Waste-water treatment plant overhauls. New boardwalks. Foot and bridle trail restoration. Roadwork. Attacking invasive species. These are some of the ways $750 million in federal economic recovery funds will be used across the National Park System.
Using Earth Day as a backdrop today to announce the release of those funds, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar emphasized that parks large and small will benefit from the infusion of dollars.
“From the Civil War to the Great Depression, America’s best ideas for protecting our national parks and open spaces have often come when our nation has faced its greatest challenges,” said the secretary during a media conference in Washington, D.C. “Today, by investing $750 million to restore and protect America’s most special places, we are creating a new legacy of stewardship for our National Park System while helping our economy stand up again.
The projects weren't dreamed up over night. Many have been on the National Park Service's 'to-do' list for years but have lacked funding to complete. Dinosaur's visitor center, for instance, has been mothballed since 2006 because of structural problems. Fortunately, Congressman Jim Matheson, D-Utah, saw that money for a new visitor center was included in the recovery program.
And Yellowstone National Park's waste-water woes aren't new at all. Indeed, a year ago the Interior Department's Inspector General pointed out in a lengthy report that, "Providing safe drinking water and properly disposing of waste-water at Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks present a growing risk to the health of employees and the public. Combined, these parks operate 47 drinking water and 42 waste-water systems. An official at Yosemite stated that the park struggles to keep its aging systems running and repairs are usually not made until the facilities break or fail. (my emphasis) In addition, two of Yosemite's water systems did not comply with federal health regulations and many of Yellowstone's systems were in various states of deterioration."
Today came word that Yellowstone will receive more than $9 million "to completely overhaul and antiquated waste-water treatment facilit..."
According to the Park Service, all of the projects receiving funding "are long-standing priorities."
Here's a look at some of the other projects approved for funds:
* $8.8 million to stabilize the Ellis Island Baggage and Dormitory Building, one of the most significant structures at Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island in New York and New Jersey.
* $13.1 million to demolish and replace condemned portions of the Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument.
* $54.7 million to undertake six mitigation projects to prepare for the removal of the Elwha Dam and restoration of the Elwha River basin at Olympic National Park in Washington.
* $11.5 million to replace more than 5 miles of water lines at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.
* $5.5 million to rehabilitate Independence Hall Tower at Independence National Historical Park in Pennsylvania.
* $2.37 million to reclaim abandoned mine lands and restore the natural landscape at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado.
* $304,000 to install gates and protect visitors at Greenwater Valley at Death Valley National Park in California.
* $585,000 to rehabilitate historic bridle trails at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.
* $5 million to replace the roof of the historic Old Courthouse at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in Missouri.
* $30.5 million to repair the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and $7.3 million to restore the District of Columbia War Memorial at the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C.
* $100,000 to restore trails and fields at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Kentucky.
* $71,000 to install a photovoltaic system for headquarters and maintenance building at Adams National Historical Park in Massachusetts.
* $68,000 to replace the Visitor Center roof at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska.
* $108,000 to preserve historic headstones at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.
* $448,000 to rehabilitate boardwalks in the Sinepuxent District of Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland.
* $212,000 to replace the boardwalk on Cliff Shelf Trail in Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
* $199,000 to rehabilitate trails in Big Bend National Park in Texas.
* $477,000 to repair flood damage at Buffalo National River in Arkansas.
* $56,000 to repair and replace fire hydrants at Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland.
* $359,000 to install photovoltaic system at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.
* $1.8 million to eliminate failing septic systems in the Village of Everett and provide a new pump station in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.
* $6.3 million to replace waste-water treatment facility and rehabilitate collection system at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
* $2.2 million to stabilize Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.
* $119,000 to install a wind turbine and battery system at Anaktuvuk Pass Ranger Station in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
* $397,000 to repair backcountry trails and campgrounds in Glacier National Park in Montana.
* $418,000 to prevent further corrosion of submerged structures at Bartlett Cove Marine Facilities in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
* $550,000 to rehabilitate the historic trans-canyon trail at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
* $415,000 to rehabilitate trails and remove exotic plants on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia.
* $24.3 million to repair or rehabilitate roads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina.
* $75,000 to install solar-powered security lighting in Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida.
* $1.3 million to repair and replace fences at Haleakala National Park in Hawaii.
* $179,000 to improve safety and habitat conditions at an abandoned mine site in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska.
* $700,000 to install a photovoltaic system on the Visitor Center at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Georgia.
* $30.5 million to repair the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Poolin Washington, D.C..
* $834,000 to install a photovoltaic system at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada.
* $181,000 to rehabilitate South Slough Loop Trail at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Oregon.
* $9.4 million to rehabilitate 16 historic overlooks along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
* $22,000 to rehabilitate park trails with Alaska Native Youth Partnership in Sitka National Historical Park in Alaska.
* $340,000 to rehabilitate and develop Twin Lakes Campground at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
* $1.2 million for hybrid electric shuttle buses in Yosemite National Park in California.
For a full list of the projects, go to the Department’s Recovery Web Site.
Perhaps the best part of this deal is that the general public will be able to follow progress on these projects and see whether money is being misspent. Secretary Salazar has pledged "unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability" in the implementation of the department economic recovery projects. You'll be able to follow the progress of each project on the recovery web site and at this site. The website includes an interactive map that enables the public also to follow where and how the department’s recovery dollars are being spent.
Secretary Salazar also has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force. Mr. Henderson and the Task Force will work closely with the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General to ensure that the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency that President Obama has set.