NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ahead of a markup scheduled for May 23, 2018.
NPCA appreciates that the committee is keeping this bill on a two-year cycle, recognizing that projects are authorized and reforms made so that ecosystem benefits can be realized. This is an important bill for improving the health of our national parks.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is an important partner in many places where NPCA works to protect and restore national park waterways and landscapes, the communities that surround them and the millions of people who visit them each year. From Gateway to the Grand Canyon, Everglades to Olympic, water is central to the features, wildlife, recreation and aesthetic of these esteemed places. However, national parks, once viewed as isolated and remote, are increasingly affected by activities occurring in their watersheds. These beyond park boundary activities often enhance or detract from the visitor experience.
Therefore, we are pleased to see the bill focus attention on restoring the essential ecosystem of Everglades National Park. Including the upcoming Post-Authorization Change Report for the Central Everglades Project (Sec. 203) and the recently completed Kissimmee River Restoration Post-Authorization Change Report (Sec. 308) is important to national parks and the introduced bill supports their restoration and protection.
NPCA is interested in Sections 113 and 114 which would engage stakeholders and the public in reviewing the Army Corps’ 7001 annual report and draft implementation guidance developed in response to a WRDA bill. NPCA believes that public input and education is important in federal rulemaking and compliance.
Reforming the Army Corps’ benefit-cost procedures is important, and this bill potentially takes a small step towards ensuring a full and accurate accounting of the economic principles and analytical methodologies of Army Corps projects (Sec. 125). Though the legislative text is unclear, we hope that the analytical methodologies that the National Academy of Sciences studies evaluate and assess the benefits of natural and nature-based features, which are often undercounted, miscounted or discounted.
Lastly, we deeply appreciate the committee rejecting roll backs of environmental laws and regulations that protect our national parks. Congress already enacted new Corps procedures designed to quicken project analysis and delivery in the last two WRDA bills. None of those changes have had adequate time to be fully implemented.
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Deputy Vice President, Conservation Programs