An Oak Harbor road construction project is stalled this week after construction workers found human bones in a main downtown street.
The bones belonged to three different people and are believed to be of native American descent, according to the Oak Harbor Oak Harbor Department of Public Works. Construction workers were putting in new street lights, sidewalks and utilities on Oak Harbor’s Pioneer Way, when they found the remains. The street was originally paved in the 1920s.
The state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation conducted a preliminary evaluation of the remains to confirm their origin. The department also identified more than nine other piles of soil already removed by the city that also contain human skeletal material.
The DAHP contacted 11 tribes about the remains in an attempt to gauge interest in holding a public meeting to discuss what should be done with the remains.
DAHP representatives said that the city should have known the risks of that particular site and been more prepared to deal with discovery.
In May of 2009, the department wrote a letter to the City of Oak Harbor, notifying them that the proposed construction site was located near a known archaeological site. The department recommended that the city hire a professional archaeologist to monitor construction and consult with the tribes’ cultural committees.
On Monday, the department sent the city a follow-up letter. "I strongly recommended that you hire a professional archaeologist to help you plan for and work through issues arising from the discovery of archaeological materials," wrote Transportation Archaeologist, Lance Wollwage. "Given your clear and advanced warning of the Project’s archaeological hazards, we do not understand why our expertise and recommendations were ignored."