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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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S. 313 - National Parks Bills




STATEMENT OF STEPHEN E. WHITESELL, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE CONCERNING S. 313, A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO ISSUE PERMITS FOR A MICROHYDRO PROJECT IN NONWILDERNESS AREAS WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, TO ACQUIRE LAND FOR DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE FROM DOYON TOURISM, INC., AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

May 11, 2011

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S.313, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to issue permits for a micro-hydro project in non-wilderness areas within the boundaries of Denali National Park and Preserve, and for other purposes.

The Department supports this legislation with amendments and recognizes improvements made from the similar bill introduced in the previous Congress.S. 313 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to issue permits for micro-hydro projects in a limited area of the Kantishna Hills in Denali National Park. The legislation would also authorize a land exchange between the National Park Service (NPS) and Doyon Tourism, Inc. (Doyon) involving lands near the historic mining community of Kantishna that would be mutually beneficial to the NPS and Doyon.

This legislation will reduce the use of fossil fuels in the park, and thus lessen the chance of fuel spills along the park road and at the Kantishna lodges.It will lower the number of non-visitor vehicle trips over the park road, lessen the noise and emissions from diesel generators in the Moose Creek valley, and support clean energy projects and sustainable practices while ensuring that appropriate review and environmental compliance protects all park resources.

Doyon Tourism, Inc., a subsidiary of Alaska Native Corporation Doyon, Ltd., has requested permits from the NPS to install a micro-hydroelectric project on Eureka Creek, near their Kantishna Roadhouse. The NPS supports the intent of this project, however, neither the Secretary nor the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the statutory authority to issue permits for portions of hydroelectric projects within national parks or monuments. We believe that the authorization contained in this legislation is necessary to enable the NPS to allow this micro-hydroelectric project within the park.

The Kantishna Roadhouse, at the end of the 92-mile-long Denali park road, has been in business for 28 years, hosts approximately 10,000 guests per summer, and currently uses an on-site 100 kilowatt (KW) diesel generator to provide power for the facility.The proposed hydroelectric installation would reduce use of the diesel generator at the lodge.Currently, delivery of diesel fuel to the lodge requires a tanker truck and trailer to be driven the entire length of the Denali park road. Noted for its undeveloped character, the road is unpaved for 77 miles of its 92-mile length, crosses high mountain passes without guardrails, and is just one to 1½ lanes wide with pullouts.The road is justly famous for wildlife viewing opportunities and in order to protect wildlife as well as the road's scenic wilderness character, vehicle traffic is limited.Reducing the amount of diesel fuel hauled over this road in tanker trucks protects park resources by reducing the risk of accident or spill, and simultaneously reduces overall vehicle use of the road.

Eureka Creek is a 4-mile-long stream that drains a 5 square-mile watershed and discharges about 15 cubic feet per second (cfs) during the summer. Most of the floodplain has been disturbed by past placer mining, but no mining claims exist on the creek now and no other landowners besides Doyon and the NPS own any property near this floodplain.The project would include an at-grade water intake, with no impoundment, about one mile upstream of where Eureka Creek crosses the park road.

Camp Denali, another lodge in the Kantishna Hills, is within the area addressed by this legislation.Camp Denali opened in 1952 and the owners installed a micro-hydro generator system prior to the 1978 Presidential proclamation that included Kantishna as a part of what is now Denali National Park. After 1978, Camp Denali became a private in-holding surrounded by the park, and found that parts of its micro-hydro power system were within the park, a situation that the NPS lacks the authority to permit or retain.This legislation, if amended, would allow the NPS and the owners of Camp Denali to work out permit conditions for those parts of the existing hydro project that are now on park land. Besides the Kantishna Roadhouse and Camp Denali, two other lodges in Kantishna may pursue similar projects in the future and thus would benefit from the authority granted in this legislation.

Doyon owns 18 acres on the patented Galena mining claim in the Kantishna Hills and would like to exchange that acreage for park land in Kantishna of equal value near its other properties.The NPS would also like to pursue this exchange to consolidate land holdings in the area.Existing land exchange authority under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and other legislation is sufficient to affect this exchange.Thus, while we believe that this provision is unnecessary, we support its intent.

Our concerns with the bill are as follows:

1)The bill as introduced requires the Secretary to complete National Environmental Policy Act compliance within 180 days of enactment.While the Department supports a speedy response to the applicant, we suggest the 180-day clock start upon submission of a complete application to the NPS.

2)The permitting authority provided by this bill would apply to several micro-hydroelectric projects in the Kantishna area, yet various elements of the bill as introduced appear to apply solely to a project by Doyon. Technical corrections to address this are identified in an attachment to this testimony.

We believe that the permitting authority granted in S. 313 would provide a tool that the Secretary could use to lower fossil fuel use in Denali National Park, while protecting park resources, and that a land exchange would be hastened through passage of this legislation.We would welcome the opportunity to work with the sponsor and this committee to address our concerns and recommendations.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement.I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

ATTACHMENT

The NPS suggests the following technical corrections to H.R. 313

1)On p. 1, line 2 of the long title, strike "for a microhydro project in nonwilderness" and insert "for microhydro projects in nonwilderness".

2)On p. 3, line 1, strike "(i) the intake pipeline located on Eureka Creek, approximately ½ mile upstream from the Park Road, as depicted on the map;" and insert "(i) intake pipelines;"

3)On p. 3, line 8, strike "line" and insert "lines".

4)On p. 3, line 14, strike "PROJECT" and insert "PROJECTS".