U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee focused on deferred maintenance and the operational needs of the National Park Service (NPS). The deferred maintenance backlog, which currently stands at $11.6 billion, is one of the most significant challenges for NPS to provide a quality visitor experience.
“Just about every state, and for that matter just about every park unit, is affected by the deferred maintenance backlog,” Murkowski said. “At Denali National Park, in my home state of Alaska, several bridges and culverts on the park road have made the deferred maintenance list, as well as restrooms and wastewater lines in the front country. Polychrome Pass, the most dangerous part of the road, is just now being studied, and is not even on the list.”
Murkowski noted that addressing the backlog is a priority for members on both sides of the committee, and the work that Congress has done to reduce it in recent years. That includes the 2016 Centennial Act and the $180 million she included in the recent government funding bill for construction and deferred maintenance. Murkowski also pledged to focus on legislative solutions in this Congress, including bipartisan efforts from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and a provision in her broad energy and natural resources bill to create a National Park Service Maintenance and Revitalization Conservation Fund.
“Like everyone in this room, I enjoy our national parks,” Murkowski said. “I believe they’re worth protecting and welcome their contribution to our economy. But we also need to recognize that this is a multi-faceted problem, and that will take more than just federal dollars to resolve over the long-term.”
During the question-and-answer portion of the hearing, Murkowski again spoke to the deferred maintenance priorities in Denali National Park, and asked a witness from the Department of the Interior about improvements to the Denali Park Road at Polychrome Pass. The official responded that concerns like the Denali Park Road—which are not deferred maintenance—are high priority for critical repairs.
Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Archived video of today’s hearing can be found on the committee’s website. Click here and here to view Murkowski’s questions for witnesses—including Sarah Leonard of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.