Policy Update Mar 19, 2018

Position on H.R. 2584 & H.R. 5210

NPCA submitted the following positions to the House Committee on Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee ahead of a hearing scheduled for March 20, 2018.

The National Park Service recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary, yet the Service is suffering from $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance needs including crumbling roads and bridges, run-down trails, deteriorating historic buildings, memorials and monuments, and outdated and unsafe water, sewer and electrical systems. Roughly one-third of the overall list is critical projects. This challenge is largely due to aging infrastructure that in some cases has outlived its life-cycle and insufficient federal funding over decades.

NPCA is pleased to see bipartisan, bicameral interest in addressing our national parks maintenance needs and it is our hope that Congress can deliver a solution that provides robust, realistic and dependable multi-year funding.

H.R. 2584: National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017 – NPCA supports this legislation which will dedicate nearly $12 billion over the next thirty years to address the National Park Service’s $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog. The funding would come from onshore and offshore mineral royalties that are not otherwise dedicated to other purposes such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund, two programs that NPCA also supports.

This legislation would provide park managers the consistent and reliable funding by setting specific amounts of funding every year to plan for and effectively address backlog projects. Many of the largest, high-priority projects will require certainty for multi-year funding. The bill also dedicates 80 percent to non-transportation projects (trails, visitor facilities, water systems, etc.) and 20 percent to transportation projects, which receive additional funding from the Highway Trust Fund. In addition, this law includes a philanthropic component to prioritize projects that can leverage a partnership match.

H.R. 5210: National Park Restoration Act – NPCA is concerned that this bill doesn’t provide the funding reliability and certainty like the National Park Service Legacy Act. The bill would establish a fund that would receive 50 percent of royalties from all types of energy development on federal lands and waters over expected revenues that are not already obligated to other purposes like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund. NPCA is concerned that very little funding could result over the ten-year bill to address the maintenance backlog if the projections are correct.

NPCA is also concerned with the lack of certainty of the funding stream. Construction projects rely on multi-year funding that is known and dependable at the outset, which in part helps the National Park Service stage projects and work with contractors who need multi-year funding certainty. We fear that without a specific, known amount each year, the uncertainty of the funding available would challenge the National Park Service to engage in the procurement and contracting that is needed for successful repair and reconstruction projects.

Finally, NPCA needs assurances that the funding source in this bill does not have to rely on the Secretary of the Interior’s proposal to expand drilling into sensitive areas, as stated in the Administration’s infrastructure proposal.

In conclusion, investing in park infrastructure makes good sense: it preserves our nation’s heritage for future generations, creates infrastructure-related jobs, and protects local communities that depend on park tourism. The national parks need Congress to provide a solution that provides robust, realistic and dependable multi-year funding.

A Few Examples of Park Maintenance Needs That Must Be Addressed:

Trail and Road Repair at Grand Canyon National Park: Drawing in millions of visitors each year, the Grand Canyon suffers from $329 million in deferred maintenance. To repair just three of the most popular trails in the park— South Kaibab, North Kaibab, and Bright Angel— would cost $33 million. One of the most frequented roads, Desert View Drive, winds around the Canyon’s South Rim and requires over $18 million for repairs.

Road Repairs in Zion National Park: Zion’s millions of visitors each year put quite a strain on its concentrated roads, causing them to need major repairs. A particularly scenic and popular road, the Kolob Canyon Road, requires a staggering $15 million for its repairs. Overall, Zion National Park suffers from $65 million in needed repairs.

Electrical System Upgrades at Kalaupapa National Historical Park: Kalaupapa National Historical Park tells the story of Hawaiians banished by King Kamehameha V to the north shore of Molokai for contracting leprosy. $7 million is needed to replace the unsafe and failing electrical system in the park.

Trail Repairs in Yosemite National Park: Yosemite National Park is home to some of our country’s most breathtaking cliffs, domes and waterfalls. However, the park suffers from $582 million in needed repairs. For example, more than $17 million is needed to rehabilitate the Yosemite Bike Path, the Stubblefield Canyon Trail, and the Clark Point Spur, a path that leads to the famous Vernal Fall.