land; and (b) the project includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the … historic site resulting from the use.” See Section 4(f) of the National Transportation Act [49 U.S.C. 303]
Taken together, these laws require that federal agencies consider alternatives and modifications to proposed projects and programs to “avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects on historic properties,” and to consider the views of others – including the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and consulting parties. After consultation, the parties codify their consensus on the best way to resolve adverse effects to historic properties in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or Programmatic Agreement (PA).
Section 106/110 Consultations for Milwaukee Soldiers Home:
When Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee proposed to build four community living centers on the grounds of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home in April 2010, it entered into Section 106/110 consultations. As part of the resulting Programmatic Agreement, the Milwaukee VAMC agreed to:
Stabilize and repair the rear wing of Old Main (Building 2) where the roof had collapsed and the roof and roof trusses of the Ward Theater (Building 41);
Conduct quarterly meetings with the consulting parties to develop a campus-wide PA; and
Prepare separate MOA for all future projects as they occur.