U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced that the conference report to the Interior appropriations bill he co-authored and that passed the Senate last week 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 now goes to the president for his signature.
The bill also includes $1.6 million to improve the infrastructure at Tremont, which is located inside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
“This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it’s been a pleasure to serve as the lead Republican senator on the bill that funds the park in such a historic year,” 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).
“This legislation includes important funding to improve aging infrastructure across our state and help preserve our pristine landscapes for future generations to enjoy - including our national parks, which some have appropriately called “America’s best idea.”
The Fiscal Year 2010 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill includes funding for the following projects:
• $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.
• $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 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.
• $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 maintained by the Park Service.
• $500,000 for the City of Tusculum for upgrades 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.
Alexander on Climate bill
In other legislative news from Alexander’s office, the senator called Cap-and-Trade Bill a “National Energy Tax that will drive jobs overseas.”
Alexander, who is a member of the Environment and Public Works committee, made the comments in a hearing held Wednesday on the Kerry-Boxer climate bill.
Alexander said the Kerry-Boxer bill “will raise utility bills and create a new Washington Slush Fund for corporate hand-outs.”
“That’s my problem with this solution,” Alexander said. “It’s going to make it harder for Americans to support their families. When it’s all wrapped up and put together, it will be a combination of economy-wide cap and trade and mandates for narrowly defined renewable energy sources, a well-intentioned one-thousand pages of taxes, mandates and surprises.
“At a time of 10 percent unemployment, this bill will raise utility bills, send manufacturing jobs overseas, and create a new slush fund in Washington for corporate handouts.
“It will be ineffective against emissions from fuel, which produce 30 percent of our carbon emitted today, because raising the price of gasoline doesn’t change human behavior enough to reduce carbon.”
Alexander called instead for a low-cost clean-energy plan based on nuclear power, electric cars, natural gas and oil exploration.
“So my suggestion is to abandon the 1,000 page bill of surprises, taxes, and mandates that is a high-cost, low-carbon energy plan and pursue a common sense, low-cost, low carbon plan,” Alexander said.