KATHERINE H. STEVENSON,
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES,
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS
AND THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON PUBLIC LANDS AND FORESTS
OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE
CONCERNING S. 3778 AND H.R. 4773,
AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
TO LEASE CERTAIN LANDS
WITHIN FORT PULASKI NATIONAL MONUMENT,
AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2010
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 3778 and H.R. 4773, bills to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to lease certain lands within Fort Pulaski National Monument, and for other purposes.
The Department supports both bills, which are substantially identical, 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 in the State of Georgia 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 Association 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 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 S. 3778 and H.R. 4773, would be the best option in this unique circumstance to enable the Savannah Bar Pilots Association to continue traditional operations from its 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 Association can operate more efficiently than its 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 legislation 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.