Remains not unusual find at Oak Harbor sewage plant site

The project engineer for Oak Harbor’s sewage plant project has lost count of how many times human remains have been found at the site.

The inadvertent discoveries, however, haven’t stopped the work on the large-scale project.

Brett Arvidson, project engineer, announced to the city council Tuesday that human remains had been found the week before.

Arvidson said such finds don’t stop the work, which is on schedule to be completed next year. He said he doesn’t know how many times remains were found. Earlier in the project, for example, 28 sets of remains were unearthed in a period of a couple of weeks.

He explained that a memorandum of understanding between the city and six Native American tribes sets out a process for the city to follow for each find.

The agreement has been helpful in detailing the response, City Administrator Doug Merriman said, and has made everyone involved aware of the importance of cultural sensitivity with regard to the remains.

According to Arvidson, the first step is to call a physical anthropologist to the site. The police and coroner are notified so they can determine that it isn’t a crime scene. The state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation is also notified and ultimately takes custody of the remains.

Arvidson said there have been as many as four archaeologists on site at one time; the city has its own archaeologist on staff.

An archaeological firm took core samples at the site and determined before digging began that the unearthing of culturally sensitive material was likely. As a result, the city worked with the tribes to set up a process.

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