Section 106, Step by Step

1. Undertaking Determination

The agency initiating a project determines if the proposed project or action is an undertaking by deciding whether the proposed action could result in changes in the character or use of any historic properties. It is important to remember that the agency does not need to know whether historic properties are present of if they will be subject to change.

2. Determining Area of Potential Effects

If the action is an undertaking, the agency must next determine the undertaking's "area of potential effects," which is defined as "the geographic area or areas within which an undertaking may cause changes in the character or use of historic properties, if any such properties exist," [36 CFR 800.2(c)]. It is not necessary to know that the area in question contains historic properties, or even to suspect that such properties exist, in order to determine the area of potential effects. The area of potential effects in not always a contiguous area; there may be multiple alternative project sites or multiple areas in which changes are anticipated.

3. Identifying Historic Properties

The first requirement in identification is that the agency review all available information that can help it determine whether historic properties might be in the area of potential effects. The agency must make a reasonable and good faith effort to locate historic properties that may be affected by the undertaking, and gather enough information to evaluate the properties' eligibility for listing in the National Register.

When properties are found that my be historic but have not been evaluated, it is the agency's responsibility to decide whether the properties are eligible for the National Register. The agency and SHPO consult about eligibility for each property within the area of potential effects. If the property is found to be ineligible the Section 106 review is completed. It the property is found to be eligible the effects of the undertaking on the property must be assessed.

4. Assessing Effects

Once the agency has identified eligible historic properties, it then determines whether its proposed undertaking could affect the properties. The criteria of effect and adverse effect are used to determine potential effects on historic properties. The criterion of effect states that "an undertaking has an effect on a historic property when the undertaking may alter characteristics of the property that may qualify the property for inclusion in the National Register." [36 CFR 800.9(b)] The criteria of adverse effect states that "an undertaking is considered to have an adverse effect when the effect on a historic property may diminish the integrity of the property's location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, or association. " [36 CFR 800.9(b)]

When applying the criteria of effect and adverse effect, there are three possible findings:

  • No Effect: There is no effect of any kind, neither harmful nor beneficial, on the historic properties.
  • No Adverse Effect: There could be an effect, but the effect would not be harmful to those characteristics that qualify the property for inclusion in the National Register.
  • Adverse Effect: There could be an effect, and that effect could harm characteristics that qualify the property for inclusion in the National Register.

5. Actions to Follow After Assessing Effects

If the project will have no effect on historic properties, the proposed undertaking may proceed. If the project will have no adverse effect on historic properties, the agency must submit project documentation to Council for concurrence. If the project will have an adverse effect on historic properties, the agency must begin consultation with the SHPO and Council to minimize the adverse effect.

For information about any of the programs described on this site, write the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, 702 W. Kalamazoo St., P.O. Box 30740, Lansing, MI 48909-8240, or contact us at 517-373-1630 or preservation@michigan.gov.