Senator Lisa Murkowski today applauded the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for passing by unanimous consent the Denali Park Improvement bill, which includes three separate measures to decrease the use of diesel fuel and improve energy access in Denali, as well as honor Athabascan climber Walter Harper. The bill was passed as part of a package of public lands bills approved by the committee Thursday morning.
A land exchange for the Kantishna Hills micro-hydroelectric project
The bill allows for the permitting and construction of a 50-kilowatt power plant, a small impoundment dam and a small pipeline to carry water in the non-wilderness portion of Denali National Park and Preserve. It directs the National Park Service to issue a special-use permit to speed construction and provides authority to exchange 10 acres of Doyon Ltd.-owned land with the National Park Service to facilitate construction of the power project, allowing the Alaska Native regional corporation to reduce its use of diesel fuel to power its Kantishna Roadhouse.
"Hydropower provides clean, renewable electricity, and we should pursue its use where ever possible," Murkowski said. "It makes sense to develop a small hydro project within the park to allow Doyon to substantially reduce its reliance on diesel fuel to power the Kantishna Roadhouse."
The permitting of a natural gas pipeline along the Parks Highway in Denali National Park and Preserve
The bill permits a natural gas pipeline to be buried in the utility corridor of the Parks Highway for the seven miles the road passes through Denali National Park and Preserve -- allowing an apples-to-apples comparison with a possible Richardson Highway route and preventing a more environmentally damaging route just outside park boundaries.
"It's important for Alaskans that our North Slope natural gas has a clear legal path to market. This bill allows the decisions on the best route for a pipeline to be based on economic and commercial grounds, rather than out of concern about possible lengthy delays caused by trying to win access rights across federal lands," Murkowski said. "Routing the pipeline through the park would not only make it less expensive to build, but could also take advantage of the existing utility corridor, preventing disturbances to wildlife and environmental impacts on undisturbed lands further to the east or west of the park boundary."
Renaming the National Park Service's Talkeetna Ranger Station in honor of Athabascan climber Walter Harper
"This summer, on June 7, we will mark the 100-year anniversary of the first successful summit of Denali. It's well past time that we did something to permanently honor the man who completed that summit, Walter Harper, an Athabascan Indian from Interior Alaska," Murkowski said. "My legislation renames the ranger station in Talkeetna in honor of Walter Harper. Talkeetna is the first stop for anyone planning to climb Denali, so it's only fitting that hopeful climbers get their mountain orientation at a building named for the first man credited with the first successful summit."
The National Parks Conservation Association expressed their continued support for the legislation. "The National Parks Conservation Association supports legislation that takes a thoughtful approach to protecting roadless Alaska, promoting renewable energy development, and honoring native Alaskans," said Jim Stratton, Senior Regional Director for Alaska. "And when all three components are included in one bill, as they are in Senator Murkowski's Denali Park Improvement Plan of 2013, it's a win-win-win."