Sen. Murkowski Announces Passage of Denali Park Improvement Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today announced that her Denali Park Improvement Act is headed to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. The bill includes three separate measures to reduce the use of diesel fuel, improve energy access in Denali National Park and Preserve, and honor Athabascan climber Walter Harper.

The bill, which was advance through the full Senate in June, was passed on the House floor today by voice vote.

“I commend my colleagues – especially Rep. Don Young, who ushered this legislation through the House – for working to move this bill through Congress,” Murkowski said. “These three measures will not only help improve the energy access and usage in Denali, but also honors a distinguished Athabascan – Walter Harper.”

The legislation includes the following measures:

  • 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 corp. to reduce its use of diesel fuel at its Kantishna Roadhouse.

“Hydropower provides clean, renewable electricity, and we should pursue its use wherever 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.”

  • The permitting of a natural gas pipeline along the Parks Highway through 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 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 past summer marked 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. “This bill renames the ranger station in Talkeetna in honor of Harper, which is fitting since Talkeetna is the first stop for anyone planning to climb Denali.”

In June, the National Parks Conservation Association expressed 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 Sen. Murkowski’s Denali Park Improvement Plan of 2013, it’s a win-win-win.”