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National parks face billions in maintenance and repair

Posted at 2:34 PM, Dec 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-07 17:17:10-05

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – US Senator Steve Daines’ effort to fully fund infrastructure needs at national parks, especially Yellowstone and Glacier, may be facing some problems.

Daines says National Parks in the US has $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance and right now there’s no way to pay for those needed repairs.

“I’m concerned we don’t have a really robust funding mechanism,” said Daines.

So Daines found the money.

“We looked at some of the offshore energy revenues,” Daines said.

That would provide up to $6.5 billion for parks in money that is not otherwise committed in the budget. But Democrat Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona is in line to become chair of the House Natural Resources Committee in January, and he’s not optimistic. He says Daines proposal isn’t likely to pass in the lame duck session this month. He went on to say: “If we can come out of land and water conservation fund with a permanent authorization, then we’ll talk about mandated money in the coming session.”

But the Daines proposal does have support.

“Secretary Zinke has made it his highest legislative priority to establish a dedicated fund to address this backlog,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholley.

A lot of work, like a road construction south of Mammoth this summer has been completed, but there’s a lot more that’s needed and needed quickly because visitation at the park is growing at the rate of three percent a year.

“Yellowstone, if you count all the numbers and all the ways, probably has a billion dollars of deferred maintenance backlog, most of that is in roads,” said former Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis of using the energy revenues to pay for parks infrastructure would not affect federal revenues over a ten year period. But Grijalva says the measure is opposed by Senate leader Mitch McConnell without a spending offset elsewhere.

Daines tells us the year isn’t over, that his measure has the support of Democrats and Republicans, including Grijalva, and Daines says he’ll keep pushing until he gets it passed.

Reporting by John Sherer for MTN News