U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced that the Interior appropriations bill he co-authored and that passed the Senate today will fund a number of conservation efforts across Tennessee, including increased funding for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other national parks, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and several water and wastewater projects in Tennessee communities. The bill would provide $20.4 million in base operations funding for the Smokies, an increase of $1 million over last year.
“It’s my privilege to serve as ranking member for the Interior Subcommittee, especially this year—the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Alexander, who is the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which funds national parks, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Funding in this bill will help improve aging infrastructure and preserve many aspects of our great American outdoors, including what others have appropriately called ‘America’s best idea’: our national parks.”
Alexander also supported an amendment that would have required that 18 of the administration’s new czars—which don’t require Senate confirmation—be subject to congressional oversight. The Senate rejected this amendment.
During floor debate over the czar amendment, Alexander said, “If we have a health secretary and a health czar, who’s in charge? If we have an energy secretary and an energy czar, who’s in charge? Health care is nearly 20 percent of the American economy. And right after we address that, we’ll address energy and climate change, and that’s going to be a massive issue for our country. It’s important for us to know who’s in charge so they can testify before Congress and we can affect their appropriations, if we should choose to do so.”
The Fiscal Year 2010 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill includes funding for the following projects:
- $6 million for the Cherokee National Forest for conservation of Rocky Fork. Funding would allow the Cherokee National Forest to purchase property known as Rocky Fork Tract, an approximately 10,000-acre tract of land adjacent to existing national forest – one of the largest remaining tracts of pristine wilderness in the eastern United States. This project is the U.S. Forest Service’s highest-ranked land acquisition project.
- $4.16 million for the State of Tennessee for conservation of the Northern Cumberlands in Morgan County. Funding would be used to purchase 4,106 acres that represent a piece of a larger 127,000 acre land conservation project on the Cumberland Plateau. This project was requested by the president in his Fiscal Year 2010 budget and is the number-one ranked U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Project in Tennessee.
- $1.5 million for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for historical collection research and preservation. Funding would be used to construct a new facility to preserve historic artifacts and documents from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The current facility is rented by the park, does not adequately protect artifacts, and is located an hour drive away.
- $340,000 for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to improve infrastructure at the Cosby recreation area. Funding would be used to help replace 50-year old water-production equipment – building a new 30,000-gallon above-ground reservoir, 10,300 linear feet of new distribution system piping, new valves, and the installation of fire hydrants. Unlike the current equipment, these new components will meet all state and federal standards.
- $1.6 million for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to improve infrastructure at the Tremont educational area. Funding would be used to replace deteriorating water and wastewater systems at the Institute at Tremont. These systems are located next to the Little River and untreated water is polluting the river. The project would bring the systems into compliance with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation regulations.
- $500,000 for the Cherokee National Forest to relocate and construct a new work center. Funding would be used to complete a new Cherokee National Forest Work Center for employees and equipment used to maintain federally managed property in the Watauga region of the forest. The current work center is in the middle of a commercial area, making it more costly to maintain and further from the forest.
- $250,000 for Shiloh National Military Park for land acquisition. Funding would be used to help purchase property for Shiloh National Military Park, which would enhance the historic character of the park.
- $250,000 for the Governor William Blount Mansion Association for a Save America’s Treasures grant. Funding would be used to provide fire protection and rehabilitate the Blount Mansion home and visitor facilities to improve public access. This home is on the National Historic Register operated by the Park Service.
- $500,000 for the City of Tusculum for upgraded to its water treatment system. Funding would be used to build a sewer system to serve the residents and businesses of the City of Tusculum, providing clean drinking water and treating waste. Currently, the area is served only by septic tanks and water wells.
- $500,000 for Henry County for water supply to the Springville community. Funding would be used to install new pipes to supply 1,300 households in the Springville area with safe, public drinking water. Many of these households still rely on well water, which can be easily contaminated.
- $250,000 for Dickson County for water supply to the Charlotte and Fairview communities. Funding would be used to install new piping to provide safe, public drinking water to Charlotte and Fairview residents that are beyond the reach of the current water system. These households currently are served by water wells, which can easily be contaminated.
- $500,000 for Campbell County for water line improvements. Funding would be used to install piping to provide safe public drinking water to households in the Pioneer area who currently are served by water wells. The project will also provide an emergency connection between three utility districts to allow an alternate water source in the event of contamination or drought.
- $500,000 for Hancock County for water supply to the Treadway community and Clinch School. Funding would be used to install piping to provide safe public drinking water to households and students at a public K-12 school. These locations currently are served by water sources that are threatened by contamination and to which access is denied during drought conditions.