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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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Parks and Memorials Bills: HR 3689




STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON,

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS,

COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,

UNITED STATES SENATE,

CONCERNING H.R. 3689,

PROVIDING FOR A FOUR-YEAR EXTENSION OF THE LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY

 OF THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND, INC.,

TO ESTABLISH A VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL VISITOR CENTER,

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

December 3, 2009 

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 3689, a bill to provide for an extension of the legislative authority of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. (the Fund) to establish a Vietnam Veterans Memorial visitor center, and for other purposes.

The Department supports H.R. 3689 as passed by the House.

The visitor center was authorized by Public Law 108-126, signed on November 17, 2003.Following site analysis and the completion of an environmental assessment, the visitor center was approved to be located on the NPS proposed site on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, bounded by Constitution Avenue, Henry Bacon Drive, Lincoln Memorial Circle, and 23rd Street, N.W., so long as certain mitigation set forth in design standards developed jointly by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) are met.To protect the sensitive landscape of the site, which includes views to and from the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the design team is responding to these critical design standards and criteria. The criteria have been helpful to move this important commemorative work forward while minimizing potential impacts to the surrounding views and nearby memorials.In addition to public consultation under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the Commemorative Works Act requires an important series of reviews and approvals by NCPC and CFA.To meet the challenges associated with designing this project on such a sensitive and highly visible site, and the legislative requirement that it be located underground, the NPS and the Fund have made design refinements as needed during this process.

We are pleased to report that significant progress has been made gaining approvals for the design. Furthermore, the NPS believes that the design will be fully approved in a timely fashion and that the visitor center can be completed and open to the public within the additional four years that H.R. 3689 would allow.Without the proposed extension, the Fund's current authority to establish this visitor center will expire on November 17, 2010.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to comment.This concludes my prepared remarks and I will be happy to answer any questions you or other committee members might have.