S. 491

York River Wild and Scenic River Act of 2021

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. CALDWELL, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S.491, A BILL TO AMEND THE WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT TO DESIGNATE CERTAIN RIVER SEGMENTS WITHIN THE YORK WATERSHED IN THE STATE OF MAINE AS COMPONENTS OF THE NATIONAL WILD AND SCENIC RIVER SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

JUNE 23, 2021

Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 491, a bill to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate certain river segments within the York watershed in the State of Maine as components of the National Wild and Scenic River System, and for other purposes. 

Initial review indicates that the segments proposed for designation under this bill may be eligible for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.  However, the study report is currently under internal review.  We respectfully recommend that the committee defer action on S. 491 until the review is completed and the final report is issued, which we anticipate will occur in the near future.

S. 491 would designate eight segments of the York River totaling 30.8 miles as part of the System, to be administered by the Secretary of the Interior as a recreational river.  The segments would be managed in accordance with the York River Watershed Stewardship Plan (August 2018) prepared as a part of the study, with the Secretary coordinating administration and management with a locally based stewardship committee, as specified in the plan.  The bill would authorize the Secretary to enter into cooperative agreements with the State of Maine, the municipalities of Eliot, Kittery, South Berwick, and York, and appropriate local, regional, or State planning, environmental, or recreational organizations.  The legislation follows the model of other recent New England Wild and Scenic River designations based on a “partnership” model emphasizing locally based management solutions and a limited federal role.

The study of the York River was authorized by P.L. 113-291, the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015.  The National Park Service has conducted the study in close cooperation with the adjoining communities, the State of Maine, the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, and other interested local parties.  Technical assistance provided as a part of the study made possible the development of the York River Watershed Stewardship Plan (August 2018).  This plan is based primarily around local partner actions designed to guide the stewardship of certain segments the York River with or without a National Wild and Scenic River designation.  The draft York Wild and Scenic River Study Report was made available for public review and comment from January 10 to April 10, 2020.  Public comments received on the draft were overwhelmingly in support of designation.

If S. 491 is enacted, segments of the York River and its tributaries would be administered as a partnership wild and scenic river, similar to several other designations in the Northeast, including the upper Farmington River and the Eightmile River in Connecticut, and the Lamprey River in New Hampshire.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

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