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                                                       Calendar No. 668
110th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 2d Session                                                     110-316

======================================================================



 
     DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND ALASKA RAILROAD EXCHANGE ACT OF 2007

                                _______
                                

                 April 10, 2008.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Bingaman, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 830]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the Act (H.R. 830) to authorize the exchange of 
certain interests in land in Denali National Park in the State 
of Alaska, having considered the same, reports favorably 
thereon without amendment and recommends that the Act do pass.

                                PURPOSE

    The purpose of H.R. 830 is to authorize the exchange of 
certain interests in land in Denali National Park in the State 
of Alaska.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    The Alaska Railroad provides passenger rail service from 
Whittier, Anchorage, and Fairbanks to Denali National Park. In 
2005, the railroad carried more than 260,000 passengers to 
Denali National Park. In 2006, that number rose to over 
300,000. The Railroad's ability to manage this increasing 
traffic is limited by the lack of a turn-around at Denali. 
Under current conditions, trains carrying visitors from 
Anchorage to Denali must continue to Fairbanks. Trains 
traveling south from Fairbanks to Denali must likewise continue 
to Anchorage. To accommodate existing traffic, the Railroad 
concentrates passenger service into two trains to Denali per 
day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. These trains 
average 20 coach cars in length and carry up to 1,500 
passengers each. The arrival of so many visitors to the park at 
one time often causes congestion, crowding, and traffic. For 
example, visitors who travel by train to Denali Park Station 
must travel by bus to enter the park. The concentration of rail 
traffic results in two major concentrations of buses that leave 
the park entrance and travel into the park each day.
    A turnaround would allow trains to run round trips from 
either Fairbanks or Anchorage to the park. It would offer the 
Railroad the ability to economically use smaller trains and to 
offer more trips to the park each day. This expanded schedule 
would, in turn, allow the park to smooth out the bus schedule 
and provide a less crowded experience for visitors.
    H.R. 830 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to 
convey to the Alaska Railroad an exclusive use easement to not 
more than 25 acres of land in exchange for the Railroad's 
relinquishment of an exclusive use easement of equal size to 
the federal government. The bill would limit the use of the 
easement conveyed to the Railroad to activities necessary for 
the operation of the railway.
    The lands that would be affected by this bill are within 
the boundary of Denali National Park and owned by the federal 
government. The Alaska Railroad Transfer Act of 1982 (45 U.S.C. 
1201-1214) conveyed to the state an exclusive use easement to 
the Railroad for the approximately 35 miles of track through 
the park. This Act limited the use of the easement to 
activities necessary for the operation of the railway and 
mandated that the state operate the Railroad subject to laws 
and regulations for the protection of park values. H.R. 830 
would apply these same conditions to the easement it conveys to 
the Railroad.
    Although not specified in the bill, the proposed location 
of the turn-around is approximately four miles south of Denali 
Park Station on land that has been determined to be unsuitable 
for wilderness designation. The Railroad has identified four 
parcels of land that are of interest to the National Park 
Service and may be suitable for designation as wilderness.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    H.R. 830, sponsored by Congressman Young, passed the House 
of Representatives by voice vote on October 22, 2007 (H. Rpt. 
110-395).
    A companion bill, S. 1808, sponsored by Senators Murkowski 
and Stevens, was introduced on July 17, 2007. The Subcommittee 
on National Parks held a hearing on S. 1808 on September 27, 
2007. (S. Hrg. 110-266.) At its business meeting on January 30, 
2008, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ordered 
H.R. 830 favorably reported, without amendment.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in an 
open business session on January 30, 2008, by voice vote of a 
quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass H.R. 830.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    Section 1 contains the short title.
    Section 2 contains definitions.
    Section 3(a) authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to 
grant to the Alaska Railroad Corporation an exclusive-use 
easement on land identified by the Secretary within Denali 
National Park for the purpose of providing a location to the 
Corporation for construction, maintenance, and on-going 
operation of track and associated support facilities for 
turning railroad trains around near Denali Park Station. In 
addition, this subsection states that, in exchange for the 
easement, the Secretary shall require the relinquishment of 
certain portions of the Corporation's existing exclusive use 
easement within the boundary of Denali National Park.
    Subsection (b) sets forth the conditions of the exchange 
and include the following: the exchange of easements shall be 
on an approximately equal-acre basis, the easement granted to 
the Railroad shall not exceed 25 acres, the Railroad shall pay 
all costs associated with the exchange, and the lands 
underlying any easement relinquished to the United States that 
are adjacent to designated wilderness are hereby designated as 
wilderness and added to the Denali Wilderness.

                   COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS

    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:

H.R. 830--Denali National Park and Alaska Railroad Land Exchange Act of 
        2007

    H.R. 830 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to 
exchange easements on land within the Denali National Park with 
the Alaska Railroad Corporation to build a turnaround for train 
traffic arriving at the Denali Park Station. The legislation 
would not affect federal ownership of the land, and the Alaska 
Railroad would be responsible for all costs associated with the 
exchange. CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 830 would have 
no significant impact on the federal budget. Enacting the 
legislation would not affect direct spending or revenues.
    H.R. 830 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    The legislation would authorize the Secretary to grant to 
the Alaska Railroad Corporation an exclusive-use easement--an 
agreement that would allow the Alaska Railroad the right to use 
a specified parcel of land for certain purposes to the 
exclusion of all others--on up to 25 acres within the Denali 
National Park. The corporation would use the easement to 
construct and maintain a turnaround for trains arriving at 
Denali Park Station. In exchange, the corporation would 
relinquish an equal amount of land that is currently subject to 
an exclusive-use easement between the federal government and 
the railroad.
    On October 19, 2007, CBO transmitted a cost estimate for 
H.R. 830 as ordered reported by the House Committee on Natural 
Resources on October 10, 2007. The two versions of the 
legislation are identical, as are the estimated costs.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Daniel Hoople. 
This estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out H.R. 830. The Act is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of H.R. 830, as ordered reported.

                   CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED SPENDING

    H.R. 830, as reported, does not contain any congressionally 
directed spending items, limited tax benefits, or limited 
tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the Standing Rules 
of the Senate.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    The views of the Administration were included in testimony 
received by the Committee at a hearing on H.R. 830 on September 
27, 2007.

 Statement of Daniel N. Wenk, Deputy Director, National Park Service, 
                       Department of the Interior

    Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the 
views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1808, a bill to 
authorize the exchange of exclusive use easements between the 
National Park Service and the Alaska Railroad within Denali 
National Park.
    The Department supports S. 1808.
    S. 1808 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to 
convey to the Alaska Railroad (Railroad) an exclusive use 
easement to not more than 25 acres of land in exchange for the 
Railroad's relinquishment of an exclusive use easement of equal 
size to the federal government. The bill would limit the use of 
the easement conveyed to the Railroad to activities necessary 
for the operation of the railway. The bill would also require 
the Railroad to pay the costs associated with the exchange, 
including the costs for surveys and compliance with the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). To complete the 
exchange, the Alaska Legislature would have to approve any 
release of Railroad land interests as the Alaska Railroad is a 
state-owned corporation. The exchange would have to be carried 
out within five years after enactment.
    Both easements in question are located within Denali 
National Park on land owned by the federal government. The 
exchange of easements would not affect federal ownership of 
underlying lands. The easement conveyed to the Railroad would 
be used to build a train turn-around at Denali National Park. 
The easement relinquished by the Railroad would be managed in 
its natural state as part of Denali National Park. If it is 
adjacent to the Denali Wilderness, this bill would add the land 
to the wilderness.
    The Alaska Railroad provides passenger rail service from 
Whittier, Anchorage, and Fairbanks to Denali National Park. In 
2005, the Alaska Railroad carried more than 260,000 passengers 
to Denali National Park. In 2006, that number rose to over 
300,000. The Railroad's ability to manage this increasing 
traffic is limited by the lack of a turn-around at Denali. 
Under current conditions, trains carrying visitors from 
Anchorage to Denali must continue to Fairbanks. Trains 
traveling south from Fairbanks to Denali must likewise continue 
to Anchorage. To accommodate existing traffic, the Railroad 
concentrates passenger service into two trains to Denali per 
day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. These trains 
average 20 coach cars in length and carry up to 1,500 
passengers each. The arrival of so many visitors to the park at 
one time often causes congestion, crowding, and traffic. For 
example, visitors who travel by train to Denali Park Station 
must travel by bus to enter the park. The concentration of rail 
traffic results in two major ``pulses'' of buses that leave the 
park entrance and travel into the park each day.
    A turnaround would allow trains to run round trips from 
either Fairbanks or Anchorage to the park. It would offer the 
Railroad the ability to economically use smaller trains and to 
offer more trips to the park each day. This expanded schedule 
would, in turn, allow the park to smooth out the bus schedule 
and provide a less crowded experience for visitors.
    The lands that would be affected by this bill are within 
the boundary of Denali National Park and owned by the federal 
government. The Alaska Railroad Transfer Act of 1982 (45 U.S.C. 
Sections 1201-1214) conveyed to the state an exclusive use 
easement to the Railroad for the approximately 35 miles of 
track through park. This Act limited the use of the easement to 
activities necessary for the operation of the railway and 
mandated that the state operate the Railroad subject to laws 
and regulations for the protection of park values. S. 1808 
would apply these same conditions to the easement it conveys to 
the Railroad.
    Although not specified in the bill, the proposed location 
of the turn-around is approximately four miles south of Denali 
Park Station on land that has been determined to be unsuitable 
for wilderness designation. The Railroad has identified four 
parcels of land that are of interest to the National Park 
Service.
    The National Park Service believes that full public 
involvement in the planning process should occur prior to 
deciding if a land exchange should occur. This would occur 
through the NEPA compliance that is provided for in the 
proposed legislation.
    Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be 
pleased to answer any questions you or the other members of the 
subcommittee may have.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by the bill H.R. 830, as 
ordered reported.