STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON,
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS
CONCERNING H.R. 4773,
TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
TO LEASE CERTAIN LANDS WITHIN FORT PULASKI NATIONAL MONUMENT,
AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
APRIL 27, 2010
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 4773, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to lease certain lands within Fort Pulaski National Monument, and for other purposes.
The Department supports H.R. 4773 with an amendment described later in this statement.This legislation would allow the Savannah Bar Pilots Association to lease the land on Cockspur Island within Fort Pulaski National Monument that the association has used continuously since 1940.
In 1940, the National Park Service authorized by special use permit exclusive use of National Park Service land and improvements to the Savannah Bar Pilots to operate a vessel piloting business. The National Park Service has issued a series of permit renewals during the ensuing 70 years. However, in recent years, the National Park Service has been advised by the Department's Solicitor's Office that the association's use of this land should be on based on more certain legal authority than the special use permitting process. The National Park Service believes that a non-competitive lease, which would be authorized by H.R. 4773, would be the best option in this unique circumstance to enable the Savannah Bar Pilots to continue traditional operations from their Fort Pulaski location. The Bar Pilots serve a function that is vital to the state's deepwater ports and inland barge terminals, including directing ship traffic and assisting in navigation in the Savannah Harbor.
There are no other known locations from which Savannah Bar Pilots can operate more efficiently than their current location.Deep water accessibility and the relatively short distance to embarking and disembarking ships in Savannah Harbor render the current Cockspur Island site the ideal location for continued operations. The Savannah Bar Pilots have been operating at the current location with virtually no adverse impact on park resources, on the visitor experience, or on park operations. Fort Pulaski National Monument derives revenue from the current special use permit and would continue to do so from a lease.The Savannah Bar Pilots enjoy local support from both the City of Savannah and the Georgia Port Authority.
We recommend that the bill be amended to provide for a lease term of up to five years, rather than ten years, in order to allow for more frequent review of the lease's terms and conditions.A shorter period would help protect the government's interests and assure that use of the leased land remains consistent with the established purposes of Fort Pulaski National Monument. We would be happy to work with the committee to provide appropriate language for this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks.I would be pleased to answer any questions you or any members of the subcommittee may have.