STATEMENT OF JACQUELINE LOWEY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND RECREATION OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, U.S. SENATE, CONCERNING S. 134, A BILL TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO STUDY WHETHER THE APOSTLE ISLANDS NATIONAL LAKESHORE SHOULD BE PROTECTED AS A WILDERNESS AREA.
JUNE 29, 2000
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the subcommittee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 134. In addition to authorizing a wilderness study for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the bill mandates that appropriate action be taken to protect the Raspberry Island Lighthouse and the Outer Island Lighthouse. It also amends the park's enabling legislation to specifically authorize cooperative agreements to aid in the protection and preservation of park resources and to aid in the development of facilities in order to provide appropriate recreation. The Department of the Interior supports enactment of this legislation if amended as provided herein.
Located in Lake Superior and the State of Wisconsin, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was established by Public Law 91-424 on September 26, 1970. It was established to "…conserve and develop for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreational use and enjoyment of the public…" 20 of the 22 islands in the archipelago as well as a 13-mile-long strip of shoreline on the mainland. In 1986, Long Island was added to the lakeshore.
Section 2 of this bill would direct the Secretary of the Interior to study whether the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore should be protected as a wilderness area and authorizes $200,000 for a study. The process would begin with a wilderness suitability study of the lakeshore, as required by the Wilderness Act. This provision of the bill is consistent with the park's September 1989 General Management Plan (GMP). Of the lands within the lakeshore under National Park Service jurisdiction, about 97% or 41,054 acres may be suitable for wilderness designation. In accordance with the GMP, these lands are currently being managed to preserve wilderness values until a formal wilderness study can been completed. Any recommended wilderness area would be managed to preserve its wilderness qualities, pending action by Congress.
A wilderness study would also be consistent with the intent of the State of Wisconsin in its donation of lands to the lakeshore. Wisconsin Statutes 1.026 (1)(b) states, "It is the policy of the legislature that the Apostle Islands be managed in a manner that will preserve their unique primitive and wilderness character…"
Section 3 would direct the Secretary of the Interior to undertake appropriate action to protect the historic Raspberry Island and Outer Island Lighthouses. The bill authorizes $3.9 million for bluff stabilization and other necessary actions. There are eight lighthouses on six islands in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, more than in any other unit of the National Park System. Engineering studies have determined that several of these historic lighthouses are in danger of serious structural damage or loss due to the continued erosion of the red clay banks upon which they were built.
This legislation would address the stabilization of the two determined to be in the most immediate danger, Raspberry Island Lighthouse and Outer Island Lighthouse. Between 1987 and 1991, Outer Island suffered its highest rate of erosion and averaged approximately one foot of bank loss per year. The erosion at the Raspberry Island Light Station has been more sporadic. However, heavy spring rains in 1991 caused significant erosion at Raspberry Island and resulted in some mass wasting of the slope directly in front of the light station structures.
The Fiscal Year 1999 Department of the Interior appropriations provided $215,000 for the rehabilitation of the historic lighthouses, and this funding will pay for preliminary engineering assessments to secure design alternatives for addressing the stabilization of both lighthouses. The alternatives are currently at the 30% completion stage and are under review by the National Park Service. The President's Fiscal Year 2001 budget request includes $1.36 million for repairs to the Raspberry Island Light Station. The final construction documents should be completed and ready for advertising in January 2001, subject to availability of funds.
There is an immediate need to take action on the erosion problems adjacent to the Raspberry and Outer Island Light Stations. Erosion has advanced to within 30 feet and 50 feet of the shoreward structures on Raspberry and Outer Islands, respectively. Failure to act promptly could result in damage to or the loss of the structures, possibly with the next high water cycle on Lake Superior. Some evidence indicates that damage may already be occurring at Outer Island. The engineering studies indicate that a return to the high lake levels of the mid-1980s and of excessively wet weather could result in significant loss of resources on Raspberry Island within 10 years and at Outer Island within 10 to 20 years.
Section 2 also amends the park's enabling legislation to authorize cooperative agreements to aid in the protection and preservation of park resources and to aid in the development of facilities in order to provide appropriate recreation. This would ensure that the lakeshore has the legislative authority to effectively enlist the assistance of many of its partners currently interested and willing to help in the long-term management and preservation of the lakeshore’s nationally significant natural, cultural, and recreational resources.
Section 2(g) authorizes an offset from the Department of Energy, Clean Coal Technology, to pay for the wilderness study and stabilization of the lighthouses. The Department of Energy advises that it opposes the use of prior appropriated Clean Coal Technology program funds for this purpose and that these funds are still necessary to meet contractual obligations with industrial cost-sharing partners for ongoing Clean Coal Technology projects. We prefer to fund these projects through the studies and construction accounts of the National Park Service and recommend that the provision be amended accordingly.
This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or members of the subcommittee may have.