Developer cuts acreage from proposal HORSESHOE SOLAR: Parcels removed to preserve ‘culturally significant’ Native American sites

Invenergy has removed more than 70 acres from two parcels in its proposed Horseshoe Solar project following an archaeological survey that found culturally-sensitive areas within the project site, Invenergy said in a news release.

The removal of acreage was revealed in an Article 10 supplement filed Dec. 21 that details results of the Phase 1B field investigation conducted between Sept. 16 and Nov. 28.

The exact locations of the parcels have been redacted in the Phase 1B cultural resources study available to the public to protect the sites and make it harder for would-be looters to loot the sites.

Horseshoe Solar is a 1,268-acre, 600,000-panel solar energy project proposed in the towns of Caledonia and Rush. The project area is considered very sensitive for Native American cultural resources as it partially overlaps the former location of the Canawaugus Reservation, and the project area’s setting the Genesee Valley is generally historically, spiritually and culturally important to the Haudenosaunee.

As part of its obligations under the state’s Article 10 process, which governs how large scale energy generation facilities, are developed in New York, Invenergy was required to conduct studies into the presence of historically significant sites in the areas where it would construct its solar array. Invenergy hired Panamerican Consultants, an archaeological investigations firm with an office in Buffalo, to conduct the surveys. The testing plan was shared with the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and the Tuscarora Nation for review and comment.

The decision to remove the parcels followed recommendations from the surveying summary and in consideration for the wishes of the Indian Nations, Invenergy said.

“Based on the feedback we have received through the consultation process with the Nations and the preliminary survey results, Horseshoe Solar is proactively modifying the project site to ensure these culturally significant areas are preserved and remain undisturbed,” Kate Millar, Horseshoe Solar project developer, said in a news release.

Matthew Pagels, president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Parts of two parcels – 25 and 39 – will be removed from the project due to a high sensitivity for cultural resources at those locations.

Since September, Invenergy has coordinated archaeological field surveys on land where the proposed Horseshoe Solar project may be sited to avoid potentially affecting cultural resources, and to provide confidence and clarity on reported significant sites in the area. Invenergy worked with the Indian Nations and State Historic Preservation Office to ensure surveying was conducted in a respectful comprehensive manner and to establish clear protocols to protect the areas, Invenergy said.

The study identified testing locations within 21 parcels where there was potential for significant soil disturbances associated with the Horseshoe Solar project and which are within archaeologically sensitive locations. Other locations will either not be significantly affected the project, such as little to no soil disturbance, or are not locations with high sensitivity, the study said.

No cultural resources were found in 15 locations. In the other six, the study revealed lithic artifacts, such as tools or debitage, the waste materials from toolmaking; flakes, bifaces, scrappers, pottery pieces or sherds, and 12 animal bones.

The project design will be modified to avoid a location of Parcel 25 where a very dense cluster of artifacts, including three pottery sherds, were found during this investigation. Panel arrays and some collection lines had been proposed for this area, according to the study.

The specific avoidance location and a suitable buffer will be presented to the state Office of Historic Preservation and the Indian Nations once the design is completed, the study said.

The design of the project will also be altered to avoid all construction for about 68 acres, or two-thirds of the more than 103-acre Parcel 39, known as the Golah site. Areas that will be avoided include the northern, central and westernmost portions of Golah where artifact concentrations were identified. The specific avoidance locations and a suitable buffer will be presented once the design in completed, the study said.

“Although only low-impact components such as panel arrays were planned for this area and no verifiable indications of human burials were found; multiple historic documents indicate burials were located in this area and extremely high concentrations of artifacts indicate the area to be comprised of numerous multi-component Native American sites,” the study said.

More than 9,600 items were found at the site, including 9,597 lithic artifacts, 2 pottery sherds, and 12 animal bones, according to the study.

Detailed artifact analysis site interpretation is ongoing, but preliminary analysis of diagnostic artifacts indicates habitation in the area spans thousands of years, the study said.

One bone found in the parcel was repatriated to the Tonawanda Seneca Nation on Nov. 9, 2020, and Invenergy has agreed to maintain a 200-foot avoid buffer around the spot where the bone was found. This avoidance area is contained within the larger avoidance area proposed at Parcel 39. No further archaeological survey work will take place within the buffer and the area will not be included in the development plans of Invenergy, the study said.

The bone was the subject of a dispute that in October prompted Rickey L. Armstrong Sr., president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, to send a letter asking Invenergy to “cease and desist” all activity so it could investigate whether the bone was human.

The bone was among the 12 found in the northern portion of Parcel 39.

“Several of the large bones were immediately obvious to the field crew as butchered animal bones. One of the bones in the cluster … was not immediately obvious to the field crew and had similarities to a human phalange,” the Phase 1B study said.

Three specialists were consulted on the bone. Marie-Lorraine Pipes, a zooarchaeologist and adjunct lecturer of anthropology at SUNY Geneseo, assessed the bones and determined them to be animal remains. Thomas A. Crist, a forensic specialist and professor of anthropology and anatomy at Utica College, determined the remains were non-human. A third specialist, Robyn Wakefield-Murphy, an assistant professor of anatomy at New York Chiropractic College, was commissioned by the Seneca Nation and concluded that the bone is a proximal human foot phalanx. Crist reviewed Wakefield-Murphy’s report and provided a supplemental analysis to support his original conclusions.

At the request of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and the Seneca Nation of Indians, the phalange was repatriated to the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and a 200-foot avoidance buffer maintained around the spot where the phalange bone was found.

The Horseshoe Solar Farm Article 10 application is available on the project website at www.horseshoesolar.com. Hard copies are available at Caledonia Library, 3108 Main St., Caledonia; Caledonia Town Hall, 3109 Main St., Caledonia; Avon Free Library, 143 Genesee St., Avon; Rush Public Library, 5977 East Henrietta Rd., Rush; and Rush Town Hall, 5977 East Henrietta Rd., Rush.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1