A construction machine with a vista of trees and a calm lake

Deferred Maintenance and Repair

What is deferred maintenance and repair?

The primary purpose of the Great American Outdoors Act National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund is to invest in deferred maintenance and repair (DM&R) projects. DM&R is a maintenance and repair activity that was not performed when it should have been or was scheduled to be and is delayed to a future period. Typically, required maintenance or repair needs are deferred due to a lack of funding or available workforce. Deferring maintenance or repair activities over time can make assets, such as buildings, trails, and campsites, unsafe or unusable for staff and visitors.

The total Department of the Interior DM&R is estimated at almost $30 billion and continues to grow every year.

How the Department Takes Care of its Assets

DOI Assets

The Department of the Interior (DOI, Interior Department) manages 20 percent of the Nation’s lands and waters, including:

  • 480 million acres of land
  • 423 national park locations
  • 568 national wildlife refuges
  • 70 fish hatcheries
  • 23 national conservation areas
  • 28 national monuments
  • 183 schools and 33 Tribal Colleges and Universities

DOI also manages the things that have been constructed on public lands and waters — our assets. Interior is responsible for taking care of its assets to ensure visitors have a welcoming, safe, and enjoyable experience; to protect wildlife and the natural environment; and to preserve natural and cultural resources for this and future generations.

Monuments, marinas, roads, cemeteries, utilities, bridges, Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools, picnic areas, employee housing, entrance stations, campgrounds, trails…these are just a few examples of the many types of assets DOI maintains so that we can successfully host millions of visitors each year on our public lands.

Asset Portfolio by Categories for GAOA Bureaus

Bar graph showing percent of assets by asset category for the four DOI bureaus that receive GAOA funding.

The four DOI bureaus that receive GAOA LRF funding collectively manage a portfolio of over 100,000 assets. These assets are divided into seven broad categories: Recreational Assets, Mission Support and Administrative Assets, Housing, Transportation Assets, Schools & Associated Buildings, Non-Transportation Infrastructure, and All Other Assets. Learn more about these asset categories on the Projects page.

Maintenance

Maintenance activities help achieve an asset's originally anticipated life. To understand how DOI maintains its assets, consider a single asset such as a footbridge. Wooden bridges are plentiful on trails that crisscross our public lands, helping hikers cross streams and other obstacles. 

Since it is a Departmental asset, DOI must properly maintain the footbridge. We do this by:

  • Clearing vegetation from sides of the bridge
  • Inspecting the bridge for safety
  • Sanding the bridge to increase traction
  • Completing periodic, scheduled painting or other sealing treatment to preserve the wooden structure

 

Repair

A construction crew uses a small crane and manpower to lay out mats to form a new road in a dirt site
BLM Las Cruces District crews lay out and install articulating mats as part of a Great American Outdoors Act funded road improvement project. Photo: BLM Las Cruces
Usage, time, and environmental conditions may deteriorate an asset, requiring repairs to bring it back to good condition. Keeping assets in good repair provides visitors with a safe and consistently high-quality experience. 

In the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Cruces District, two access road repair projects were completed with funding from the Great American Outdoors Act. Repairs involved rebuilding embankments where erosion had occurred and reconstructing water crossings. The projects resolved safety issues and ensured public visitors and government agency employees can access the public lands via the reconstructed roads.

 

Other Types of Asset Management

As the condition of an asset and the location’s needs change over time, other types of management actions may be required, including:

  • Alteration – While a repair restores an item to its previous good condition, alteration is work that adds, changes, or removes items to the building or systems. For example, a park may need to increase the size of a footbridge, perhaps to accommodate more foot traffic.
  • Recapitalization – Recapitalization involves the replacement of critical components or systems that extend the life of an asset, as well as major renovations without a significant change in function or capacity.
  • Replacement – If the cost to maintain or repair an asset grows too high compared to its construction cost, it may need to be replaced. This involves substituting an entire asset with a new or equivalent asset. A footbridge that reaches the end of its useful life and deteriorates beyond repair, or that is washed away in a major flooding event, must be replaced. 
  • New Construction – Constructing a new asset means building something that did not exist before. Due to unsafe conditions on an existing trail, for example, a park may decide to relocate a river crossing to a safer location. An entirely new footbridge would be constructed with a different design to fit the new location.
    Construction vehicles clear an open, rural site after a demolition, with trees behind.
    Site of a demolished structure in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, with newly planted trees behind. Photo: NPS/Tim Fenner
  • Divestiture – When an asset no longer has value to a DOI site for any purpose, the Department will need to dispose of it and release the organization from liability for the associated costs. DOI may demolish the asset or transfer it to another owner.

    In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the National Park Service is completing a $2 million Great American Outdoors Act project to remove 33 vacant structures and restore the land as forest. Some of the structures posed a safety hazard. The removal of the buildings eliminated more than $7 million of maintenance backlog.

 

Deferred Maintenance and Repair Backlog

When DOI does not receive enough funding to pay for all the maintenance and repairs that its assets require at the time these needs are identified, work may get pushed off, or deferred, until later due to budget constraints. The list of unfunded asset management needs is the DM&R backlog.

Infrastructure that is not properly cared for with scheduled maintenance and timely repair work can become unsightly, unsafe, more susceptible to damage, and can deteriorate more quickly. Deferring maintenance may increase the cost to maintain an asset over its lifetime. 

The following heat map displays the amount (by dollar value) of DM&R backlog per state for all DOI bureaus receiving GAOA funding. The darker the color, the higher the cumulative DM&R cost.

 

Heat Map of Deferred Maintenance and Repair Backlog for DOI Bureaus

A heat map displaying amount of DM&R backlog by state for all GAOA bureaus

 

How GAOA is Addressing the Deferred Maintenance Backlog

The Great American Outdoors Act is directing up to $8.1 billion over five years (Fiscal Years 2021 through 2025) toward deferred maintenance and repair activity.

GAOA funding alone cannot resolve all the Interior Department’s lifecycle management needs. Even with the largest public lands infrastructure investment in history, routine maintenance and repair needs continue to outpace available funding. However, LRF is an essential part of DOI’s concerted effort to address the extensive deferred maintenance and repair backlog.


Click an icon below to explore a bureau GAOA website.

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