June 10, 2003
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 255, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to grant an easement to facilitate access to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
The Department supports H.R. 255 as passed by the House. The bill would grant an easement by the National Park Service (NPS) to Otoe County, Nebraska for the construction and maintenance of an access road from state and county roads to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Trails and Visitors Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The design, construction, and maintenance of the access road is to be done at no expense to the Federal government.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is currently under construction. It is scheduled to be completed in early 2004 with the grand opening set for July 30, 2004. This coincides with the Lewis and Clark signature event in Nebraska. The center will display the flora and fauna documented by the Lewis and Clark expedition across the country. The NPS recommended that the center be located in Nebraska City in 1991. That same year, the Park Service acquired a 65-acre tract of land for the center, a site adjacent to Nebraska City, Nebraska.
H.R. 255 would facilitate the granting of an easement necessary to create an access road across public land to link the center to the main roads in the area. NPS would grant the easement to the Otoe County government so that the county can construct and maintain the road to the visitor center. When completed, this access road would provide the access from both Nebraska State Highway 2 and Otoe County Road 67 for those visitors to the Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Interpretive Trails & Visitors Center. The bicentennial commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery is expected to draw millions of Americans to sites along the trail over the next several years. This new center, a permanent facility, will be one of the stops many will make along the trail.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you or your committee may have.