In Santa Fe, the development process includes a somewhat unique step: the archaeological survey.

During the boom years, the city's Archaeological Review Committee could see as many as 100 surveys in a year, committee Chairwoman Janet McVickar says. These days, it's in the dozens.

One such survey was reported last week by The Louis Berger Group for a 10%uFFFD-acre parcel on W. Alameda Street, part of which encompasses the Bicentennial Alto Park. The city plans to beautify the area.

Much of that area had already been surveyed, but Santa Fe law requires a new survey if 10 years have passed since the previous one.

"There's a lot of erosion or precipitation or surface water flow," McVickar says. "It can either remove dirt exposing things or it can cover things up."

Even if the survey had been conducted yesterday, a second mandate requires that a surveyed area encompassed by a larger, unsurveyed area be re-checked. These reprisals can lead to worthwhile exhumations, McVickar says.

"It happens all the time. You'll survey one area, identify no [archaeological site], and come back 10 years later and there's three sites." Survey records do not become immediately public.

Ron Winters, a Santa Fe archaeologist contracted to lead the survey, estimates the whole project, "a small job," will cost approximately $2,000.