Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
OF THE SENATE ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE
CONCERNING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AMERICAN RECOVERY
AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009
BY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.
May 5, 2010
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today on the National Park Service's experience with implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act).
The Recovery Act was enacted on February 17, 2009, shortly after the 111th Congress convened and President Obama took office, as a direct response to the severe economic crisis that the nation was experiencing.The act had the immediate goals of creating new jobs and saving existing ones and spurring economic activity and investment in long-term growth.It aimed to achieve those goals by making $275 billion available for federal contracts, grants and loans, targeted at infrastructure development and enhancement.Of the total amount appropriated, the National Park Service received $750 million.Additionally, the act provided $170 million for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to spend on improving park roads.
The $750 million appropriated for the National Park Service is in three separate appropriations accounts: (1) $146 million for Operation of the National Park System (ONPS), to address minor park deferred or cyclic maintenance needs, including repair of trails; (2) $589 million for Construction; and (3) $15 million for the Historic Preservation Fund, specifically for grants for historic preservation projects at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
The $589 million appropriated to address major construction needs has been divided among four categories of projects:facility construction, road construction, abandoned mine lands restoration, and equipment replacement. With this funding, the National Park Service was in the process of executing, as of late February, 82 facility projects, 28 road projects, 36 abandoned mine restoration projects, and six equipment replacement projects.Updates of these project numbers are in process. A sampling of these projects is attached to this statement.
With the $15 million that was appropriated for repairs to facilities at HBCUs, 21 grants at 20 universities have been approved and are in planning. Grantees have three years to complete the approved work.
With the $170 million appropriated to the FHWA to address road improvement needs in national park units, 31 projects are underway and two additional projects are anticipated.Together with the 28 NPS road projects, these FHWA projects have resulted in 620 miles of NPS roads that have been or will be repaired or treated for preservation.
Projects were selected using merit-based criteria to address Servicewide priorities and based on our ability to obligate funds within the timeframe of the appropriation. The vast majority of approved projects address either cyclic repairs or rehabilitation of existing assets.
As of late April, 57 percent of all NPS Recovery Act funds had been obligated. Our goal is to obligate approximately 90 percent by mid-May. The remaining 10 percent of funding is programmed through September 30 for ongoing management costs, the hiring of summer seasonal laborers for in-house projects such as trail work, and to execute two approved facility construction projects slated to be awarded in August: rehabilitation of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and rehabilitation of the King Gillette Ranch at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The FHWA's $170 million was 87 percent obligated as of late-April; the remainder is expected to be obligated by the end of June.
Strategies for Implementation
The Park Service has employed a number of strategies to ensure successful use of Recovery Act funds. First, initial project lists included both "in-target" projects, which were those approved for execution, and "over-target" projects, which were those approved for planning, design and compliance but where execution would depend on availability of funds. This allowed the National Park Service to substitute projects when in-target projects proved not viable. Second, the National Park Service established a management oversight group of senior-level managers who meet regularly to review progress and recommend adjustments. Third, temporary personnel were hired to increase capacity in contracting, budgeting and management/oversight. Fourth, where necessary, the Service modified internal processes to track progress and facilitate the orderly dropping or adding of projects for execution. Finally, we contracted as much of the proposed work as possible, using a number of techniques to accelerate the process, such as the use of indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts and multiple-award task-order contracts, and contracting with FHWA to execute many of the NPS-funded road projects.
Stretching the Recovery Act Funding
Favorable pricing on large construction projects, along with the efficiencies we employed in the contracting process, resulted in savings of over 20 percent totaling approximately $129 million by early 2010.Those savings have allowed us to fund an additional 30 high-priority contingency projects across the country.
We are doing far more than we originally projected we could do with $750 million.With the funding in the ONPS account, used for minor, but high-priority park repairs, our original list of 643 projects had grown, as of late-February, to 653.As of that same date, in the Construction account we were executing 82 facility projects instead of 60; 28 road projects, not just 17; and 36 abandoned mine restoration projects.
Another benefit of the Recovery Act to the National Park Service is that we have forged a stronger partnership with FHWA, which has proved invaluable in meeting our goals. FHWA executed 14 of the National Park Service's road projects.Of the total 61 road projects, over 42 have either been awarded directly by FHWA or by the National Park Service with significant assistance from FHWA's engineering staff.
Challenges Facing the National Park Service
One challenge the National Park Service faces in connection with the Recovery Act is that availability of the funds will expire September 30, 2010. Many projects will extend in to the following year and will require our close attention to ensure that all the contracting, program and project management, as well as project contingency requirements, are met in an efficient and transparent manner.
Second, in authorizing the Recovery Act, Congress provided a special emergency temporary hiring authority to address the increased workload. That authority will expire September 30, but the workload these positions were hired to perform will continue for some time.
Third, the contracting workload associated with executing Recovery Act projects will result in delays in awarding some scheduled projects funded from other sources. The National Park Service will focus on expediting the award of these projects as soon as possible.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you and the other members of the subcommittee may have.
Recovery Act Project Highlights
Rehabilitate Lincoln Reflecting Pool and Rehabilitate Surrounding Area, National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.This project will rehabilitate the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the surrounding cultural landscape.Work will include stabilizing the foundation and repairing the surface features of the pool, providing pumping and drainage capabilities from the Potomac River to reduce the use of potable water and provide continuous filtering of the water, and upgrading the lighting and paths around the pool.Projected cost:$33 million.Status:Planning/Design Under Way; Contract Award Scheduled for August, 2010.
Rehabilitate Union Building Interior, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Michigan. This project will rehabilitate the interior of the Union Building for use as the Keweenaw National Historical Park's first interpretive facility. This project follows a comprehensive rehabilitation of the Union Building exterior in 2005. Projected cost:$4 million.Status:Contract Award Pending.
Stabilize Ellis Island Seawall, Statue Of Liberty National Monument, New York/New Jersey.This project will complete Phase I of the rehabilitation of portions of the 6,736 foot historic seawall that surrounds Ellis Island.Projected cost:$22.4 million.Status:Contract Award Pending.
Two other major construction projects at Statue of Liberty National Monument include Installing Perimeter Security and Communication Lines around Liberty and Ellis Islands ($2.1 million) and Stabilizing the Ellis Island Baggage and Dormitory Building ($6.7 million).Status of both:Contract Award Pending.
Demolish and Replace Madison Wastewater Facility, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.This project will replace the circa 1959 trickling filter wastewater treatment facility at the Madison Area with an aerated lagoon-type system and subsurface disposal.Cost:$4.9 million.Status:Under Way.
Provide Accessibility To Park Comfort Stations and Picnic Camp Sites, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee.This project will rehabilitate 10 existing comfort stations including replacing two that are beyond their useful life.The comfort stations will be made structurally and mechanically sound.Roofs, windows, plumbing and wood work will be repaired and or replaced at each comfort station and all will meet accessibility standards.Also, picnic and campsites will be improved by the construction of accessible parking spaces with a connecting accessible walkway to the camp or picnic site.Cost:$3.3 million.Status:Under Way.
Also, 4 roads projects totaling $17 million have been awarded at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and 4 more projects are pending contract awards totaling an estimated $16 million.
Demolish and Replace Condemned Portions of Quarry Visitor Center, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado and Utah.This project will rehabilitate the quarry face exhibit shelter and demolish and replace the failed and condemned visitor service and administrative spaces at the Quarry Visitor Center (QVC) that have been closed to public use since July, 2006. Cost:$8.4 million.Status:Under Way.
Replace Waterline, Chapin Mesa to North Park Boundary, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.This project will replace five sections totaling approximately 5.4 miles of the existing deteriorated water line that provides the park's only source of water.Cost:$5.4 million.Status:Contract Awarded.