Keep your eyes on the House Natural Resources Committee this week, as the committee is expected to take action on measures that could set a precedent for "wild and scenic" rivers, force stocking of non-native fish in North Cascades National Park, and realign wilderness boundaries to allow for a road to be moved out of a flood-prone area in North Cascades.
The measures are likely to gain passage in the Republican-controlled committee, yet encounter trouble in the Democrat-controlled Senate if they pass the full House. Here's a look at the three measures:
* Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minnesota, wants Congress to authorize a new bridge over through the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The proposal (H.R. 850) she supports would span the St. Croix River, a "wild and scenic" stream, between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It would require an exception to the Wild and Scenic River Act.
The project is estimated to cost about $700 million. The Park Service has considered the proposal four times, and refused to permit it. The agency found that building the bridge "where there was not one previously ... would fundamentally change the scenic qualities that existed when the St. Croix was designated a national wild and scenic river in 1972 for its outstanding scenic, recreational, and geologic values."
"Under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the NPS cannot approve a project if its direct and adverse effects cannot be avoided or eliminated," added Ernest Quintana, the Park Service's Midwest Region director, in an October 2010 letter to Federal Highway Administration officials.
* A measure, H.R. 2352, introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, could force the National Park Service to tweak wilderness boundaries and rebuild a road in North Cascades National Park. The proposal would amend the Washington Park Wilderness Act of 1988 and authorize the Interior secretary to "adjust the boundaries of the North Cascades National Park and the Stephen Mather Wilderness in Washington state in order to provide a 100-foot wide corridor along which the Stehekin Valley Road may be rebuilt: (1) outside the floodplain between mileposts 12.9 and 22.8; (2) within the boundaries of the Park; and (3) outside of the boundaries of the Wilderness."
According to the legislation, "(T)he boundary adjustments made under this section shall be such that equal acreage amounts are exchanged between the Stephen Mather Wilderness and the North Cascades National Park, resulting in no net loss of acreage to either the Stephen Mather Wilderness or the North Cascades National Park."
* Rep. Hastings also has sponsored legislation that would direct the Park Service to continue stocking non-native fish in some lakes in the North Cascades National Park Complex. The park stopped the stocking in 2009 after Congress failed to step in and order it to continue the practice.