By Devin Fehely

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A solar panel project in the South Bay may have disturbed a Native American burial site.

“The bottom line is, you don’t disturb remains,” Santa Clara County Planning Director Kirk Girard said.

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But Santa Clara County could have potentially done just that, having started and nearly finished installing solar panels on what turns out to be a well-known and well-documented Ohlone Indian burial ground.

“The impact to the people buried there is great,” San Jose State University Archaeology Professor Alan Leventhal said.

Leventhal specializes in the history of California’s native tribes like the Ohlone, and says the first set of Ohlone remains was discovered near the site in 1973.

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Dozens more were removed during the construction of Highway 87.

But, the current project was well underway before someone alerted the county to the site’s history, and left them scrambling to correct their error.

“With the knowledge that we’re working in an area that’s had an archaeological survey where remains were found, we’ve got to design the project so no remains are disturbed,” Girard said.

The county has since hired an archaeology firm, and arranged for members of the Ohlone tribe to be present when work resumes.

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“Their particular concern is they don’t want their ancestral heritage sites destroyed. And at the same time, they want to be able to reconnect as stewards of their ancestral heritage,” Leventhal said.