Alexander: U.S. Interior Secretary Jewell “Supportive” of Bill to Reimburse Tennessee, Other States for Reopening National Parks

Posted on March 26, 2014

Also asks Jewell to keep fish hatcheries open at Dale Hollow, Erwin while working group establishes a permanent funding solution

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“My question is: Will you support that legislation as it moves through Congress,  to reimburse the state of Tennessee and the counties of Blount and Sevier, for what they spent as a result of the federal government shutdown?” – Lamar Alexander 

WASHINGTON, March 26 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today secured a commitment from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to support legislation originally introduced by Alexander that would reimburse Tennessee and other states for reopening national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, during last fall’s shutdown of the federal government.

At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior today, Alexander said, “Senator Flake has a bill to reimburse the states, which in our case were the counties, for the money they spent during the government shutdown. My question is: Will you support that legislation as it moves through Congress, to reimburse the state of Tennessee and the counties of Blount and Sevier for what they spent as a result of the federal government shutdown?”

Jewell replied, “I did say at that time that I couldn’t obligate the federal treasury, and it had to be congressional action, so I’m supportive of the congressional action going forward.”

The National Park Access Act, which is cosponsored by Alexander, would repay six states that used approximately $2 million state and local dollars to reopen national parks, of which Tennessee paid $60,100 to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The shutdown ended when Congress enacted the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014, which included retroactive funding for the National Park Service that covered park operations for days that had already been paid for by states. As a result the National Park Service ended up with approximately $2 million in excess funds for the year which would be used to reimburse the states. The legislation builds on Alexander’s efforts to reimburse Tennessee for opening the Smokies last fall.

Alexander also pressed Jewell not to close Tennessee’s fish hatcheries at Dale Hollow and Erwin during fiscal year 2015 until after a working group of Tennessee and Georgia state wildlife agencies, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Fish and Wild Service has had time to establish a permanent solution to fund these hatcheries. “This is important to the fishermen of Tennessee,” Alexander told Jewell, “It’s important to the outdoor recreation of Tennessee and to our tourism and jobs.”

Jewell said, “We will not be closing any fish hatcheries in 2014 ... Where we have people working together collaboratively on long-term solutions, that is the kind of program that we are very committed to supporting.”

In 2013, Alexander announced that he had worked with federal and state agencies and the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep open Tennessee’s hatcheries at Dale Hollow and Erwin. The three-year agreement has TVA paying to keep the hatcheries producing fish after budget woes had threatened their ability to do so.