STATEMENT OF KATHERINE STEVENSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR CULTURAL RESOURCES STEWARDSHIP AND PARTNERSHIPS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND RECREATION, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, UNITED STATES SENATE, CONCERNING S. 2247, TO ESTABLISH THE WHEELING NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA IN THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA

MAY 18, 2000


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2247, to establish the Wheeling National Heritage Area in Wheeling, West Virginia.

The Department supports S. 2247, if amended as recommended by this testimony. The Administration objects to the bill’s loan authority, which is not consistent with the letter or the spirit of the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990.

S. 2247 would provide the formal legislative charter for a heritage area which is already established and has received support from Congress for the last decade through annual appropriations. This legislation would establish the Wheeling National Heritage Area and designate the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation (WNHAC), a non-profit corporation chartered in the State of West Virginia, as the management entity for the heritage area. It would require WNHAC to implement and coordinate the recommendations contained in the August 1992 Plan for the Wheeling National Heritage Area, ensure integrated operation of the heritage area, and conserve and interpret the historic and cultural resources of the heritage area. The legislation would authorize funding appropriated by Congress to be used by the WNHAC for such purposes as making loans or grants, paying staff, and doing promotion and marketing.

As is the case with other areas that have been designated as national heritage areas by Congress, the city of Wheeling is a place where natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity that are shaped by geography. Through the development and maintenance of many industries crucial to the nation’s expansion, including iron and steel, textile manufacturing, boat building, glass manufacturing, and tobacco manufacturing, Wheeling has played an important role in the industrial and commercial heritage of the United States. Today, a mix of nationally, regionally, and locally significant sites illustrate an important chapter in United States history.

Federal support for the effort to identify and conserve cultural resources in Wheeling began with the development of the 1990 Concept Plan for the Wheeling Area, with which the National Park Service assisted. That document, which included a statement of national significance for the area, encouraged Congress to appropriate funds for the development of a management action plan and other early initiatives. The Wheeling National Heritage Area was one of our nation’s first heritage areas to complete a management plan and receive ongoing technical assistance from the National Park Service.

The Wheeling National Heritage Area plan, completed in 1992, provided an inventory of the area’s resources, recommended policies for resource management and interpretation, and set forth a program for plan implementation. For the past eight years, this plan, which was approved by the National Park Service, has guided WNHAC in its pursuit of appropriations and the expenditure of those funds to implement projects.

The Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation has been successful in completing a number of large projects that were described in their plan, including:

and many more smaller community-based and historic preservation projects.

Wheeling has been fortunate to have superb local leadership, community support, and ongoing technical assistance from the National Park Service. In addition, the funds appropriated by Congress have encouraged investment by the private sector as well as matching funds from the city and the state. In a relatively short amount of time, the work that has been done as a result of having a national heritage area plan and a commission to implement it has made a real impact on the preservation of the city’s cultural resources and in the quality of life that Wheeling-area residents enjoy.

While we support enacting legislation to authorize the Wheeling National Heritage Area, we recommend six changes to S. 2247 as introduced.

First, we object to the authority in section 5(d)(1) for the management entity to use Federal funds to make loans to various entities. No criteria or administrative guidelines have been developed for heritage areas to ensure that the taxpayers’ funds are being used properly. For management entities with limited administrative resources, it would be an administrative burden to set up payment schedules, underwriting, and loan servicing sufficient to provide confidence that a loan program is using Federal funds in an accountable manner. We believe there are more effective ways for management entities to use limited Federal funds than creating loan programs.

Second, we strongly object to the authority in section 6(c) for the Secretary to make loans to the management entity. Such loans would be subject to the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, so it would require a significant investment to administer the loans, estimate subsidy costs, and track loan payments. This would impose a new burden on the National Park Service, which does not have this capability, and would not be cost-effective for such a small program. Establishing such a loan program without reference to the Federal Credit Reform Act or the capacity to implement those procedures is not consistent with recent credit reform efforts.

Third, we recommend requiring that the Wheeling National Heritage Area plan be updated and submitted to the Secretary of the Interior within 18 months of enactment of the bill. Under a requirement to update the plan, WNHAC would review their original implementation agenda and projected capital costs, and consider proposals for new partnership initiatives that may not have been considered in the original document. Updating the plan would give the WNHAC a formal opportunity to take stock of what has been accomplished, how the priorities of the community have evolved, and how community support for the heritage area can be broadened.

Fourth, we recommend that section 6(b) be revised so that the Secretary may, not shall, provide technical assistance. There may be instances, such as the unavailability of appropriated funds, where we cannot provide all of the technical assistance requested by the management entity.

Fifth, we recommend changing the authorization of funding for the Wheeling National Heritage Area to make it consistent with the funding provisions that Congress typically has used in establishing other national heritage areas. The bill as introduced provides for the authorization of "such sums as may be necessary" for the heritage area. We recommend that the bill authorize not more than $1,000,000 for any fiscal year, and not more than a total of $10,000,000 over 15 years. We also recommend a 50 percent non-Federal match requirement.

Finally, we recommend that the Secretary’s authority to provide assistance terminate in 2015. Adding this sunset provision, like the authorization provisions suggested above, would make this legislation consistent with other legislation Congress has passed in recent years.

Amendments reflecting these proposed changes are attached to this statement.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

 

 

Amendments to S. 2247, Wheeling National Heritage Area

Proposed by the National Park Service

 

 

Page 6, line 3, insert "Area" after "Heritage". [technical amendment]

 

Page 8, line 19, strike "loans or".

 

Page 10, after line 7, insert the following:

"(f) REVISION OF PLAN.—Within 18 months after the date of enactment, the management entity shall submit to the Secretary a revised plan. Such plan shall include, but not be limited to—

"(1) Review of the implementation agenda for the heritage area;

"(2) Projected capital costs; and

"(3) Plans for partnership initiatives and expansion of community support."

 

Page 10, line 15, strike "shall," and insert in lieu thereof "may,".

 

Page 10, line 19, strike ", LOANS".

 

Page 10, line 22, strike "loans and".

 

Page 11, strike lines 21 and 22 and insert the following:

"(a) IN GENERAL.—There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act $10,000,000, except that not more than $1,000,000 may be appropriated to carry out this Act for any fiscal year.

"(b) 50 PERCENT MATCH.—The Federal share of the cost of activities carried out using any assistance or grant under this Act shall not exceed 50 percent."

 

Page 11, at end of bill, add the following:

"SEC. 9. SUNSET.

"The Secretary may not make any grant or provide any assistance under this Act after September 30, 2015."