Tough times in Washington, in terms of fiscal affairs, mean tough times for the National Park Service. And that's very noticeable in the agency's proposed construction budget for the coming fiscal year.
The National Park Service budget of nearly $3 billion submitted for fiscal year 2013 (October 2012 through September 2013) includes $131 million in requests for construction projects.
Approximately half the overall construction budget typically is designated as line-item construction for new facilities and rehabilitation and replacement of existing facilities. The remainder of the construction portion of the budget is for special programs (for example, emergency requests), planning, program management, and management planning.
Line-item construction requests for fiscal 2013 include ten national park units. These are:
1) Boston NHP - $5.9 million for utility tunnel work including asbestos abatement, replacement of a water main, and replacement of a sidewalk serving as a roof to the utility tunnel.
2) Denali NP - $9.6 million to complete major repairs to utilities servicing the park’s Headquarters Historic District.
3) Dry Tortugas NP - $3.4 million for installing steel shoring on two of Fort Jefferson’s six sides. This is part of an ongoing project that commenced in 2008 and may never end.
4) Statue of Liberty NM - $6.2 million to replace a water line and a wastewater effluent line that connect Liberty Island with the Jersey City municipal water and wastewater systems.
5) Katmai NP - $2.5 million to remove and replace the barge landing and landing access road that are currently located in a brown bear activity area. Bad things have been happening.
6) Yellowstone NP - $8.9 million to rehabilitate Mammoth’s Albright Visitor Center. Work will include upgrading the building to meet seismic, fire, and safety codes, plus the relocation of some interpretive artifacts.
7) Jewel Cave NM - $2.9 million to capture and treat contaminated parking lot runoff water that currently flows into cave passages.
8) Olympic NP - $3.5 million to continue restoring the Elwha River ecosystem, including dam removal and lake and reservoir restoration.
9) Everglades NP - $8 million for continuing work on the water management system including bridges along the Tamiami Trail.
10) Blue Ridge Parkway - $1.6 million for demolishing and removing 124 unused and unneeded buildings on acquired land.
Funding amounts and projects are subject to change during the legislative review. The Senate and House members must conference in order to resolve differences and a resulting Conference Report will reflect any compromises. Congress can reduce or add to the amounts, and can delete proposed items or add entirely new projects.
The 2013 NPS construction budget of $131 million is significantly lower than the enacted 2012 amount of $159 million. The construction amount enacted in 2011 was even larger than that of 2012, but included stimulus money made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Theresa Hensley, a Park Service budget analyst assigned to the Construction Division, related that the Interior Department mandated that the Park Service select only the highest priority life, health, and safety projects for the 2013 budget. As a result, no new construction is called for in the request. Thus, the list of ten represents the final cut after making difficult choices.