Air, water, permitting, natural and cultural resources, and the National Environmental Policy Act groups comprise the Environmental Stewardship function at Pantex Plant. Staff members support the law through sampling and field activities to ensure the safety of the Plant's environment for the public, the workers, and the plant and animal populations.
Pantex is committed to maintaining full compliance with all applicable environmental statutes, regulations, and permits. Pantex remains responsive to the public interest in the environmental programs and efforts to clean up the site and keep it clean.
Numerous cultural resources have been identified on Pantex Plant land owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)/NNSA Production Office (NPO) and on land leased by DOE from Texas Tech University (TTU). These resources include 69 archeological sites indicating prehistoric Aboriginal and historic Euroamerican occupation and use of Plant land. They also include the standing structures, foundations, and other extant features that were once part of the Pantex Ordnance Plant (1942-1945), the World War II predecessor of Pantex Plant. In addition, many structures and features associated with Cold War Era (1951-1991) operations at the Plant are included in the cultural resource inventory. The Plant also has valuable historic documents, records, and artifacts pertinent to interpretation of the prehistoric and historic human activities conducted on the Plant site. A number of these resources are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, and warrant protection and preservation under the nation's cultural resource management (CRM) laws and regulations.
The DOE is committed to managing its cultural resources at Pantex Plant in compliance with all applicable CRM laws and regulations. The key requirements at the federal level are the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended (PL 89-655), American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 (PL 95-341), Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (PL 96-95), Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (PL 101-601), and Executive Order 13287 Preserve America. The primary implementing regulations under the federal CRM statutes are in 36 CFR 60, 63, 79, 800, 43 CFR 7, and 43 CFR 10. The DOE has also issued Policy 141.1, Management of Cultural Resources, several orders, memoranda, and documents designed to guide the CRM process at DOE sites.
In October 2004, NPO, Pantex, the Texas State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation completed execution of a Programmatic Agreement and Cultural Resource Management Plan (PA/CRMP). This PA/CRMP ensures compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA, providing for more efficient and effective review of Plant projects having the potential to impact prehistoric, World War II era, or Cold War era properties. In addition, the PA/CRMP outlines a range of preservation activities planned for the Plant’s Section 110 compliance program. The PA/CRMP provides for the systematic management of all archeological and historic resources at Pantex Plant under a single document.
The following information briefly describes the land-use history of the area that is now Pantex Plant; Native American issues, and the investigative work and decisions under each of the three major historic contexts: archeology, World War II, and the Cold War.
Pantex Plant Land-use History
Prehistoric Native Americans once roamed the “Llano Estacado” of the Southern High Plains, including the site that is now Pantex Plant in Carson County, Texas. The archeological record left by these early Native Americans indicates that they had seasonally exploited the buffalo and antelope herds of the playa-dotted short grass prairie uplands for thousands of years. The lifestyles of these prehistoric peoples were drastically altered with the arrival after the 1500s of Spanish and French, then Mexicans and Americans. The clashes among and between these cultures brought conflict and continued change to the Southern High Plains. Groups of Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, Arapaho, and Cheyenne continued to use the Southern High Plains sporadically, in much the same ways as their prehistoric ancestors. By 1878, the great buffalo herds were completely destroyed, Native American groups were removed, and the new inhabitants of the Llano Estacado brought ranching and farming, which continued as the dominant industry until the advent of World War II.
In 1942, the U.S. Army Ordnance Department chose the site for construction of a bomb-loading facility. The 16,000-acre industrial Pantex Ordnance Plant, designed and constructed in only 9 months, sprang up in the middle of a traditional rural farming and ranching community, bringing with it great social and demographic change.
With the end of World War II in August 1945, the Plant ceased operation even more abruptly than it had begun. However, this inactivity ended in 1951, when the newly created Atomic Energy Commission reclaimed more than half of the original site as a high explosives fabrication and nuclear weapons assembly facility. From 1951 to 1991, a period defined by the large-scale production of nuclear weapons, Pantex Plant's mission and activities fluctuated according to the cycles of the Cold War, remaining always at the very core of the nation's Cold War nuclear weapons complex.
In 1975, the DOE’s Burlington Iowa Plant ceased nuclear weapons assembly operations, leaving Pantex Plant as the nation's only nuclear weapons assembly/disassembly facility. After 1991, the Plant’s primary mission shifted to the disassembly of nuclear weapons, and remains so today.
Native American Issues
In May 1994, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Amarillo Area office contacted by mail and phone, ten Native American tribal groups in New Mexico and Oklahoma as potential stakeholders in activities at the Pantex Plant. Activities with which these groups could potentially be concerned were the Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS), prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the development of a comprehensive CRMP under the National Historic Preservation Act. The Native American tribal groups contacted were: Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Jicarilla Apache Tribe, Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe of Oklahoma, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma, Delaware Tribe of Western Oklahoma, and the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. Two New Mexico tribes indicated that they appreciated the notification, but would not have additional comments. Interest in knowing more about Pantex Plant activities was expressed by the eight remaining tribes. Each of them was visited at its tribal offices by Pantex Plant Cultural Resources Management staff in June 1994.
Discussions were open and positive and each of these tribes was provided with information packets. They were given the opportunity to view a video on the process, and were provided with information about the development of cultural resources protection activities for the Plant’s compliance program. They were explicitly asked to indicate whether they had concerns with planned activities at Pantex Plant, or whether those plans impacted any of their traditional interests. Several indicated some concern in nearby Palo Duro Canyon or the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, but none indicated interests in the Pantex Plant area. A few explicitly denied such interests; most simply knew of none. Several tribes indicated that if prehistoric human burials were located at the Plant, they would then have such concerns, and that compliance with the terms of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) would satisfy those concerns. They were assured that the Pantex Plant cultural resources protection program included full NAGPRA compliance. The tribes were encouraged to notify Pantex Plant in the event that they had concerns in the future, and that those concerns would be seriously considered on a government-to-government basis. This invitation remains standing. Two of these groups, the Kiowa and Apache Tribes of Oklahoma, have since been in further contact with Pantex Plant.
As a follow up and confirmation of the 1994 Native American visits, CRM staff completed a Native American treaty search in September 1996. The purpose of this study was to identify federally recognized Native American tribes that have treaty or traditional, cultural, or religious interests in preserving cultural or related natural resources on DOE’s Pantex Plant. Research conducted for this study revealed no Executive Orders related to Native American issues or interests on Pantex Plant land. Two treaties concluded in 1865 and 1867 involve Native American rights to land including what is now Pantex Plant; however, all land claims related to these two treaties have been settled in courts of the Indian Claims Commission. This study has revealed no federally recognized Native American tribes with recognized title or treaty rights to the Pantex Plant land area.
Through the Indian Claims Commission judicial process, the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache tribes of Oklahoma have been identified as Native American tribes with “judicially established” ties to the area of the Texas Panhandle and Pantex Plant. Although not listed as a tribe with judicially established ties to this area, the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe of Oklahoma may have traditional, cultural, or religious interests in the land area of Pantex Plant. Historical accounts indicate that this tribe may have inhabited this area on a seasonal basis, and therefore may have an interest in the natural and cultural resources on Pantex Plant land.
The Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, and Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma were contacted to determine the existence and extent of their interests in the future use of the Pantex Plant land area and its cultural and natural resources. Copies of the draft Native American Treaty Search Summary of Findings were submitted to the identified Native American tribes for comment or clarification in July 1997. No responses were received. No Native American burial remains or traditional cultural properties have been identified at Pantex Plant, and based on completed survey and identification work, none are anticipated. However, should such items be discovered at Pantex Plant, they would be treated according to the requirements of the NAGPRA.
The first professional archeological study at Pantex Plant was conducted by West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M University) during spring of 1981. This study was an archeological survey of the main Plant site and Pantex Lake. The south portion of the Plant, currently leased to DOE by TTU, was not included in this survey. Forty-five archeological sites were located by this survey. Three of these sites were identified as historic farmsteads, and the remaining 42 sites were identified as prehistoric Native American sites. All of these sites, with the exception of one farmstead, were located near four (of six) playa lakes. This survey represented an important beginning for CRM at Pantex Plant. A cultural resources management program was established at Pantex Plant in 1993 by the Environmental Protection Department (now the Environmental Compliance Department). A full-time cultural resources manager was hired to develop and implement this program, which was designed to achieve full compliance with all applicable CRM requirements and guidelines. This program marked the beginning of a more systematic and comprehensive approach to cultural resources studies at Pantex Plant.
The first archeological excavations at Pantex Plant were conducted on 23 sites between April 1993 and March 1994. These test excavations were designed to collect information and data for determining the potential National Register eligibility of the sites.
Several archeological studies designed to support the overall CRM process at Pantex Plant have been completed. A major thrust of these studies has been systematic survey coverage of all areas surrounding the playas, plus a substantial sample of nonplaya areas. One such project, involving a systematic survey of TTU land, was conducted in February-March 1994. It covered a previously unsurveyed area of 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres). Eight new archeological sites were located by this survey. Six of these were Native American sites, and two were predominantly historic sites. When this survey was completed, most of the TTU portion of Pantex Plant had been surveyed.
Regular monitoring of two prehistoric archeological sites in 1996 revealed that erosion had exposed bison bones at site 41CZ66. Emergency excavation was conducted under the leadership of a qualified archeologist, as the bones could not be protected in-situ. The excavated bones were sent to the Texas Tech University Museum for faunal analysis, with a final report completed August 1997. In addition, the Texas Tech University Museum developed a traveling interpretive exhibit with the bison remains as the focal point, supported by photographs and text. Over a period of several years, this exhibit was displayed at different Panhandle area museums on a 3- or 4-month rotation.
The prehistoric archeological sites at Pantex Plant have been evaluated by the NPO in consultation with the Texas SHPO. Based on this consultation, NPO has determined that two sites, 41CZ66 and 41CZ23, are potentially eligible for inclusion on the National Register, and that the remaining 55 prehistoric sites are not eligible. A final determination of eligibility for sites 41CZ66 and 41CZ23 would require more extensive testing, which is not planned. Rather, these two sites will be protected and monitored as though they are eligible, until such time as they might be affected by a Plant project.
Although the NPO has determined that only two archeological sites are potentially eligible for inclusion on the National Register, 22 additional prehistoric archeological sites have been protected within three multi-resource playa management units. The archeological sites at Pantex Plant are the only grouping of Southern High Plains sites located near contiguous playas that has been the subject of detailed and systematic study; other studies have been of sites and areas along the streams draining the Llano Estacado margins or of individual playas or portions thereof. These sites are also the largest such resource grouping in the Southern High Plains under federal protection, and perhaps the only site grouping with the demonstrated research potential to represent collective prehistoric human use of the region's playas.
The 12 Euroamerican archeological sites have also been evaluated by the NPO. The NPO has determined, in consultation with the Texas SHPO that these 12 sites lack integrity, and are not eligible for inclusion on the National Register.
World War II
A comprehensive survey of the World War II era resources at Pantex Plant began in 1992 when DOE authorized an inventory of buildings constructed between 1942 and 1945. This research was divided into three phases including developing a local World War II historical context statement for the Plant, surveying the World War II standing structures in the active zones of the Plant, and surveying the foundational remains of World War II-era buildings in non-operational areas. In early 1994 DOE authorized the development of a national-level World War II context statement. The NPO determined, in consultation with the Texas SHPO, that the Plant’s remaining War II-era buildings and structures are not eligible for inclusion on the National Register. Neither the standing properties, most of which were modified significantly during the Cold War, nor the foundational remains retain the integrity, individually or as a district, required for National Register eligibility. However, many of the standing World War II-era properties were later used during the Cold War, and are eligible for inclusion on the National Registers under the Plant’s Cold War context.
The NHPA also includes historic records in its definition of cultural or historical properties; therefore, a limited number of original World War II era drawings and documents have been identified and preserved in the Plant’s environmentally controlled records storage area.
The National Historic Preservation Act typically applies only to historic properties that are at least 50 years old, unless they are of “exceptional importance.” Many properties at Pantex Plant are associated with the Cold War arms race (1951 through 1991), and are of exceptional importance. As the final assembly, maintenance, distribution, and disassembly facility for the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal, Pantex Plant lies at the very heart of Cold War history. The historical resources of this period are among the Plant's most significant, and offer a valuable contribution to the nation's cultural heritage. Accordingly, a full-time historian was hired in 1994.
The Cold War era resources of Pantex Plant consist of approximately 675 buildings and structures, and a large inventory of related equipment and documents. Systematic study of these resources began in 1995 with the development of a Cold War literature search. This literature search, completed in 1996, was national in scope, including both primary and secondary sources.
In 1997, an oral history program was developed to capture previously undocumented information from long-time Pantex employees. At the end of fiscal year 1997, this program collected 21 oral histories, totaling approximately 30 tape-recorded hours. Transcription of 13 of these interviews yielded over 350 pages of information. Many of these transcribed oral histories are in both classified and edited, unclassified versions.
Also initiated in 1997 was a Cold War era building survey. In coordination with the Plant’s Site Planning Department, this survey developed into a building survey database that is linked to the DOE’s Facility Inventory Management System database. All Cold War buildings were surveyed on a preliminary basis, all design and modification drawings were reviewed, and approximately half of the Plant’s Cold War buildings were documented in an intensive survey format.
The information collected through the Cold War literature search, the oral history program, and the building surveys formed the basis of a draft Cold War Context Statement completed in 1999, and a draft Cultural Resources Management Plan completed in 2000. The draft Cold War Context Statement was significantly revised in 2001, incorporating review comments from the Texas SHPO, Advisory Council, DOE sites, and academic and federal personnel with historic preservation and Cold War history background and responsibilities. In 2003, the Cold War context statement was finalized and the draft cultural resource management plan was revised with a draft programmatic agreement added. Formal consultations were completed in October 2004 with the execution of the final PA/CRMP, including eligibility determinations and management decisions for identified resources related to all three historic contexts.
A range of preservation activities are listed in the PA/CRMP for Cold War era resources, including the preservation in-situ of 10 National Register-eligible buildings, photographic documentation of 173 buildings National Register–eligible buildings, preservation of records related to the Plant’s Cold War-era missions, and development of a review process to identify Cold War related artifacts and equipment and evaluate them for preservation actions. Several actions have already been taken to preserve artifacts that are clearly critical to the understanding of the Plant’s Cold War history; examples include the identification and preservation of nuclear weapon trainers, and the identification and preservation of specially made tooling used for the assembly and disassembly of nuclear weapons. In addition, many documents, photographs, reels of film, and drawings relating to the Plant’s early Cold War history have been identified and preserved.