During a visit Wednesday to Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici discussed her support for a bill that would address deferred maintenance needs.
The National Park Service has estimated that it has $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance backlogs. Lewis and Clark needs $3.2 million, according to 2017 estimates.
The Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act — introduced in July — would commit 50 percent of excess energy development revenue from 2019 to 2023 to the parks. A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate in June and is co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.
The bill has 66 co-sponsors in the House, including Bonamici and representatives from both sides of the aisle.
“Typically our national parks have had bipartisan support, and what I heard and saw today just reinforces why, because it’s so great for our youths to see and families to learn,” the Oregon Democrat said after a brief tour of the park and a visit with some members of its youth programs. “And so I would be hopeful that we can pass the bill to maintain the funding and preserve our national parks.”
The bill would establish the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund in the U.S. Treasury. Revenue would come from energy sources — oil, gas, coal, renewable resources — on federal land. Annual deposits to the fund would be capped at $1.3 billion.
“I don’t know how exactly the funding would be distributed, but I will do what I can to make sure that this park here, Lewis and Clark, gets the funding it needs — especially for the maintenance,” Bonamici said.
If Lewis and Clark received additional money, it would likely be spent to upgrade outdated bathrooms and water pipes and to modernize the visitor’s center, Superintendent Jon Burpee said. The visitor’s center updates could include a roof repair, cosmetic repairs and a refurbishing of exhibits to attract younger visitors.
The park is on track to have about 295,000 visitors this year, Burpee said. That figure would surpass last year’s visitation record of 293,000.
“That’s nice it’s showing growth,” Burpee said. “Where we’re missing is kind of on the maintenance side.”