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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation entitled the Lower Mississippi River National Historic Site Study Act. This bill will direct the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating sites in Plaquemines Parish along the Lower Mississippi River Area as units of the National Park System. I know there are several of my colleagues across the aisle that do not want to authorize such studies because they only target one area, or because it potentially will cost the Federal Government a modest amount to conduct such a study. I can appreciate those sentiments, but the good news with this particular study, is that the local government feels this is so important to get done, they are willing to pay for all or some of the study if necessary, because they know these sites deserve Federal recognition as a unit of the National Park Service.
This area in Southeastern Louisiana has contributed much to our Nation's history, and there are many stories that have yet to be preserved for future generations. Unless Congress acts to preserve these historical assets, they will be lost forever. That is why I am again for the fourth time, introducing this legislation. It is important that this legislation become law and I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact it.
In order to be designated as a unit in the National Park System, the Department of the Interior must first conduct a special resources study to determine whether an area possesses nationally significant natural, cultural or recreational resources to be eligible for favorable consideration.
This is exactly what my bill does--it asks the Department of the Interior to take the first step in determining what I already know--that the Lower Mississippi River Area would be a suitable and feasible asset to the National Park Service.
As many from Louisiana are already aware, this area has vast historical significance with cultural history. In the 1500s, Spanish explorers traveled along the banks of the river. In 1682, Robert de LaSalle claimed all the land drained by the area. In 1699, the site of the first fortification on the Lower Mississippi river, known as Fort Mississippi. Since then, it has been home to ten different fortifications, including Fort St. Phillip and Fort Jackson.
Fort St. Philip, which was originally built in 1749, played a key role during the Battle of New Orleans when American soldiers blocked the British Navy from going upriver. Fort Jackson was built at the request of General Andrew Jackson and partially constructed by famous local Civil War General, P.G.T. Beauregard. This fort was the site of the famous Civil War battle known as the ``Battle of Forts'' which is also referred to as the ``night the war was lost.'' As you can see, from a historical perspective, this area has many treasures that provide a glimpse into our past. These are treasures that have national significance and they should be maintained and preserved.
In addition, there are many other important and unique attributes to this area. This area is home to the longest continuous river road and levee system in the U.S. It is also home to the ancient Head of Passes site, to the Plaquemines Bend, and to two National Wildlife Refuges.
Finally, this area has a rich cultural heritage. Over the years, many different cultures have made this area home, including Creoles, Europeans, Indians, Yugoslavs, African-Americans and Vietnamese. These cultures have worked together to create the infrastructure for the transport of our Nation's energy, which is being produced by these same people off our shores in the Gulf of Mexico. They have also created a vibrant fishing industry that contributes to Louisiana's economy.
I think it is easy to see why this area would make an excellent addition to the National Park Service. However, the longer Congress takes to act, the greater the opportunity for these treasures and their rich history to erode away. Unfortunately, this area has weathered the passing of several hurricanes, including Katrina and most recently Isaac, and is now suffering from the impacts of the BP oil spill. All of these events threaten to destroy these historical assets, but this need not be the case. These assets need protection and this is the first step in securing it. That is why I am re-introducing this bill--to conduct a study to determine the suitability and feasibility of including this area in the system and ultimately to begin the process of adding this area as a unit of the National Park Service. I look forward to working with my colleagues to quickly enact this bill.
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