SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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THE IMPACT OF THE EXPANSION OF THE MINNEAPOLISST. PAUL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ON THE MINNESOTA VALLEY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
FEBRUARY 3, 1999
Serial No. 1061
Printed for the use of the Committee on Resources
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/house
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Committee address: http://www.house.gov/resources
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
KEN CALVERT, California
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCRICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MARK E. SOUDER, Indiana
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
DON SHERWOOD, Pennsylvania
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
MIKE SIMPSON, Idaho
THOMAS G. TANCREDO, Colorado
GEORGE MILLER, California
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ADAM SMITH, Washington
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-CHRISTENSEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
JAY INSLEE, Washington
GRACE F. NAPOLITANO, California
TOM UDALL, New Mexico
MARK UDALL, Colorado
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
LLOYD A. JONES, Chief of Staff
ELIZABETH MEGGINSON, Chief Counsel
CHRISTINE KENNEDY, Chief Clerk/Administrator
JOHN LAWRENCE, Democratic Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held February 3, 1999
Statement of Members:
Minge, Hon. David, a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota
Prepared statement of
Ramstad, Hon. Jim, a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota
Prepared statement of
Vento, Hon. Bruce, a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement of
Young, Hon. Don, a Representative in Congress from the State of Alaska
Statement of Witnesses:
Ashe, Dan, Assistant Director for Refuges and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC accompanied by Richard Schultz, Refuge Manager, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Prepared statement of
Response to questions from the Committee
Response to questions from the Committee
French, Nelson, Executive Director, Friends of the Minnesota Valley, Bloomington, Minnesota
Prepared statement of
Grams, Hon. Rod, a United States Senator from the State of Minnesota
Prepared statement of
Marzulla, Nancie, Defenders of Property Rights, Washington, DC
Prepared statement of
Pickard, Lynne, Manager of Community and Environmental Needs Division, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC
Prepared statement of
Walsh, Mary U., Asst. Chief Counsel for Legislation, Dept. of Transportation, response to questions from the Committee
Additional material supplied:
Committee on Resources, Memo from
Hartwig, William F., Regional Director, Dept. of the Interior, statement by
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OVERSIGHT HEARING ON THE IMPACT OF THE EXPANSION OF THE MINNEAPOLISST. PAUL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ON THE MINNESOTA VALLEY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1999
House of Representatives,
Committee on Resources,
The Committee met, pursuant to other business, at 11:22 a.m., in Room 1324, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Don Young, [chairman of the Committee] presiding.
STATEMENT OF HON. DON YOUNG, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ALASKA
Mr. YOUNG. The hearing will come to order. The purpose of this hearing today is to take testimony on the impacts of an airport expansion on one of our premier national refuges, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge is home to a broad range of wildlife species which deserve every bit as much protection as do the species that live in other national refuges, including in Alaska refuges such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Species living in this refuge include threatened bald eagles, 35 mammal species, 23 reptile and amphibian species, 97 species of birds, including the tundra swans, migrating all the way from Alaska.
The new runway expansion will cause so much noise and disturbance that most of the facilities under the path of the runway will be relocated. In fact, the refuge will be so impacted by the noise that the FAA has agreed to pay the Fish and Wildlife Service over $20 million to compensate them for taking of their property by virtue of noise.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Yet, with this level of disturbance, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the FAA found that wildlife would not be disturbed so much that the airport expansion should be stopped. They also found no impact on the threatened bald eagle and no need for the protection of the Endangered Species Act in this case. They found that the wildlife in the refuge will adjust to the noise. They found that there is little significant evidence that wildlife will be seriously harmed by the 5,000 take-offs and landings per month at less than 2,000 feet above those important migratory bird breeding and resting areas.
I'm not surprised by that. Most of us know that wildlife adjust to human presence and in some cases actually thrive, and I have an example of this.
This is my little caribou herd around the wells that have been drilled in the terrible dastardly deeds of the oil companies, and are migrating and living there very happily, scratching their backs on the pipeline, resting their tired, weary souls under the derricks that exist there. I mean, this is an example of how animals can adjust.
Most of us know that wildlife adjusts to human presence, and in some cases actually thrive. Fairfax County, abundant deer and bird and fox population can attest to that with all the building around. We've got more deer and everything else than we've ever had before.
Certainly I would agree that airports must be safe and that human life and safety come first. However, how many times have the members of this Committee been told by the Clinton Administration that important safety projects cannot go forward because it mightand I stress mightimpact wildlife. This constant excuse has been used many times in Alaska to oppose vital public safety and health projects.
Mr. Pombo and Mr. Doolittle have heard that in connection with their efforts to get vital flood control improvements needed for the safety of their constituents in California, where we had to save the Blue beetle or the Elderberry beetle.
I know, in fact, that wildlife and human beings can co-exist. In the coastal plain of Alaska, just like I've shown, the caribou have increased, the ducks have increased. I'm showing that picture around to show you they can co-exist. Yet, some members of this Congress, including some in this room and that are going to testify later, have agreed to this airport expansion in Minnesotahave introduced legislation that would preclude most human activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Range by designating it as wilderness.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I guess they believe that wildlife in Alaska can't adjust to human activities, but they can adjust in Minnesota, and I'm really saddened by that because we've probably put more money into our wildlife than any other State. But apparently that wildlife in Minnesota is a lot smarter, and I can't understand that at all. In addition, the Airport Commission, by taxing passengers flying through Minneapolis, will pay over $20 million in compensation for the lost use of refuge lands.
The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects private property when it must be used by the public. This administration has consistently threatened to veto every bill that has been introduced that would reduce the burden on private property owners when they attempt to seek compensation for their lost property from the U.S. Government. They have made the process so expensive, so time consuming, so lengthy, and so difficult, that only the wealthiest land owners can have any hope of attaining the compensation guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment.
Yet the Fish and Wildlife Service demanded and received compensation for the impacts on the people who use the refuge without having to file a lawsuit or even threaten a lawsuit. They demanded compensation and got it. I guess I should not be shocked at anything by this administration, especially their hypocrisy.
As you know, I support our refuges. I've introduced a refuge bill that was signed into law. I have probably sponsored more refuges laws, and I've worked with the refuge system. I want refuges to be places where wildlife can thrive, and I want them to be accessible to the public. I support adequate funding for the refuges. I agree that refuges and wildlife should not be used to stop needed projects and development in nearby communities, but there is a double standard here, my friends. When I can't build a road that saves livesand to my knowledge there have been no lives lost in this Minnesota airportyet I have lost 11 lives because this Congress and certain Members of this Congress, especially from the delegations in Minnesota, want to have a wildlife refuge inviolate.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There's something wrong with that. There's a double standard within the Fish and Wildlife Department, there's a double standard within the Members of Congress that don't see that they parallel and track one another. There is the ability to be compatible if we work together. But when you exclude and put wildlife ahead of the safety of people, you are doing great damage to, I think, to the system of Congress and the system of fairness.
I have asked Fish and Wildlife to be fair, and, frankly, to stop discriminating against the rural people of America. It seems it's all right if it's close to a large metropolitan area and you've got the horse power, but when it's a small, little town and there are only 300 people, they are not important. I don't like the double standard, and before this is over we're going to have lots of fun with this issue, especially with the Fish and Wildlife.
As a Member of Congress I can understand. I don't agree with it, I don't like it, but I can understand it. That Fish and Wildlife has this double standard is wrong, it's immoral, and it is corrupt.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Young follows:]
The CHAIRMAN. I recognize Mr. Vento.
STATEMENT OF HON. BRUCE VENTO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. VENTO. Well, I thank the Chairman for holding the hearing and for drawing together the Minnesota delegation in support of this support of this wildlife refuge, Mr. Chairman. And I would just point out on the basis of the Chairman's remarkshe's got a lot of questions, and I think we have the answers for them, and I think that this is not comparable to some of the examples that were cited with regards to the impact on wildlife and the reasons for the compensation that was and is provided here. Not one single acre of this wildlife refuge is touched on the ground by this. This is the issue of an aircraft overflight issue and a flight path over the sight.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact, when this particular refuge was designated in 1976, it specifically had provisions that said it would not impact the surrounding economic development. Beyond that, I would point out that not only did they work very hard to come to an agreement hereand I appreciate the Fish and Wildlife Service work, the FAA, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission in Minnesota, the work they did. They did a good job, but they alsoin terms of this compensationbut the Metropolitan Airports Commission has already paid out $100 million to, in fact, sound-proof homes in the flight path in Minnesota. And when they get done, they are going to spend about $300 million to sound-proof the homes.
And the compensation being offered herethe mitigation resultssomething in excess of $20 millionhas really little to do with the impact on the wildlife because that is very, very difficult to document. It has to do with the center, the significant center that has been built there that is used for interpretation and education in that area.
And I might add, Mr. Chairman, that I have a little experience with this particular airport because as a junior high school teacher about 22 years ago, I taught directly under the flight path of the Metropolitan Airport, the international airport, and I can attest to the fact that it is very difficult, even with my somewhat modest voice, to in fact convey the various cognitive notions that I was trying to convey to those junior high school students.
Now I know I don't have any such problem here this morning, but I can assure you when the flights go over it is very difficult, so it really means that the center that has been developed here and the resources that have been developed here will probably, in all probability, have to be moved to other sites to augment this. And we have, literally, tens of thousands of students, of individuals, that visit this particular center each year, and it's been of tremendous value.
The agreement, of course, is the culmination of over two years of negotiations. It's a symbiotic relationship between all of those that have been involved. The Federal Government recognized the difficulties associated with creating a refuge in an urban environment, and we, in fact, responded to that by limiting it in law.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Beyond that, of course, we have, within law, under the transportation law, the 4(f) provisions. Whenever a transportation project, whether it's a road, airport expansion, or others, they need to, of course, work with the other Federal resources and entities and land managers in that area.
And beyond that, Mr. Chairman, in the re-framed Fish and Wildlife law that you helped write, that you structured and passed through Congressa compromiseyou, in fact, made special efforts to try and limit the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service in the designation process to limit them as to any rights that they would have as to issues that are trans-boundary. That's what you did in that particular law. I don't think I agree with it.
In fact, what my view is, I think that we should be looking to land managers in most conservation units, whether they're parks, whether they're wildlife refuges or others, to be working on a trans-boundary issue with the other entities.
I mean, it's like the Everglades in Florida and the sheetflow that goes into the Everglades. We have to have an expectation that they're going to be working with the Corps of Engineers, with the Florida conversation districts, because of course what happens in terms of that sheetflow dramatically and significantly impacts the type ofwhat happens in the Everglades, and so we need to expect land managers to be outside the box, to be outside their boundaries, to be voicing their concerns, to be representing the resources and the concerns that they have in the forums, in the States, as partnerships with the States, with the local governments and otherscertainly other Federal agencies that are involved. And that is the expectation that we should mandate of Federal land managers so that they are part of the solution rather than simply standing off and entering these things and being involved in simply court cases.
Now, if it's overflight issues that you're concerned about, I think that the record will show that this Committee has had an aggressive posture with regards to the protection and addressing the issues of overflights over parks, over wilderness, over range lands.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact, I think we need a better policy in terms of the reservation of air space that takes place on the part of our military. Increasingly, they are, in fact, taking over more and more air space in the western part of the United States, albeit for justifiable reasons in their minds' eye. But I think it's very limiting in terms of what it means, in terms of the use of the land on the surface and what the impact is on grazing, what the impact is on recreation.
So we've got a long way to go in terms of addressing this, and I'm pleased to see the Fish and Wildlife Service in the area I represent pursuing this. And I certainly welcome Mr. Schultz, who is here, and the other witnesses: Mr. French from Minnesota, who works with the Friends of the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge. They've done an excellent job, as well as the administrators with the FAA and the Metropolitan Airports Commission, and I hope we can get to some of those questions you raised, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Vento follows:]
INSERT OFFSET FOLIOS 1 TO 2 HERE
Mr. YOUNG. The gentleman's time has expired. I would just like to again remind youI just read your website. It talks about how you spoke up, and your members, and stopped this criticism of this invasion of this refuge, and then right on the same page saying how you're going to take and lock up the ANWR area in my State, and it's a refuge, too.
I mean there is a two double standard here. Another gentleman saysDaniel Ashe, Assistant Director of Refuge and Wildlifecertainly hate to be in the position of losing any aspect of any refuge, but the Minnesota Valley Refuge is an urban refuge, where urban encroachment is a fact of life and you're going to have to deal with it. Well, what about my small towns up north? They are not urban, but they are small villages, and there are people there and they're being impacted by actions of this Congress, and you have a double standard, and that is incorrect.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm going to stress that again. A stabilized standard for all refuges should be put forth. If this was an urban refuge, it should never have been created as a refuge.
By the way, I think you had something to do with that.
Mr. VENTO. I did. I only came here in 1977 to help you with Alaska.
Mr. YOUNG. I know. I realize that.
Mr. VENTO. They sent me here. You needed that help.
Mr. YOUNG. But, again, the reason for this hearing is the double standard within the agencies and the Members of Congress. If you believe in a representative form of government, there has to be some understanding and some belief that fairness is equal to justice.
The first two witnesses: the Honorable Rod Grams of the United States Senateand, boy, if I have kept the Senator waiting, I really apologize for that; the Honorable Jim Ramstad of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Mr. VENTO. Mr. Chairman, I have Mr. Minge's statement. He's involved in an agricultural conference; he's got some serious problems with regards to pork and other issues and he has asked to have his statement put into the record in support of this agreement. Without objection, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. YOUNG. Well, it's fine with me. I mean, it's his district, you know.
Mr. VENTO. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Minge follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. DAVID MINGE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. Chairman and Members of this subcommittee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak before this body regarding the proposed runway expansion of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and its effects on the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I applaud Chairman Young's obvious concern for the well-being of the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge and for the hundreds of species of plants and animals that inhabit the 10,000 acres of this wondrous facility. The Resources Committee certainly has an obligation to look into any Federal project or land transaction that could potentially threaten the full and continued operation of a national wildlife refuge, preserve or national park.
But I can assure Mr. Young that this refuge, of which a significant portion lies within the boundaries of my Congressional District, will see little if any net loss as a result of the recently proposed airport expansion/refuge mitigation project. Rather, this collaborative effort by the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Metropolitan Airport Commission and the Friends of the Minnesota Valley should be held up as an example of the kinds of innovative solutions that become possible through cooperative efforts.
These types of expansion projects are frequently portrayed as a clash between technological progress and conservation efforts, between business expansion and natural resources preservation, between private and public interests. Yet in this instance, a very delicately balanced agreement among between diverse interests was reached to accomplish a common goal.
During my six years in Congress, I have worked closely with the Friends of the Minnesota Valley and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in their efforts to create and maintain a unique conservation and educational facility in the Twin Cities suburban area. I have been extremely pleased with the way the refuge has been run and with the high quality of educational services that it provides for students and adults. The opportunity for people from all over the United States to enjoy, appreciate and learn about these native species of wildlife without significant disruption of the animals' natural habitats is a tremendous resource that we cannot afford to lose.
I also recognize the importance of maintaining an effective and efficient transportation infrastructure. As a main hub of airline transportation, Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport serves not only the citizens of Minnesota but fills a role as an important junction point for thousands of other travelers who cross the Mississippi River every year. There is widespread agreement among state and local leaders in Minnesota that an expansion of the existing airport is crucial, given the increased demand for services and the potential for greater competition among airlines. The only reasonable alternative to expansion would be the construction of a new airport, an option that many agree would be worse both economically and environmentally than expansion.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am joined by a bipartisan group of eight other Members of the Minnesota Congressional delegation, who believe that the proposed airport expansion should be allowed to continue without hindrance.
When the expansion of our society causes a disruption of a sensitive environmental area, it is important that we consider many important factors to determine the least intrusive means available to accomplish the expansion while falling within reasonable economic parameters. I believe that the parties involved in this project have done this. Their plan calls for compensation to the refuge of an amount no less than $20 million. This funding will allow the refuge to relocate many of its outdoor classrooms away from the noise of the runway, and it will allow for the replacement of more than 4,000 acres of land.
I sympathize with Chairman Young's frustration at not gaining approval for a project in his home state of Alaska that he clearly believes is in the best interests of his constituents. The derailing of a worthwhile project such as this expansion/mitigation plan will have no effect on the ultimate passage or defeat of the Alaskan project. The two projects are not analogous, they are not related and neither project should have any dependence on the other. Each project should be discussed and debate on its own merits. In Minnesota, the stakeholders, including the ardent environmental advocates, have reached an accommodation. I hope that same can occur in Alaska.
In a perfect world, the conflicts between society and the environment would not occur. In a perfect world, the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport would be located in an area that does not conflict with the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge or any nearby property owners. Certainly, we do not live in a perfect world.
But when both private and public interests, both business and environmental advocates, can come together and agree on a plan that will benefit millions of consumers, businesspeople and nature loversand, at the same time, serve the interests of economic expansion and progresswe should all take notice.
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Mr. YOUNG. In all due respect for my good Senator, you have other things on your mind today and the rest of the week, so I'd like to suggest that if you would like to, Senator, go forth with this discussion we have about an airport. By the way, how did you vote on the Izembek Road?
STATEMENT OF HON. ROD GRAMS, A UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Senator GRAMS. I'll tell you about that.
Mr. YOUNG. All right.
I'm very interested. I'm really am very interested. You know, this is a long time coming. Go ahead, Senator.
Senator GRAMS. All right. Thank you very much. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and also members of the Committee. It's great to see you, and I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of this hearing and to provide my testimony.
And first, Mr. Chairman, I think it's important to point out that those of us in the Minnesota delegation approach this issue maybe from different angles, but eventually we end up at the same point and that is supporting the agreement that you are examining here today.
First, Mr. Chairman, the legislation you introduced last year to prevent the implementation of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Agreement clearly referencedand what I've heard this morning is your frustration with the administration's unwillingness to allow a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
It comes as no surprise that Members of the Minnesota delegation were split on the Izembek road issue, but I want to stress that, as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I voted in support of Senator Murkowski's legislation to build that road. Later on the Senate floor, I again supported Murkowski and voted in favor of the bill because I believe the Members of the Alaska delegation made a convincing argument about the health and safety of the citizens of King Cove, Alaska.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, Mr. Chairman, I have long been, and always will be, a steadfast proponent of access to our natural resources and allowing local officials more authority of land use issues. I've always felt that the Federal Government exercises too much authority over local units of government in virtually all matters, but, in particular, with regard to land use decisions.
And far too often the Federal Government has turned Federal lands into playgrounds for the elite and cordoned them off to even the most basic of uses, and this problem is only exaggerated in States such as Alaska, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, where the Federal Government owns more land than does all the citizens of those States combined.
The King Cove situation is a perfect example of a pervasive belief among government bureaucracies that their programs and initiatives are more important than the people that they will impact, or in this matter the health and the safety of the citizens of King Cove.
Mr. Chairman, my State, too, faces problems with an over-active Federal Government bent on decreasing access to our natural resources and zeroing out timber sales on our national forests. This Committee, last year, marked up legislation offered by Congressman Oberstar and I to restore access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. And thanks to the efforts of Congressman Oberstar and Vento, a common sense compromise was found which I hope settles the portage issue for good.
But when Members of Congress advocate more local input and common sense decisionmaking by the Federal Government, as many of us have for so long, they are duty bound to support the Federal Government when it acts consistent with that philosophy as well. I've always been a strong proponent of bringing the Federal Government, the local governments, and the private sector together in a non-adversarial way to reach decisions on land use and on environmental issues which benefit everyone.
I believe only the most extreme activists really want to block any progress and reject compromise. In fact, I believe we must take and make an effort to turn the corner on pitting property owners against government and businesses against conservationists. It's always been my belief that all Republicans share a similar outlook, considering it's a vast improvement over the confrontational way in which we seem to approach matters involving our Federal lands. And that is why all Members of Congress should support the agreement reached on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In Minnesotaone of the most environmentally conscious States in our country, by the wayall sides came together and worked together to reach a solution which will protect the wildlife and the health of the refuge well into the 21st century and will also allow for the badly needed expansion of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
Your legislation pointed out that the refuge is unique as an urban wildlife refuge in a growing metropolitan area, and you were right. When the refuge was created, this fact was not missed by Congress. In fact, Public Law 94466 dedicated one section to the understanding that flexibility between the refuge's needs and the needs of a growing city would be necessary in the future.
Now let me read for the Committee a portion of section 9 of the refuge enabling legislation, and I quote:
''Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting or preventing the provision of vital public services, including the construction, improvement, and replacement of highways and bridges or any other activity which the Secretary determines to be necessary. Any activity referred to in this section shall be carried out so as to minimize the disruption of wildlife and the reduction of recreational and scenic values of the area.''
Now, Mr. Chairman, I submit to you that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did more than comply with this lawthey followed it to the letter. And too often we quarrel about Federal agencies that interpret laws their way and that ignore the intent of Congress. But, clearly, both the law and the intent were met by the agreement and the actions of the Fish and Wildlife Service in this case.
I believe it's important to remind the Committee that the agreement does not allow a road to be built into the refuge. In fact, the agreement does not allow the expansion of the runway to touch one acre of land within the refuge. The agreement is aimed at mitigating expected but unmeasurable impacts from the noise of overflights on wildlife and on visitor enjoyment.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As the Committee is aware, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot exert jurisdiction over the airspace over refuges as a result of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997I have just a little bit left, Mr. Chairmantherefore, organizations like the Friends of the Minnesota Valley were left with just two options: either take the matter to court or work with the refuge and other parties to seek a compromise resolution which benefited everybody. And I am proud to say that they chose the latter.
You will soon hear from Nelson French, who is the executive director of the Friends of the Minnesota Valley, and he will more clearly explain the give-and-take that took place to reach this agreement. But I can tell you that his organization, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, and even the Federal Aviation Administration all set their differences aside and forged an agreement based on a few primary points.
First, the agreement will allow for a new runway to be built at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and that some impacts will occur as a result. Second, those impacts are to be mitigated by a cash payment, as you mentioned, of not less than $20 million. The settlement received from the Metropolitan Airports Commission will be spent on projects designed to offset or replace refuge land, facilities, and/or programs impacted by the runway's construction and future operation.
And third, Mr. Chairman, all parties agree that the agreement does provide full compensation to the refuge and that nothing in the agreement precludes or limits the Fish and Wildlife Service from continuing to appropriately manage refuge lands.
So not only does the agreement preserve every acre of refuge land, it will actually expand its acreage and will allow it to purchase land within the refuge boundaries. And, further, not only will the refuge expand, but its programs and facilities may improve and expand as well. This refuge, following the agreement, will be a more complete refuge and remain one of our Nation's premier urban wildlife preserves.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, Mr. Chairman, I regret that I have to come here this morning and defend this agreement with those who took part in its creation. The parties to the agreement should be here today briefing the Committee and Congress on how they approached a very sensitive environmental issue and came out of it with a very workable and common sense conclusion. We should be congratulating them rather than questioning the wisdom of those actions.
Now I hope the members of the Committee will listen closely to what took place in Minnesota, and I hope you will leave the hearing today with a new understanding of what actually happened and also a new appreciation of the approach that the participants chose.
Mr. Chairman, I'm confident this agreement will stand up to scrutiny, and hopefully it will serve as a reminder that local interests can solve local problems, not only in Minnesota, but in Alaska and in other States as well, with local solutions in a way that the Federal Government can and should support.
So, again, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you very much, and also the members of the Committee, for the opportunity to be here today and provide my statement. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Senator Grams follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. ROD GRAMS, A SENATOR IN THE SENATE FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Good Morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. Thank you for allowing me to provide my testimony.
First, I think it is important to point out that all of us in the Minnesota delegation approach this issue from different anglesbut eventually we all end up at the same point and that is supporting the agreement you are examining today.
First, Mr. Chairman, the legislation you introduced last year to prevent the implementation of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge agreement, clearly referenced your frustration with the Administration's unwillingness to allow a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. It comes as no surprise that the Members of the Minnesota Delegation were split on the Izembek Road issue. But I want to stress that as a Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I voted in support of Senator Murkowski's legislation to build that road. Later, on the Senate floor, I again supported Senator Murkowski and voted in favor of the bill. I believe the Members of the Alaska delegation made a convincing argument about the health and safety of the citizens of King Cove, Alaska.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, I have long been and always will be a steadfast proponent of access to our natural resources and allowing local officials more authority over land-use decisions. I have always felt the Federal Government exercises too much authority over local units of government in virtually all mattersbut in particular with regard to land use decisions. Far too often, the Federal Government has turned Federal lands into playgrounds for the elite and cordoned them off to even the most basic uses. And this problem is only exaggerated in states such as Alaska, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, where the Federal Government owns more land than do all of the citizens of those states combined. The King Cove situation is a perfect example of a pervasive belief in government bureaucracies that their programs and initiatives are more important than the people they will impactor in this matter, the health and safety of the citizens of King Cove.
My state, too, faces problems with an overactive Federal Government bent on decreasing access to our natural resources and zeroing out timber sales on our National Forests. This Committee, last year, marked up legislation offered by Congressman Oberstar and I to restore access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. And thanks to the efforts of Congressmen Oberstar and Vento, a common-sense compromise was found which I hope settles the portage issue for good.
But when Members of Congress advocate more local input and common sense decision-making by the Federal Government, as many of us have for so long, they are duty bound to support the Federal Government when it acts consistent with that philosophy. I have also always been a strong proponent of bringing the Federal Government, local governments, and the private sector together in a non-adversarial way to reach decisions on land-use and environmental issues which benefit everyone. I believe only the most extreme activists really want to block any progress and reject compromise. In fact, I believe we must make an effort to turn the corner on pitting property owners against government, and businesses against conservationists. It has always been my belief that all Republicans shared a similar outlook, considering it a vast improvement over the confrontational way in which we seem to approach matters involving Federal lands.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That is why all Members of Congress should support the agreement reached on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In Minnesota, one of the most environmentally conscious states in our country, all sides came together and reached a solution which will protect the wildlife and health of the Refuge well into the 21st century and will allow for the badly needed expansion of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport
Your legislation pointed out that the Refuge is unique as an urban wildlife refuge in the middle of a growing metropolitan areaand you are right. When the Refuge was created, this fact was not missed by Congress. In fact, Public Law 94466 dedicated one section to the understanding that flexibility between the Refuge's needs and the needs of a growing city would be necessary in the future. Let me read for the Committee a portion of Section 9 of the Refuge's enabling legislation:
''Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting or preventing the provision of vital public services, including . . . the construction, improvement, and replacement of highways and bridges . . . or any other activity which the Secretary determines to be necessary. Any activity referred to in this section shall be carried out so as to minimize the disruption of the wildlife and the reduction of recreational and scenic values of the area.''
Mr. Chairman, I submit to you that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did more than comply with this lawthey followed it to the letter. Too often, we quarrel about Federal agencies that interpret laws their way, and ignore the intent of Congress. Clearly, both the law and the intent were met by the agreement and the actions of Fish and Wildlife Service.
I believe it is important to remind the Committee that the agreement does not allow a road to be built in the Refuge. In fact, the agreement does not allow the expansion of the runway to touch one acre of land within the refuge. The agreement is aimed at mitigating expectedbut unmeasurableimpacts from the noise of overflights on wildlife and on visitor enjoyment. As the Committee is aware, the U S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot exert jurisdiction over the airspace over refuges as a result of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. Therefore, organizations like the Friends of the Minnesota Valley were left with two optionseither take the matter to court or work with the Refuge and other parties to seek a compromise resolution which benefited everyone. I am proud to say they chose the latter.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You will soon hear from Nelson French, Executive Director of the Friends of the Minnesota Valley. He will more clearly explain the give and take that took place to reach this agreementbut I can tell you that his organization, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Metropolitan Airports Commission and even the Federal Aviation Administration, all set their differences aside and forged an agreement based on a few primary points.
First: The agreement will allow for a new runway to be built at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, and that some impacts will occur as a result.
Second: Those impacts are to be mitigated by a cash payment of not less than $20 million. The settlement received from the Metropolitan Airports Commission will be spent on projects designed to offset or replace Refuge land, facilities, and/or programs impacted by the runway's construction and operation.
Third: All parties agreed that the agreement does provide full compensation to the Refuge and that nothing in the agreement precludes or limits the Fish and Wildlife Service from continuing to appropriately manage Refuge lands.
So, not only does the agreement preserve every acre of Refuge land, it will actually expand its acreage and allow it to purchase land within the Refuge's boundaries. Further: not only will the Refuge expand, but its programs and facilities may improve and expand as well. This Refuge, following the agreement, will be a more complete Refuge and remain one of our Nation's premiere urban wildlife preserves.
I regret that I have to come here this morning and defend this agreement and those who took part in its creation. The parties to the agreement should be here today brieflng the Committee and Congress on how they approached a sensitive environmental issue and came out of it with a workable, common-sense conclusion. We should be congratulating them, rather than questioning the wisdom of their actions.
I hope the Members of the Committee will listen closely to what took place in Minnesota. I hope you will leave the hearing today with a new understanding of what actually happened and a new appreciation for the approach the participants chose. I am confident that this agreement will stand up to scrutiny and serve as a reminder that local interests can solve local problems with local solutionsin a way the Federal Government can support.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again, Mr. Chairman, I thank you and the Members of the Committee for the opportunity to be with you today
Mr. YOUNG. Thank you, Senator, and I do compliment you. I know how you voted on it. I checked it before you got to the table.
Senator GRAMS. Thank you.
Mr. YOUNG. And I do appreciate your comment aboutand again, why I'm disturbed is that, you know, you have a larger State. You have a lot more people involved, and there is a double standard here. There was never an attempt by Fish and Wildlife on the local or the Federal level ever to reach a compromise with this Congressman on the Izembeck Road, and they never, ever, ever could prove the facts that they were putting forth. They were all fictitious. The propaganda that came out of many of the Congressmen and the other organizations that oppose the Izembek Road disallowed the safety factor for those people. And just because there are only 300 and you've got 3 million, I think that's very inappropriate, and I want to stress that again.
I do thank you, and I know you have other things on your mind. I don't have any questions. Does anybody have any questions for the Senator?
Senator GRAMS. But I just wanted to say, Mr. Chairman, I agree with you, and I think fairness is a big issue, whether it's 300 or 3 million. And I will continue to support efforts like this in the future.
Mr. YOUNG. I thank you, and you're excused if you have to go. I know you've got other things on your mind.
Mr. Minge, do you haveyou're not onyes, he is; Mr. Ramstad is on the agenda. I have to go to Mr. Ramstad and then you'll have an opportunity to speak.
Mr. Ramstadand I know how you voted.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF HON. JIM RAMSTAD, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. RAMSTAD. That's right, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YOUNG. I also know you're a sponsor of ANWR, an original sponsor for two years in a row, two terms in a row, which is in my State.
Mr. RAMSTAD. That's right, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YOUNG. No, you can testify.
Mr. RAMSTAD. But I certainly appreciate the fact that you're letting methose factors not withstandingtestify today, Mr. Chairman. I did support the FY 1999 Omnibus Appropriations bill, Mr. Chairman, which was a compromise on the Izembik road, just like we have a compromise before the Committee today, and
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?
Mr. YOUNG. Yes.
Mr. POMBO. May I compliment Mr. Ramstad on learning so quickly how to get along on this Committee.
Mr. RAMSTAD. Well, one thing we agree on, thanks to the chairman's great State, their favorite son, the only native Alaskan ever to play in the National Football League, who happens to be my cousin, just got another Super Bowl ring Sunday blocking for John Elway of the Denver Broncosnumber 69, Mark Schlereth. So we can agree on that.
Mr. YOUNG. That's the only reason I bet on Denver, so I can say that right now.
Mr. RAMSTAD. Well, thank you again, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee. This agreement, which Senator Grams outlined, between the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, is a practical, reasonable, common sense solution to the problem of urban encroachment.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The agreement is supported by all partiesthe Metropolitan Airports Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the Minnesota congressional delegation.
And, Mr. Chairman, this agreement is a real tribute to all of these parties who worked very, very hard to craft this practical, common sense compromise. It will improve the airport, improve the refuge, and improve Minnesota. I want to commend, from the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Dave Dombrowski and Nigel Finney, who spearheaded the effort on the part of the MAC; they are here today; Nelson French, whom Senator Grams mentioned, representing the Friends of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and Rick Schultz, the refuge manager, who does such an outstanding job throughout the year, every year, managing that great refuge; and Dan Ashe, who is the Assistant Director of the Minnesota Office of the Fish and Wildlife Service, who is also, I understand, going to testify today.
I regret, Mr. Chairman, that there have been a few misunderstandings about the scope of the agreement. For example, I've seen in certain accounts that the runway is going to intrude on the refuge. In fact, the runway is not going to expand into the refuge. It will come no closer than 1.25 miles from the refuge. So, it is not true that the runway will in fact extend into or onto the grounds of the refuge. That is simply not true.
The impact of the refuge on the new runway will be the increased noise of take-offs and landings. Yes, there will be more noise, and this was a big concern to me when I first learned of the proposal. But due to good faith efforts of all parties involved, this agreement has been reached, which does, I believe, protect the refuge, increase visitor usage, and allow for the needed runway expansion without the loss of one acrewithout the loss of one acre of the existing refuge. And the mitigation, which will amount to not less than $20 million will allow the refuge to purchase new land and construct a new visitors' center.
So, again, I just want to thank all of the parties to this agreement. It proves that government can work when peoplelocal peoplework together with government officials, in this case from the Metropolitan Airports Commission, from the Fish and Wildlife Service, and from the refuge.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, thank you for the opportunity to testify today and to express the concerns of Minnesotans and others who support this agreement.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ramstad follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. JIM RAMSTAD, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify today on an issue of great importance to the people of Minnesota.
The recent agreement between the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge will provide at least $20 million to mitigate the noise impact of a new runway being built near the Refuge.
This agreement is supported by the Metropolitan Airports Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Friends of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Minnesota Congressional delegation. This agreement is a tribute to each of these parties and represents a common-sense approach by all sides. It will improve the airport, improve the Refuge and improve Minnesota.
Regrettably, there have been a number of misunderstandings about the scope of the agreement. For example, press accounts have reported that the runway would intrude into the Refuge. Let me assure everyone that this agreement will not allow the construction of a runway within the boundaries of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The impact on the Refuge of the new runway will be the increased noise of takeoffs and landings. While I admit this was a concern to me when I first learned of this project, good-faith efforts by all parties yielded a comprehensive agreement that protects the refuge, increases visitor usage, and allows for the runway expansion without the loss of one acre of the existing refuge.
In fact, the mitigation funds will allow the Refuge to purchase new lands and construct a new visitors center.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Each of the parties involved in this agreement, many of whom are here today, must be commended for working together to create a pragmatic, common-sense solution to this issue.
Again, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today to express the concerns of Minnesotans and others who support this agreement.
Mr. YOUNG. Thank you, Mr. Ramstad.
STATEMENT OF HON. DAVID MINGE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. MINGE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd just like to briefly state that most of the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge is in the 2nd Congressional District, and we view this as a tremendous resource, not just for the district and for the State, but for the entire country, and it's with some regret that we see any portion of this district compromised. In that respect we appreciate your solicitude, Mr. Chairman, for the problems that are faced by the refuge in our State.
There are some very positive things about this agreement, and certainly Mr. Ramstad and Mr. Grams have already alluded to several of them. I would like to point out a couple of others. There has been tremendous pressure to consider the development of another airport in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. That would take many thousands of acres, and many of those acres would be environmentally fragile.
This expansion of a runway minimizes the chance that we will have to have a new airport developed, and if you look at what happened in Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, and you see what a new airport means in terms of its impact on the communities where it's located, you understand that this is no small consideration. And I think that we should weigh this as we deliberate the objections that have been raised to the process that is being undertaken here.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would also like to emphasize that the Friends of the Minnesota Valley, headed by Nelson French, have been very vigilant in contesting anything that would constitute development that would compromise this refuge. And I think it's quite a tribute to them and to the compromise that they have supported this, they recognize that there are additions to the refuge and a relocation of the center that will actually enhance the refuge and in the long-run make this a more valuable resource for our area.
Finally, I would like to say that I have spent a fair amount of time at the refuge, and as much as I share the concerns that you have, Mr. Chairman, and several others, about anything that would constitute a compromise here in a context that you feel might have been unfairly handled in Alaska, I do think that we have achieved an accommodation here that is reasonable.
And I would simply urge that in your State every effort be made to bring all of the stakeholders together so that, like was done in Minnesota, you could have those groups that have been perhaps more contentious, that have been a burr under the saddle for you, if I may say that, on board and supporting whatever resolution you feel would be best in your State. And I think that's what has happened here. Thank you very much. Otherwise, I have submitted my statement for the record.
Mr. YOUNG. I appreciate that, and I want you to understand, the purpose of this hearing is not necessarily to criticize the Valley Commission or the Airport Commission. I am very concerned about the Fish and Wildlife and asking compensation of $20 million. Frankly, that does not help the wildlife out at all. And I alsoFish and Wildlife used arguments on the national level and on the local level in my area that any activity on the refuge would diminish the purpose of the refuge, and yet you know that this is a heavily used refuge which you are representing. And again, it's a double standard.
And, you know, we tried, with the Fish and Wildlife. We tried to explain what we're trying to do. We tried. We said we would build the road without charging the taxpayers one nickel, and they said it was going to cost $100 million. This is pure nonsense. We tried to give them more land. We actually had an increase in the amount of land, and they wouldn't accept that. They just said, ''No, we're going to tolerate it. This is a national issue because there are only 300 people involved.''
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I can understand your desire not to build another airport because it does take a tremendous amount of land. I'm not going to argue the merits of building the other airport. I'm arguing the merits of how the Fish and Wildlife conducted itself, and even how the Commission was blackmailed into paying that compensation of $20 millionand for what? To my knowledge there is nothing that is going to improve the wildlife at all.
There's not a dollar going to be spent on improvement of the wildlife. It's usually spent on moving the buildings, re-establishing new buildings, or buying other private land. It's not for the wildlife. And you know, it's just a total, total lack of consideration. This is a classic example where, I guess, might is right; the few are discarded and the many survive, and the Federal agency that really is supposed to represent everybody on an equal basis has frankly, I think, done the wrong thingnot the people of Minnesota, but the agency itself.
So, I thank you for your comments and we'll get to the rest of it. Thank you very much.
Mr. VENTO. Mr. Chairman, just a comment. I appreciate my colleagues' testimony, all of them in support of this agreement, and I think that we shouldthere's a vast difference between an air flight path and a road through a wilderness refuge in Alaska. I mean, you're comparing apples and oranges here, and the fact is if there's a case with regards to any wildlife refuge in Alaska that you're looking for compensation because of the impact of aircraft overflights, I would be happy to ally my efforts with yours to gain that type of compensation in that case. And the fact is, this is based upon, yes, the education and resource center that has an overflight path that's going to go over it by virtue of this extension of the runway.
And in addition to that, there are 4,000 acresthere is some acreage being added to this refuge to try and compensate for the impact on the wildlife in that area. But, frankly, as you had noted rightly, because of the laws that you wrote in 1997 and because of the 1976 law which established this, the Fish and Wildlife Service really has very little legal standing to, in fact, pursue the protection of that wildlife. Plus, I think the science is difficult in terms of making the justifications for it.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, nevertheless, they've been successful, even with these types of handicaps, using the 4(f) provisions of the transportation law for an aircraft overflight patha flight path, not a roadand this is not a wilderness-designated Fish and Wildlife Service, as was the instance. So, this comparison is completely erroneous that you are attempting to portray. That you have a problem in Alaska, I admit that. I am attempting to designate ANWR's wilderness. I plead guilty with 150 sponsors in the last session. We feel strongly about it.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. VENTO. No, not at this point. But the fact is that this comparison is completely erroneous. It just has no comparison, and I think
Mr. YOUNG. With all due respect, the gentleman knows that is not true. There is a great comparison; there is a tremendous comparison.
Mr. VENTO. I think in your mind, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YOUNG. In your mind you think there's no comparison at all, and I understand that. But in the reality, there is a double standard here. Now you know and I know that we tried to reach solutions
Mr. VENTO. Do you have any instance where there is an aircraft overflight problem in Alaskaan impactyou could find physical resources? I'd be happy to join you in terms of trying to mitigate that particular problem. That's the issue here. It isn't a road. Nobody's putting a road through this particular wildlife refuge, which isn't a wilderness, incidentally, as the one in Alaska is. I understand. I respect your views and your right to hold an opinion on this, but I think, to say the least, the analogy is confusing.
Mr. YOUNG. The gentleman from Nevada.
Mr. GIBBONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I do take exception to my colleague's comments from Minnesota because as I recall, wasn't it just the end of last year when you objected to an overflight for an airport in Nevada because it was 5,000 feet above a refuge and you said it was totally objectionable to the wildlife habitat to have an airport that had a proposed flight path 5,000 feet above the ground? Not 500, not a half-a-mile away, a mile-and-a-half and 5,000 feet, and you objected to that.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, to come here and say that you don't have any objection to 500 feet over a wildlife habitat, and yet to have objected last year to a 5,000 foot or greater seems to me to be, you know, crossing similar arguments without the same degree of good faith involved with what we're talking about here. That was an aircraft overflight.
Mr. VENTO. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. GIBBONS. No, I won't yield. I'll yield back to the Chairman.
Mr. YOUNG. The gentlelady.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Chairman, I think the gentleman from Minnesota is very good at trying to redefine the problem, but the question here is, as Fish and Wildlife stated, in their opinion in this particular case, wildlife could habituate to the human activity5,000 flights a day at a low altitude. Yet in Alaska, there were very, very few vehicles traveling on a gravel road, and they didn't even give anyone the chance to even evaluate whether the wildlife could habituate to that minimum human impact. And that's what this hearing is all about. It's the inconsistencies of the way the Fish and Wildlife apply their policies, and this is one of the most glaring inconsistencies.
So, I don't think we ought to redefine the problem. This isdefinitionallythis is what the problem is about, and for years we've been asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to really examine whether wildlife could habituate to human activity, and obviously in this case it is true.
Mr. YOUNG. The next panelpanel two: Mr. Ashe, Ms. Pickard, Ms. Marzulla, and Mr. French.
We have a vote, so I'm going to make a suggestion that we go over and vote and come back as rapidly as possibly, and the witnesses can go to the restroom if you want to because you have been sitting here all morning. Approximately, I would say 12:30 p.m. because we have two votes in a row.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Recess.]
Mr. YOUNG. But we had a series of votes, so it took a little longer, and we'll try to progress forth.
The first person on the panel is Mr. Ashe, Assistant Director for Refuges, Fish and Wildlife Service. He is accompanied by Mr. Schultz, Refuge Manager, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Second is Ms. Lynne Pickard, and Ms. Nancie Marzulla and Mr. Nelson French. Mr. Ashe, you're up.
Mr. ASHE. Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YOUNG. And welcome, by the way, to the Committee, all committees. You used to work with Mr. Jones; I remember you, and I hope you haven't gone too far astray, but go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF DAN ASHE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR REFUGES AND WILDLIFE, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, WASHINGTON, DC ACCOMPANIED BY RICHARD SCHULTZ, REFUGE MANAGER, MINNESOTA VALLEY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Mr. ASHE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, and as you said, my name is Dan Ashe and I am the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Assistant Director for Refuges and Wildlife, and Mr. Rick Schultz is with me today, and he is our manager at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
And Minnesota Valley Refuge is somewhat unique in the refuge system, as it is located largely in an urban setting, co-existing with over 2 million Twin Cities residents. Since establishment, the refuge has acquired 10,000 of its authorized 14,000 acres, built a state-of-the-art wildlife and interpretation visitors' center, and developed top-flight public use programs and facilities.
In establishing the refuge, Congress recognized its urban setting and the need for the Service to work and balance the needs of the refuge with the urbanization of the Twin Cities area. The enabling legislation provided that nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting or preventing the provision of vital public services.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Further, under the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the Service has no authority to regulate air space above a refuge. And since this particular project will not be built upon refuge lands, the Service had no direct means to influence it. However, under section 4(f) of the 1966 Department of Transportation Act, the Transportation Secretary may not approve a project that requires the use of any publicly-owned land, including wildlife refuges, unless there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to using that land and unless the project considers all possible planning to minimize the resulting harm.
It was under this provision of law that we were able to work cooperatively with the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the FAA to ensure that the disturbance to the wildlife and wildlife-dependent recreation was minimized. It was clear that the overflights from the proposed runway expansion would significantly affect noise-sensitive public activities on the refuge. The intense noise at frequent intervals will significantly impede normal conversation of refuge visitors. Our long-standing and traditional outdoor activities, including conservation education, birding activities, youth waterfowl hunting, and our visiting public's ability to view wildlife in its natural setting without significant intrusions will be compromised.
In view of these noise impacts, FAA correctly determined that construction and operation of the runway will result in a constructive use of refuge lands by the airport and are therefore subject to section 4(f) of the Transportation Act. Consequently, cooperative discussions among the parties led us to the agreement that is reflected in the MOU involving the Metropolitan Airports Commission, the Service, and the FAA.
The MOU provides for mitigation that will replace approximately 4,000 acres of refuge lands, construct a new visitor facility away from the aircraft noise, replace education and interpretive facilities, provide additional operations funds to support the cost of running two facilities rather than one, and offset the Service's planning and administrative costs in support of this project.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our estimate of this total mitigation project was $26.9 million. Nearly 60 percent of the mitigation will be directed to land acquisition. To the degree possible, all of these mitigation projects will be determined through the refuge comprehensive planning process, which will allow for thorough public involvement.
Mr. Chairman, the impact of this proposed project on the refuge are regrettable, but unavoidable. They were outside of our direct jurisdiction and control. But I must note in concluding that we are pleased with the agreement reached, and I believe that both the American people and the citizens of the Twin Cities region are well-served and that Congress should be proud of the spirit of cooperation exhibited by these three agencies and by private citizens as represented by groups like the Friends of Minnesota Valley.
I hope people like Lynne Pickard and Nigel Finney are proud of their work, and when our testimony is over I'll provide them both with the National Wildlife Refuge System blue goose pin as a very small recognition of their good work in behalf of the Minnesota Valley Refuge and America's National Wildlife Refuge System.
I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm looking forward, I think, to the opportunity to answer your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ashe may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. YOUNG. Thank you, Mr. Ashe.
STATEMENT OF LYNNE PICKARD, MANAGER OF COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEEDS DIVISION, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, WASHINGTON, DC
Ms. PICKARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm Lynne Pickard, Manager of the Community and Environmental Needs Division at FAA. Thank you for allowing me to appear before you on behalf of Susan Kurland, Associate Administrator for Airports, who is at our Southwest Region Partnership Conference in Texas today.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Metropolitan Airports Commission's plans for expansion of the Minneapolis Airport include a new 8,000-foot air carrier runway and associated development to improve airport capacity, operations, safety, and reduce airline delays.
In making our decision on whether to approve the project, FAA evaluated the anticipated impacts on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in an environmental impact statement and in accordance with section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Section 4(f) is an important environmental statute, as Mr. Ashe explained. It provides special protection to publicly-owned parks, recreation areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites of national, State, or local significance.
Section 4(f) applies exclusively to decisions by the Department of Transportation, including FAA decisions on airport development. It permits FAA to approve the use of protected section 4(f) resources for an airport project, only when two standards are met: (1) there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of section 4(f) resources, and, (2) the transportation project includes all possible planning to minimize harm.
These standards apply whether the use of section 4(f) land is physical, as in constructing on the land, or constructive. Constructive use occurs when a transportation project located near but not in the section 4(f) resource impacts it in a way that substantially impairs its activities, features, or attributes. FAA made a constructive use determination with respect to the Minneapolis Airport project on the publicly-owned portion of the Refuge closest to the airport.
Specifically, FAA determined that noise increases from aircraft operating on the new runway would substantially impair human outdoor educational and environmental interpretive activities, such as school field trips and scouting visits, as well as recreational activities such as nature walks, bird watching, and fishing.
There is no physical use of the Refuge for the airport project, nor does FAA anticipate adverse impacts on the ecological integrity of the Refuge. The Department of the Interior was consulted on potential jeopardy to endangered species and critical habitat and determined no adverse effect in this regard.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In accordance with section 4(f), FAA determined there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the constructive use of the Refuge. There was a very sweeping analysis of alternatives. Alternatives that were examined and rejected include possible new sites for an airport, alternative expansion concepts for the Minneapolis airport, high-speed, inner-city rail, a remote runway concept linked to the Minneapolis airport by high-speed transit, the shifting of some aviation users to supplemental airports in the region, alternative flight procedures that might avoid the Refuge, and the alternative of taking no action at all.
Having found no feasible and prudent alternative, FAA participated in a mitigation plan reflected in the Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and MAC, with FAA as a concurring party. This was developed during consultations over a period of two years and provides a specific program to minimize harm to the refuge.
Mr. Ashe outlined the details of the mitigation. I won't repeat those, except to say that the Memorandum of Agreement also recognizes that the Refuge lands that are subject to constructive use because of aircraft noise will still continue to function as a diminished value wildlife refuge area under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service management.
The payment of funds by an airport proprietor needing to use a section 4(f) resource to the agency owning the resource so that a comparable replacement can be provided is one of several accepted methods of minimizing harm under section 4(f). The replacement of section 4(f) lands and facilities, as well as design measures to minimize harm, are recognized in published FAA environmental guidance.
FAA has also long recognized that environmental mitigation associated with an airport capital development project qualifies as a capital cost of the airport. There are precedents in FAA experience for the type of mitigation agreed to for the Minneapolis airport project.
I should also note here that the Metropolitan Airport Commission is paying the compensation. There will be no FAA airport improvement program funds used in that compensation. No Federal funds will be used.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I should point out that section 4(f) mitigation for airport development is not a frequent occurrence. This is consistent with the purpose of the statute, which is intended to protect section 4(f) resources, and to set a high standard for their use. Simply put, FAA does not issue a sizable number of section 4(f) determinations because we try not to use section 4(f) resources. Most of our determinations are for uses of urban parks, such as local parks, ball fields, and publicly-used school playgrounds because these tend to be the types of section 4(f) resources in close proximity to airports.
In summary, in formulating the section 4(f) mitigation plan for the Minneapolis airport project, the relevant agencies considered the air transportation needs of the region, the impacts on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the availability of any feasible and prudent alternatives, and all possible planning to minimize harm.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning, Mr. Chairman. On behalf of Administrator Jane Garvey and Associate Administrator Susan Kurland, I would like to say we appreciate your interest in FAA's perspective on this project, and I would be pleased to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Pickard may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. YOUNG. Thank you, Ms. Pickard.
Nancie, you're up next.
STATEMENT OF NANCIE MARZULLA, DEFENDERS OF PROPERTY RIGHTS, WASHINGTON, DC
Ms. MARZULLA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee. We are enormously pleased to have the opportunity to testify before you here today on behalf of Defenders of Property Rights.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm here today to testify or to comment, not on the merits of the proposal which we do not take a position on, but rather to comment on the irony of the situation in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is here before you asking for over $20 million in payment for the damage to or injury to its property rights.
And I say irony, because at Defenders of Property Rights we litigate cases and represent property owners whose constitutionally-protected property rights have been injured or damaged as a result of actions taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pursuant to its regulatory authority under the Endangered Species Act, and in those casesmany, many of those casesthe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is actively opposing the compensation to pay for the damage to the property rights of the private land owners, and so we find it ironic for the Fish and Wildlife Service to be in this posture they are in today.
With respect to the cases that I refer to and are set forth in more detail in my written testimony that I've submitted to you, let me highlight just one example for you today. We represent John Taylor, an elderly man in his eighties, who sought permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over two yearsnow going on three yearsago to build a one-story modular home on his small residential lot in Fairfax County, Virginia. He wants to build the home to accommodate his elderly wife, who has been ill and is now confined to a wheelchair.
Because Mr. Taylor's land is next to public land on which there is a bald eagle's nest, the Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to grant him permission to build the wheelchair-accessible home unless he agrees to the following conditions. They include constructing a platform for bald eagles to nest in the national forest; contribute moneyhis moneyto fund a salmon restoration plan because eagles like to eat salmon; to agree to accept full responsibility for any possible harm done to the eagles if they abandon the nest, even if they leave for reasons beyond Mr. Taylor's control; and agree to a permanent deed restriction that forever bars outdoor use of the yard during the months the eagles like to nest. This would be from July to November, thus making it unlawful to barbecue, mow the lawn, or have children playing outside during that time period.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As I said, we represent Mr. Taylor in his attempts to either obtain permission from the Fish and Wildlife Service to use his land or to obtain just compensation for the taking of his property rights. Unless Mr. Taylor agrees to these preposterous conditions, Fish and Wildlife Service has told me orally that it will continue to block his building a home on his land as it has done for this three-year time period. We are now, in fact, being forced to file a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Taylor in Federal court seeking compensation for the taking of Mr. Taylor's property rights.
But, unfortunately, as I alluded to, Mr. Taylor's case is not an isolated example. Indeed, his case is typical in that often the property owner loses the ability to use his land and is forced to seek compensation in court where the Fish and Wildlife Service fights him tooth-and-nail opposing the payment of just compensation. Thus, it is indeed ironic that Fish and Wildlife Service is here today asking for the payment of the damage to its property, in the face of its defiant position toward the constitutionally-protected property rights of private land owners.
We at Defenders have been before Congress many times testifying about the need for legislative reform to ensure that private property owners are paid just compensation for the taking of their property.
We have also testified on more than one occasion about the need for reform of the Endangered Species Act, one of the most Draconian laws on the books in terms of its impact on private property rights. The problems with the Act are exacerbated by the expansive application given the Act by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Fish and Wildlife Service has consistently opposed every attempt to reform the laws to grant a measure of protection of the rights of private property owners, which are routinely damaged or destroyed by the Service acting under laws such as the ESA.
We are pleased to see that the Fish and Wildlife Service has suddenly discovered the importance of private property rightsat least its own property rights. Now that the Service has experienced first hand the destruction of its property rights by governmental action, we would expect its support for property rights legislation in the 106th Congress.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Marzulla may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. YOUNG. Thank you, Ms. Marzulla.
STATEMENT OF NELSON FRENCH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FRIENDS OF THE MINNESOTA VALLEY, BLOOMINGTON, MINNESOTA
Mr. FRENCH. Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I'm Nelson French, executive director of the Friends of the Minnesota Valley.
It is indeed an honor to be invited to appear before you today to speak with you about the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the recently-concluded discussions between the Fish and Wildlife Service, FAA, and MAC regarding the mitigation of impacts associated with the expansion of the airport in the Twin Cities.
The Friends of the Minnesota Valley was incorporated in June of 1982 as a non-profit organization and is one of many similar organizations cooperating with the Fish and Wildlife Service in local communities across the country. Many of the members heremany of you who have refuges in your districtsmay be well-familiar with your Friends organizations.
Before we get to the question and topic I was asked to comment on today, I would like to share with you a bit about our history and the way in which we have chosen to work within our community, as I believe it is relevant to the issue being discussed today.
The dream of having a national wildlife refuge in the Minnesota Valley was developed in the early 1970's by a group of citizens called the Burnsville Environmental Council. Frustrated with their failure to stop the expansion of landfill operations in the Burnsville portion of the Minnesota River flood plain, they decided that a more comprehensive approach was necessary to protect the river bottoms in their community.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As a result, in 1974 the Burnsville group produced a 24-page booklet that proposed a Minnesota River national wildlife refuge and recreation area. The Council sent the booklet to everyone, from local city councils to the President of the United States. Fortunately, then-Congressman Bill Frenzel responded by asking the Department of Interior to investigate the feasibility of establishing a national wildlife refuge in the valley.
The result was the development in 1975 of a proposal for such a refuge. The Burnsville Council reached out across the river and then asked the Bloomington Resources Commission for help. Together they formed a local group known as the Lower Minnesota River Valley Citizens Committee. Now that group is known as the Friends of the Minnesota Valley. This citizens' committee kept up the contacts between volunteers and invited people to share in the vision of the refuge proposal along a 34-mile stretch of the Minnesota River.
Countless presentations were made to communities and community groups up and down the river for the purpose of educating people about the project, seeking endorsements, and working out consensus on issues of concern within the community.
After this engaging process, the citizens' committee was able to get support and resources from more than 40 private groups and public groups, including local and national conservation organizations, chambers of commerce, corporations, the Jaycees, State agencies, the Minnesota legislature, and local units of government. Through this process many issues were worked out between the stakeholders, who had differing views of the refuge proposal, and consensus was reached.
In July of 1975, then-Senator Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey introduced a bill to establish the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Then Congressman Oberstar, along with former Congressmen Frenzel and Hagedorn, introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives. By late September, 1976, both Houses of Congress had passed the authorizing legislation which we've heard discussed today, and President Ford signed the bill creating the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge on October 9, 1976a true community-based and bipartisan effort. The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a magnificent urban refuge that owes its existence to groups like the Friends of the Minnesota Valley and our precursor citizens groups.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our group did not stop with the establishment of the refuge, however. Our efforts now are focused more broadly on protecting the lower Minnesota River watershed and its environs. Since establishment of the refuge, we have successfully worked with the congressional delegation and the State legislature to acquire refuge lands and associated State propertiestwo State parks at each end of the refugeto construct a visitor and education center, which is now a model for nationwide use, and provide an excellent environmental education resource for the Twin Cities public-at-large.
While continuing to work on the basic issues of non-profit organizational existence, like fundraising and membership developmentand we now have over 600 membersthe Friends have helped enlist volunteers. We have enrolled over 10 percent of the refuge neighbors in our private lands registry program. These are voluntary private citizens recognizing the value of their private property adjoining the refuge.
We have coordinated efforts for water quality monitoring with 13 public schools in the area. We communicate with residents of the watershed regularly and raise awareness of this resource within the Twin Cities, and we are increasingly fostering partnerships to improve the lower Minnesota River watershed and ecosystem, a program begun Minnesota River basin-wide by Governor Carlson eight years ago.
The current situation: In February of 1998, the Friends of the Minnesota Valley, following this style of working in the community, began to see if we could develop, in association with the Airports Commission and other local stakeholders, an agreed upon solution to the potentially contentious issue of expansion of the airport.
We knew the 1996 decision by the Minnesota legislature to expand the airport and route air traffic over the refuge had to be implemented. After extensive review of the situation, our organization, in concert with 16 local and national conservation and community groups supported the concept of mitigating these impacts associated with the expansion of the airport.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We co-sponsored, in association with these groups and others, a public open house at which time representatives from all three Federal agenciesexcuse methe Airports Commission and the two Federal agenciesappeared for the first time together in public to respond to the questions that were revolving around this issue. The outcome of that meeting was significant progress towards the necessary development of a community consensus on the mitigation package.
I can't sit here and say that we don't regret the loss to the public of the resource that's being lost herethe Black Dog Lake unit and the Meadow Lake units of the refuge. They will no longer be available for outdoor, educational, classroom use, birdwatching and other such things.
We, however, recognize that the airport must expand to meet the needs of the flying public, and we have contended that expansion of the airport at this location will result in less overall environmental and natural resource damage in Minnesota than would construction of a new airport on a 21-square mile site affecting many private agricultural landowners.
The Friends of the Minnesota Valley
Mr. YOUNG. How much more do you have?
Mr. FRENCH. I have about two minutes.
Mr. YOUNG. Take one minute.
Mr. FRENCH. One minute. Okay. We applaud the Airport Commission, the FAA, and the Service for recognizing the serious nature of these impacts. We look forward to working with the Service and the community to develop the National Wildlife Refuge Enhancement Act required comprehensive conservation plan to further the refuge values in this watershed.
I now want to respond to the question that the Committee asked me to respond to. In your letter to us you asked this question: ''The Committee would appreciate your addressing the issue of how the Fish and Wildlife Service agreement for compensation will impact the rights of private property owners to receive compensation for the constructive use of their land in connection with the protection of wildlife.'' In analyzing that questionand I'm not sure we're the ones that need to be asked thatit is our understanding that private wildlife lands are not eligible for review under the constructive use provisions of section 4(f) of the 1966 Department of Transportation Act.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is also our understanding that the agreement between the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Airports Commission will have no impact on the rights of private property owners to receive compensation for their land through a fee title acquisition transaction in connection with the protection of wildlife.
This concludes my prepared remarks. We really thank you for the opportunity to be with you today. Mr. Chairman, and members, I'll be happy to respond to any questions that you have. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. French may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. YOUNG. Thank you, Mr. French.
Dan, who instigated, or where did the idea for compensation to the Fish and Wildlife come from? Was that instigated by your department, or was that instigated by the FAA?
Mr. ASHE. I think during the process of developing the environmental impact statement on the proposed runway project and our comments and response to the analysis of alternatives in the draft environmental impact statement, it was the Fish and Wildlife Service who raised the possibility that there would be a constructive use of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and that the 4(f) provisions of the Transportation Act would apply.
Mr. YOUNG. Actually, the instigating of a fee was started in your department.
Mr. ASHE. I believe the original proposal for a mitigation package was transmitted from us to the FAA.
Mr. YOUNG. Okay. Ms. Pickard, where is that money coming from?
Ms. PICKARD. As I said, the Metropolitan Airports Commission is paying the money.
Mr. YOUNG. And they are getting the money from
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. PICKARD. There will be no Federal funds. They may use
Mr. YOUNG. And they are getting the money from where?
Ms. PICKARD. They may use airport revenue for the compensation. They may also use some passenger facility charge money, and they may use other money that is not within any knowledge of the FAA, unrelated to the airport.
Mr. YOUNG. Have you studied the constitutionality of this? You're spending money not appropriated by Congress, and you're actually putting a tax on the passengers to pay the $20-some-odd million to Fish and Wildlife, are you not?
Ms. PICKARD. You're referring to the passenger facility charge. Passenger facility charge moneys are eligible for environmental mitigation related to an airport capital development project, and this is considered within that scope. It's local money, not Federal money.
Mr. YOUNG. But it's taxpayers' money; it's not local money.
Ms. PICKARD. It is a head tax, if you will
Mr. YOUNG. And I thought only the Congress could pass tax law when it comes to redistributing money from one agency to another agency. So what I'm getting to is the Fish and Wildlife are circumventing this Committee in the appropriation process. You're taking over $20 million, and you put down this wish listand that's why I asked you, Dan, where it came fromand you're asking for new employees, you're asking for new facilities, boardwalks, et cetera, et cetera. And I've got to ask you, what would have happened if the Commission hadn't agreed to this? The Commission is not losing any money. They are taxing people to pay for this. Now if they had not agreed to this amount of money, could you have stopped this project?
Mr. ASHE. We could not have directly stopped the project, Mr. Chairman. What we could have done was continue to express our views about the impacts of the project on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the Federal Aviation Administration has the responsibility to consider our views and comments in the conduct of making their decision on the airport to approve the airport construction project.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. YOUNG. Are you telling me the FAA could have gone ahead and built this without your blessing?
Mr. ASHE. It's their decision to make. They have a responsibility, as I read the law, Mr. Chairman, to minimize and mitigate to the extent feasible the impacts on refuge lands. We believe that they have done that in good faith and done that in compliance with the law as we recommended they do. But had we continued tohad they not agreed to this agreement and we had continued to express our reservation, then, again, FAA is the decisionmaker in this case. And, Lynne, I don't know if you have anything else to offer, but they are the decisionmaker.
Mr. YOUNG. Well, you see what I'm leading up to. To me, this looks like sort of a form of extortion because you're not using money to re-establish any wildlife; you're using it to build a pretty good layouta visitors' center, a walkway, observation towers, observation platforms, new personnel. I mean, it's a great wish list and I can understand the Commission doing this.
And, by the way, Mr. French, do you get any of this compensation money? Your agency? Your group?
Mr. FRENCH. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. YOUNG. Yes.
Mr. FRENCH. At this point in time we are not getting this money.
Mr. YOUNG. Are you in this mix of this $20 million at all, in any way?
Mr. FRENCH. At this point in time, no.
Mr. YOUNG. What do you mean at this point in time? Are you going to apply for it?
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FRENCH. The community is discussingno, we're not going to apply for it. I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman. The funds as I understand it will be used to mitigate, through land acquisition and construction of facilities, the impacts associated with the new runway.
Mr. YOUNG. It goes back to what I said, Dan. You are mitigating building the brand new facility, is what you're doing.
Mr. ASHE. That's correct, Mr. Chairman. What I would do, though, is disagree with your assertion that we are circumventing this Congress or circumventing this Committee or the Congress because the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is an authorized refuge that's been authorized specifically in legislation by Congress. The legislation directs us to establish and maintain a visitor center and visitor facilities.
The Congress, through the appropriations process, sets the level of FTE's that the Service can have. So, we can gain dollars to help us achieve an objective. We can't achieve that objective unless we have authority granted to us by Congress, and in this case we do have that authority. So I guess I would disagree with your assertion that we are circumventing Congress. We are going to replaceit is our intention to replace the facilities that we believe will be impacted by the noise created by this runway expansion.
Mr. YOUNG. Well, another thing is, Dan, you know and I know that moneys being spent should go either through the Treasury or should go through the appropriation process. And I'm concerned primarily with the purchase of land, and it goes back to private property rights again. Now are youwith the agencyyou have in-holdings or adjacent holdingsare you enforcing the buffer zone concept that those people have to sell? Or is it willing buyer, willing seller?
Mr. ASHE. We would acquire land, as we do in every instance, from willing sellers.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. YOUNG. Without putting any restriction on them or anything else, like they did in California?
Mr. ASHE. Yes. No, sir; without putting any restrictions on them.
Mr. YOUNG. Okay, you heard what Ms. Pickardnot Ms. Pickard, Ms. Marzullahad to say about in Fairfaxwas that in Fairfax?
Ms. MARZULLA. Fairfax County, Virginia.
Mr. YOUNG. Have you got that documented?
Ms. MARZULLA. Oh, we do, yes.
Mr. YOUNG. Mr. Ashe, are there any salmon in Fairfax County?
Mr. ASHE. I've never heard of or seen a salmon in Fairfax County. That's why it sounds rather far-fetched to me, Mr. Chairman. I would like tobut I am not familiar with the case at all.
Mr. YOUNG. Well, I want to suggest, as the Deputy Assistant Secretary, you get real familiar with that case real quick, because this is the type of thing that gives you really black eyes. I mean, I could see possibly the concern for the bald eagle, although they will nest anywhere they want to nest. I think they've proved that.
Mr. ASHE. If the reference is to salmon in Fairfax County, I guess I would posit myself that that reference is in error on somebody's part, and I would gather that it's probably not our biologist who is claiming that there are salmon in Fairfax County.
Mr. YOUNG. Okay, I'm going to suggest
Mr. ASHE. My guess would be that it might be shad or one of the other anadromous species of fish that eagles feed on.
Mr. YOUNG. And this senior citizen is supposed to re-establish the shad run? I'm going to suggest that the two of you sit down and work this out somewhere along the line because this is the thing I really like to go to ''60 Minutes'' about, and I have no reservations about going to ''60 Minutes'' about this if I can get some assistance in doing it. Because this is an example of what occurs with the lack of sensitivity within the agency itself.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And you know I'm not picking on you, Dan. The whole agency is screwed up, if you want to know the truth.
I mean, I've watched it just deteriorate in the last six years to the point where you have no consolation or no consideration for the people that you're directly interfacing with, and we see it probably more in Alaska than in any place in the Union right now, especially the Izembek operation.
I've got a whole series of questions, you know, that just absolutely do not parallel what you're saying here in your testimony, and I won't go into them because my time is up.
The gentleman from Minnesota.
Mr. VENTO. Mr. Chairman, I think that when we get into these anecdotal stories that are sort of unrelated to the topic at hand that it's always good to hear both sides of it before we pass it over to ''60 Minutes'' or to anyone else.
Mr. YOUNG. Well, I'm saying they had better fix it or it will be on ''60 Minutes.''
Mr. VENTO. Let's have a hearing on it and let everyone know and put it on the table.
Mr. YOUNG. I want ''60 Minutes.''
Mr. VENTO. I know. I know what you want.
Mr. YOUNG. I want to be Bill Clinton; that's what I want. I'm going to spin this; that's what I'm going to do.
Mr. VENTO. I know. You want a little word association game here, you know. I understand. You know, I think it does not help in terms of using this as a platform to get up and state, ''We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more.'' Well, I've done it, but I don't think it particularly helps here in terms of what's going on.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The issue with the ticket taxin fact, the revenues here, Ms. Pickard, are coming from property taxes. They're coming from bonded debt; they could come from a variety of different funds that the Metropolitan Airports Commission has. Is that correct?
Ms. PICKARD. The passenger facility charge would be an authorized fee on passengers using the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
Mr. VENTO. Oh, I know what it is. I'm just saying that the money that they are using here may come from a variety of different sources. They are spending $5 billion to do this project.
Ms. PICKARD. The Metropolitan Airports Commission would have to address that. I would assume it probably is. We have only given them our opinion that they could use airport revenue or they could use passenger facility charges.
Mr. VENTO. Well, they are using that money. We don't approve the money when they spend $100 million to insulate 4,300 homes. The FAA didn't necessarily have to pass judgment on that. That's their authority to use those dollars. Is that correct?
Ms. PICKARD. Sir, they certainly have authority to use airport revenue appropriately for environmental mitigation without FAA approval. We do have to approve the use of passenger facility charges.
Mr. VENTO. Yes. Well, the governance structurewell, they paid that money out of, I'm sure, part of it out of that, or at least when it came into existence they planned on paying and buyingthey ended up paying $200 million more for the same purpose in terms of insulating homes in the area against such structure. I'm just trying to point out that private property here is impacted and is compensated where there is a demonstrated effect or where it has an impact insofar as their agreement. Now I don't know that it's gone to court to establish what the property rights issue is.
Mr. Ashe, and Mr. Schultz, who is with you, the Director, I guess, of this Fish and Wildlife Service area, was there any suspension of any of the NEPA laws or EIS laws with regards to this issue?
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ASHE. No. In fact there was complete compliance, and in fact that is, in my view, one of the major contributing factors to what led to the positive resolution in this case, was that we had an agency that took its environmental analysis responsibilities very seriously, looked at all of the alternatives, compared the impact of the various alternatives on the refuge and provided that analysis for both the public and for the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to see. So there was complete compliance as far as I could tell.
Mr. VENTO. RickMr. Schultz? I guess he's agreeing with you.
Mr. SCHULTZ. Yes, I feel that. Mr. Chairman, I feel that FAA and MAC did a very nice job of going through the environmental compliance documents. They had both the draft EIS, which was a thorough analysis of the environmental issues associated with the new runway expansion, plus they had the final EIS. They also had the 4(f) evaluation which addressed environmental compliance issues as well.
Mr. VENTO. There's a suggestion, of course, that the information or documentation with regards to the impact on the fish and wildlife in the areathe fauna and florawas not as well-documented, that it was not, in this instance, possible to document what the impact is. But the 4,000 acres of land that are going to be purchased here to augment and mitigate this, will in fact have a positive impact on the fauna and flora in the area and the purpose and mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Is that correct, Mr. Ashe?
Mr. ASHE. I believe it's correct. Rick could probably provide you with a more specific answer. I'd like him to address that.
Mr. VENTO. Yes.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCHULTZ. When we went into negotiations with FAA and MAC on this issue, we had two basic principles here. One was to assure that there was a no-net loss of wildlife habitat associated with the project, and number two, we wanted to assure that there would be a no-net loss of the opportunity for the public to view wildlife in its natural setting. And the compensation that we have agreed to will allow us to fulfill those principles.
Mr. VENTO. I just would, again, want to point out there is no road going through here. This isn't a wilderness area. And with response to my colleague from Nevada, I did review just briefly the Ivanpah Airport issue, and I find that in the legislation there is a suggestion.
The proposal was to suspend NEPA and to suspend FLPMA and to override the BLM local policy with regard tojust as starters. So, it may be that one of my concerns, as the gentleman stated, was clearly the fish and wildlife or the impact on the Mojave and other things, but I'd be happy, you know, to work with him on that particular issue.
And the major point here is, of course, to compensate where there is an impact on public land and certainly where there is a legally documented legal impact on private property, as we're doing, obviously, with these flight paths. And I know this is a big issue in the West, and I think, obviously, confusing it with roads through a wilderness wildlife refuge is so
Mr. YOUNG. The gentleman's time is up. I just want to make one suggestion. According to this one requirement by the Fish and Wildlife, they want so many roads and trails built, so many observation areas built. This is all in the refugeand parking lots. I mean, this is going to be built. Is that correct, Mr. Schultz?
Mr. SCHULTZ. Mr. Chairman, that is correct. The mission of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge has two components to it. One is to restore and protect habitats for fish and wildlife; the other is to provide wildlife-dependent recreation and environmental education activities.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. YOUNG. Okay. Why I'm bringing this up is he keeps talking about a road through a wilderness which was created by this Congress that already had 40-some odd miles through Izembek.
Mr. VENTO. Well, they are replacing the
Mr. YOUNG. No; I'm just saying, they are replacing it, but they are putting it in the refuge, and all we wanted is a little, old, silly gravel road, just so I can save my people.
May I make a suggestion to the members here? He keeps referring to the purchase of 4,000 acres. Now, have you identified those 4,000 acres? Have you talked to those landowners, and what are their feelings about being purchased?
Mr. ASHE. I think our normal procedure with regard to refuge acquisition would be to establish a refuge boundary. We do an environmental analysis. In this case, maybe some parcels are already within the existing refuge boundary, in which case we've already done that type of analysis and public input. As I indicated, our desire in this case is to implement the mitigation agreement through the development of our comprehensive conservation plan for the refuge, which will involve, again, public notification.
Mr. YOUNG. I know my time is up, but I want to get it straight. If I find one member that is being brow-beaten into selling his land because you've put a border around him, you're going to be back before this Committee again.
Mr. VENTO. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. YOUNG. This is what I'm trying to say: You say you're going to buy 4,000 acres, and, you know, when you purchase 4,000 acres, $20 million is being raised by users' fees on people who fly through the Minneapolis Airport. I'm justI want to make sure that you're not really using the big, heavy hammer.
I'm out of time. Mr. Pombo.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VENTO. Well, Mr. Chairman, let me just point out that there is also an active program by the State, the RIM program and the conservation reserve programthat they have actually had a series of agreements up and down the Minnesota River Valley which are quite substantial, and it might be well for Mr. Schultz to address that since you're concerned. So there have already been initiatives on those areas.
Mr. YOUNG. Well, I'm not concerned about the State; I'm concerned about the role of the Fish and Wildlife. That's my jurisdiction. Now the State can do anything they want to do. But I'm just sayingI'm very conscious. I've seen this happen toMr. Pombo may ask a question about it later onbut I've seen it happen in other areas of the United States.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ashe, in your prepared statement, you state that in the Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 that Fish and Wildlife Service has no authority to regulate air space above a refuge. You further state that, ''I want to emphasize again that no part of this runway will be constructed on either existing or future refuge lands.''
You also state in your printed testimony that publicly-owned land under the Transportation Act''publicly-owned land from a public park, recreation area, or wildlife and waterfowl refuge of national, State, or local significance.'' If you have no authority to regulate air space and if none of the refuge land is going to be used for this runway, how do you tie in section 4(f) in order to obtain the mitigation money?
Mr. ASHE. I guess I would say, going back to Ms. Pickard and the testimony of FAA, that section 4(f) contemplates two types of use of public lands, both physical useoccupying the propertyso if they did our land for a runway or a road, that would be physical use.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. Which you state is not the case.
Mr. ASHE. Is not the case in this instanceor constructive use, which means the presence of noise generated by aircraft overflights is essentially rendering our refuge useless, from the standpoint of achieving the purposes which Congress has legislated us to accomplish at that refuge. But we have a public education mission at Minnesota Valley Refuge, where the public has made substantial investment.
Mr. POMBO. So it's your guessguessthat 4,000 acres of the refuge will be rendered useless because of this runway, and you're going to take the money and buy 4,000 acres somewhere else in order to mitigate, to make up for the impact.
Mr. ASHE. What we have said is that the noise generated from the aircraft will make it difficult for us to accomplish our conservation education and wildlife interpretation mission on those portions of the refuge, and we have asked
Mr. POMBO. So it's not a full taking; it's a partial taking of the use of that part of the refuge.
Mr. ASHE. Well, it's not a taking at all. We are relying on the constructive use provisions in section 4(f) of the Transportation Act, which provides for mitigation in this case.
Mr. POMBO. And the constructive use is the partial taking of that property. The language that you are using is the same language that refers to private property in that it is a partial taking use. It is a constructive use of your property, just as if some other activity limited the use of your property, it would be a partial taking, a partial taking of that property, a partial use of that property.
I am somewhat confused as towith all of the laws that are out there right nowhow you can still have a mitigation and still require the payment of $20 million on that, because even in reading your statement, I don't see how you start here and end up with requiring that $20 million payment.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I do need to ask you, was a section 7 consultation done under Endangered Species with FAA on this?
Mr. ASHE. Well, the FAA considered the impacts of the proposed runway on the federally-listed species that are present in the Minnesota Valley refuge area in the conduct of doing their EIS, and the Service reviewed their analysis and made the determination under the Endangered Species Act that it was not likely to affect the bald eagle, which is the resident species there.
Mr. POMBO. Weren't there other endangered species that were looked at on this as well, or was the bald eagle the only one?
Mr. ASHE. Rick is in a better position. The bald eagle is the principal species.
Mr. SCHULTZ. Yes, both the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon are in the area. The peregrine falcon nests on a hacking box on a NSP power plant tower about two miles away from the end of the runway.
Mr. POMBO. Excuse meon a power plant tower?
Mr. SCHULTZ. That's correct.
Mr. POMBO. Okay.
Mr. YOUNG. If the gentleman from California would do me a favor, I'd like to have you take the gavel. Would you take the gavel, the gentleman from California?
Mr. POMBO. Yes, I'll take the gavel, but I don't want you to take me time.
Mr. YOUNG. You can do anything you want when you've got the gavel, buddy.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. If I've got the gavel, then I guess I get to keep asking questions.
Mr. YOUNG. You can ask questions as long as you want, as long as you've got the gavel.
I just want to ask, when did this project start?
Ms. PICKARD. The FAA began our review in the early 1990's, with the Federal EIS starting in 1994 or 1995. The State legislature had been dealing with about seven years' worth of planning studies before that point.
Mr. YOUNG. All right. Before I relinquish this, Richard, just one thing. I'm still confused aboutmy interpretation of the Constitution is the protection of the private property right holder, and you're not private property. Fish and Wildlife is public property, and I don't see where you have the authorization to be compensated by another Federal agency or by the airport.
You know, if I was really nasty, I'd likely take to filing a lawsuit to stop this project, because I don't think you have the authority to do what's been doneeither one of you. And if you read the Constitution very carefully, it says ''use'' and it refers to the private citizen, not another Federal agency. I mean it's something I want you to think about for a while. I know you struck a deal; I understand that. But you're messing with the constitutional law here and it really concerns me a little bit.
Mr. Pombo, you're up.
Mr. POMBO. [presiding] I just wanted to get back to the issue of section 7 consultation. You identified at least two endangered species that were looked at as part of this. Under section 7, under the Endangered Species Act, could you have not stopped the construction of this runway if there was not sufficient mitigation to mitigate any impact against those endangered species?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ASHE. If there were an effect on the endangered species then we could have, but what we would do under the section 7 process is notify the action agency, in this case FAA, that there are endangered species present and there is or is not the likelihood of take in association with the project.
Again, it's the action agency that has the responsibility to avoid take. The law prohibits take. And it's our responsibility at the Fish and Wildlife Service to advise Federal agencies of the potential effects of a project and whether a project is likely to affect endangered species and whether a jeopardy situation may arise in the conduct of an agency conducting their activities. So, it would be our responsibility to advise them.
In this case we did look at the available information and made a determination that the activity was not likely to affect the endangered species.
Mr. POMBO. Under the current interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, take includes harassment, and it's your testimony that the 7,000 flights a month present no harassment or take of the endangered species.
Mr. ASHE. That was our assessment in looking at the project. I guess I would point out to the Committeeand I heard a number of members raising issues surrounding the potential impacts of overflights on speciesand I guess I would just point out that the impacts of overflights on species are case-dependent. It depends on the species; it depends on the airport; it depends on the types of aircraft that are flying; it depends on the time of year that they're flying. And so, looking at any one instance and the specific facts around that instance may lead to a different conclusion.
We have a very active, very vibrant bald eagle population about three miles south of here at Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, itself right in the flight path of National Airport, and so there are many instances in which wildlife can adapt to aircraft overflight and do adapt well to aircraft overflight. There are other situations where they do not adapt well to aircraft overflight, and it is dependent upon the species and upon the facts of the specific case.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. My time has expired, but I think what you're hitting on is exactly the problem that a number of members have with the Fish and Wildlife Service. It's that at certain times, depending on whatever conclusion you come to, sometimes these are okay, and other times they are not okay. And it appears to a lot of us that there is a regional decision that is made as to when it's okay and when it's not okay, depending upon what part of the country it is or whose ox is being gored by it. And at other times it appears that if there is a sufficient payment made to Fish and Wildlife Service, a lot of times the problems aren't as severe as they would be otherwise.
It makes me wonder if my county had raised $20 million in some kind of a tax and paid Fish and Wildlife off, if we would have been able to maintain our levees, because we were told no and we didn't have endangered species. It was potential habitat. They couldn't find an elderberry beetle for miles anywhere near the levees that we were trying to maintain, but there were elderberry bushes there, so it was potential habitat, so we were told we couldn't do maintenance on our levee system. I wonder if we would have put $20 million into some kitty if we could have done it, and that's the question that a lot of us have.
Mr. GIBBONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and in response to my colleague from Minnesota, I want to ensure him and his staff that we are willing to work with you on this Ivanpah bill; however, it does not, and the language in the bill is absolutely, specifically clear, that it does not waive any environmental impact law. It does not waive FLPMA. It's all stated within the bill that those were to be complied with, and fully. So, I appreciate your comments, and I look forward to having my staff work with you on the issue.
Following on with what my colleague from California was talking about on the endangered species and that, Mr. Ashe, I know that in the environmental impact statement that was prepared, there's a quote in there that in essence says that wildlife or waterfowl appear to readily habituate to frequent aircraft overflights: ''It is concluded that aircraft noise within the affected environment would not significantly diminish the wildlife habitat in the refuge.'' Is that true?
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ASHE. That's true. Well, I would say
Mr. GIBBONS. Now explain to me how aircraft noise, whether it's in Nevada, Minnesota, California, or Timbucktu, does not impact wildlife habitat.
Mr. ASHE. I guess what I would say is I think you correctly quoted our citation in the environmental impact statement. I think that what we have said is the impacts on wildlife from the overflight, in our view, were uncertain. We did not feel that what we knew about the impacts of overflights
Mr. GIBBONS. Well, the uncertainty is not in your language. It says, ''It is concluded''
Mr. ASHE. Right.
Mr. GIBBONS. [continuing] ''that aircraft noise within the affected environment would not significantly diminish the wildlife habitat in the refuge.''
Mr. ASHE. And, again, that's our conclusion, because we did a literature search, we looked at the available scientific information on the impacts of similar types of overflights, and we did not feel that there was a way that we could conclusively determine that there would be an impact.
Mr. GIBBONS. So, I can go back and I can use the same argument on any other project which has an overflight and say that you don't have literature or statements available to say it would impact wildlife habitat.
Mr. ASHE. No, sir. No, sir. I believe what I tried to explain to the Committee just a few moments ago, and perhaps did an insufficient job, was that it depends on the type of the species and the time of the year and the type of aircraft.
Mr. GIBBONS. Well, you can't tell meand I'm an airline pilotthat an airplane makes a different noise in California than it does in Minnesota when it's landing or taking off. You can't tell me that an aircraft makes a different kind of noise in Nevada than it does in Minnesota.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ASHE. No, sir; I can't do that, but I can tell you
Mr. GIBBONS. Well, that's what you're trying to tell us.
Mr. ASHE. No, sir. What I'm trying to tell you is that a lesser snow goose is different from a black brandt, which is different from a bald eagle, which is different from a white ibis.
Mr. GIBBONS. Absolutely. Now where in the literature is there that shows that those individual species are impacted by noise differently than the ones in this refuge?
Mr. ASHE. I think that we do have that information. I would like Rick Schultz to be able to present that to the Committee.
Mr. SCHULTZ. I have with me today several literature reviews that talk about the way aircraft impact different species of wildlife. I can get that out of my briefcase, if you would like. There has been an awful lot of work done on noise and aircraft overflights.
Mr. GIBBONS. I would like a copy of that, if you would provide it to my office. I don't know if the Committee needs it, but I would sure like a copy of it for my office.
Mr. POMBO. Without objection, it will be included as part of the record if you could provide that.
[The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]
Mr. GIBBONS. One final question, Mr. Chairman, if I can. The use of the term ''urban refuge'' indicates that growthurban growthis a reality that has to be dealt with, and I think that's pretty much your statement, isn't it? The reality of urban growth, Mr. Ashe?
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ASHE. I think that we have a refuge that was established in that context, and Congress gave us specific direction with regard to our management and stewardship of that refuge.
Mr. GIBBONS. Well, your statement is an urban refuge, where urban encroachment is a fact of life; you have to deal with it.
Mr. ASHE. Correct.
Mr. GIBBONS. In many of these cases that we see here in this body, they deal with urban settings or community settings within which there are nearby impacts. Those are facts of life, and whether it's in Nevada or California, not only do we deal with them, but you have to deal with them as well, and it distresses me to find that this is a pick and choose sort of an organization, depending upon whose ox is being gored about how you deal with the fact of life about urban growth.
In my community we talk about this Ivanpah Airport, and there is tremendous objection by your organization to a 5,000-foot overflight that has probablyand I'm going to look very closely to the species in this book or this publication that's being presentedmay not even be or exist in the proximity of the area of the Mojave Reserve. And I want to find that out for certain.
But I think that what you've presented here today says to me very clearly that it depends upon whose ox is being gored that you're willing to mitigate or willing to find a way to allow for urban growth to become a reality and deal with it.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back to you.
Mr. SHERWOOD. This has been a little interesting to me, and I'm curiousand it's rhetorical if the Fish and Wildlife Service is a little bit mystified at the fervor for which some of these questions come, and I'd like to comment on that a little bit.
No one in the world should be more interested in the success of the Fish and Wildlife Service than I. I'm an avid outdoorsman and a hunter and a fisherman, but I think what you're feeling today is quite a little animosity of the Members of Congress toward the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is very unfortunate. And I think we all need to think about where that comes from, and it's my opinion where that comes from is we all have some specific area in which we think the Fish and Wildlife Service has unnecessarily trampled on the rights of individuals in our home district.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second issue that I think that is holding this, that is keeping this thing going today, is what we feel is an unconstitutional taxing of U.S. citizens to fill the coffers of the Fish and Wildlife Service. And I think if your Service is going to continue to do the work which you obviously want to do and are trained to do and we agree you should do, that you need to address those issues. And you don't necessarily have to address them to me, but I think those are what's on the mind of the Members of Congress. And I think that if you don't address them in the long run, it will impact your long-term funding.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Vento, did you have anything more?
Mr. VENTO. Well, yes. I know we want to get going, and I don't want keep members. I appreciate the testimony of the witnesses, and I would just say, Mr. Chairman, thatmaybe I've got to give my colleagues a copy of the book, ''How to Talk Minnesotan'' in terms of trying to be understood.
But I think, it seems to me that, first of all, when this Fish and Wildlife Service area was designated in 1976, it was limited in terms of it was urban, it was recognized and used for education and outdoor interpretive purposes, and that's the reason for the addition of the land. It's to provide areas that are away from this flight pattern, which, I don't know if you were here earlier, Mr. Sherwood, when I said I used to teach under this flight pattern, trying to talk to junior high school kids. And I guess that's why I developed this small voice I have.
In any case, the issue is then we come back in 1997 and we further limit the Fish and Wildlife Service not to be able to do this. Now we've got 4(f), and they've got under the law, if you read it, it specifically points out that public landnow this is one process. Now if you like 4(f) and you think that's the process that you would like to put other property owners under, well, let's look at it and do it. But this is also a restriction on the Fish and Wildlife Service. They've been restricted many different ways.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And so this is one process. I suspect that most private property owners wouldn't accept that type of limitation. It isn't exclusively used. Actually, we provided for soundproofing of homes in the area, and it's going to be something like 13,000 to 14,000 homes that will be soundproofed in the end by using this particular fund, so I think the fund is legally established. They are using other revenues here to pay for this.
But, you know, to strip away all the powers in the Fish and Wildlife Serviceit seems like some of my colleagues are mad as hell at you because you were successful in doing what you've done. Well, I'm not; I favor this. And when this came up I obviously voiced and sent some letters along to this group to encourage them to work together, as I think did other members of the delegation.
Now if there are other ways we can do itI think what you all have to face up to is you have tied them down in certain ways, but I think that we need to get land managers outside of their boundaries. They need to work on trans-boundary issues. They have to have a voice in our local communities. I want them to do that in my State and in my area, and I want them to do it, frankly, in all the other areas in which we have a national interest.
Others are trying to quiet them, and if you think this is going to stop me from pursuing the ANWR designation or intimidate other members, I think you've got another guess coming. We are going to continue. This is a process and a partnership that has worked. You ought to be adopting it rather than challenging it and trying to intimidate those that are pursuing it. I think it follows the law, it's good policy, it works out in terms of partnership. I think we'll get a lot more done working cooperatively than trying to fight even these sorts of logical explanations.
Mr. ASHE. If I could, just for a moment, because I hear you, Mr. Sherwood, and you certainly make a valid point. And I guess I would use Minnesota Valley as an example, and I know that Members of Congress take issue with decisions that are made by the Fish and Wildlife Service every day, but we have a refuge at Minnesota Valley and we duplicate that all over the country and are taking it seriously. And when you see people here, like Nelson French; Rick Schultz has gone out of his way in Minneapolis, as did his predecessors, to reach out to the community and involve the community.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And when Mr. Young expressed his concern earlier about our planned acquisition program there, I would not only not expect to see opposition to that, I would expect to see support for that in Minneapolis because of the good relationship that Rick and Nelson and his organization have built in the community there. And the support that you see for this agreement in Minneapolis is reflective of that good work, which is not to say that we don't have a lot more to do in terms of building those types of relationships more and more across the country and get out of our refuge boundaries and work more with communities, both on refuge management, endangered species, conservation, and other things. I think we certainly can do a much better job of that and are doing, I think the record shows, a better and better job.
What I would do again is cautionI've heard a couple of members implying that the Fish and Wildlife Service is inconsistent in its application, and I would disagree with that, and I would argue that the Committee does not want us to take a one-size-fits-all approach to aircraft noise or species impacts because that reduces our flexibility and our ability to work with people on the ground to do these kinds of things. And so I think that we try to do that judiciously. I realize, again, that, you know, legitimate and reasonable people will disagree on things like this, about whether we have been.
Mr. VENTO. Well, Mr. Chairman, my time has expired, but I was going to point out that they've alsoI wanted to try to emphasize that through the Conservation Reserve Program and other Federal programs, they have been instrumental in convincing farm groups on a voluntary basis to set aside land in this corridor, as well as the State program. In fact, we had a big signing out there with Secretary Glickman and our Republican Governor Carlson and many Members. So this has been a bipartisan effort to keep this going.
Obviously, I understand your interest in using it as a platform to take a shot at me on some of the issues in Alaska, but I think that this is something that's working. If you can get this type of agreement, I would commend you to try and do it. I know you've got a lot of problems there, and I think they are much more than what we have.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. Well, I appreciate the gentleman's comments and in terms of whether or not this is going to stop you, nobody expects it to. And quite frankly, you get it both ways. You get to take shots at us, and you get your airport approved, so you get it both ways, so why would you stop?
The problem is, if they treated you the same way that they treat us, your airport would not have been approved and you would have gone through years of hassling in order to make it work and then maybe you'd see that there's another side to this. I don't think there's anything wrong with this airport. I think it's fine. I think it's great that we are able to work out a way that they can build this airport and extend this runway and do everything else.
The problem is, that's not what we get, and maybe it's partially because maybe in my area there's not enough money to make it work for you. Maybe we don't put enough money on the table to make it work. I don't know, but there is definitely a different standard. There is definitely a different approach in dealing with Fish and Wildlife in California than what has happened with this specific case.
There is no way in the world that you can tell me that it is the same approach, that it is the same even-handed, ''we'll work with you, we'll make it work'' approach, because the first thing they tell us is ''No.'' And maybe we just don't put enough money in.
The anecdotal story that Ms. Marzulla told about somebody, an individual property owner, who has a bald eagle's nest near there is told that putting a house on his property is not in line with protecting the habitat or not taking that bald eagle unless he puts enough money on the table or agrees to let you control his property. Whereas, 7,000 flights a month coming out of this particular airport is deemed not harassment and not a significant take of those bald eagles, even the one that's nesting on the power lineor at the power plant. That one seems to be doing okay, but if this guy wants to put a modular home on his property, all of a sudden, hey; he can't do that. He's harassing this bald eagle.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There's no consistency there. I'd be willing to be you though that if he put $20 million on the table, you would not only let him put his modular home in there, you would carry it in there.
Mr. ASHE. I think, Mr. Pombo, the issue is never money, the issue
Mr. POMBO. It is always money.
Mr. ASHE. The issue is always whether or not efforts are being undertaken to mitigate and minimize the effects of a particular project.
Mr. POMBO. The bottom line is it is always money. If a developer is big enough, if the timber company is big enough that they can put sufficient money on the table or give you control of enough of their land, their problem goes away. But if it's a small guy with a few hundred acres, or in this case a lot, they do not have enough to offer you in order for their problem to go away.
Mr. ASHE. I disagree with that, Mr. Pombo, and I think we
Mr. YOUNG. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. POMBO. Well, we can go back and forth on that, but it's the case. I can cite you case-after-case-after-case where they were not able to put enough on the table. I can give you cases in my district where developers who put enough mitigation on the table were allowed to build and allowed to go, and ones that did not have the size that they were able to afford to do it were not allowed to go.
It always comes down to money or control. If they give you enough of their property, then you will let them go. If they put enough money on the table, you will let them go. The species is secondary. It is a method for delivering power and money to the agency. It is the most effective tool that you guys have in order to do that.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. YOUNG. [presiding] Mr. Chairman, I deeply admire your comments. I'm going to let you preside more often.
Just for your information, I've already got an inquiry about a ''60 Minutes'' show, so you might really want to think about this. If we can document it, you're going to be on prime time TV, and we could have lots of fun with it.
So, I want to thank you and thank the witnesses for being here, and I'm going to suggest againI heard Mr. Sherwood say itthere is definitely, as I've said before, Mr. Ashe, your agency has got a long way to go. I think you've gone too far to the left. You've lost contact with the people. You talk about working with people; my people have tried to work. It wasn't your fault, Dan. Very frankly, I know whose fault it was. The guy's running for President in the year 2000 and got directly involved in it, and you have to be a good trooper. But the injustice of it was totally wrong.
I thank the witnesses. The Committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:06 p.m., the Committee adjourned.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]
STATEMENT OF DAN ASHE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR REFUGES AND WILDLIFE, UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
I am Dan Ashe, the Assistant Director for Refuges and Wildlife of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I am joined today by Mr. Rick Schultz who is the refuge manager of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. I appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony to the Committee concerning the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the agreement reached between the Metropolitan Airports Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Service to address the impacts of the Twin Cities airport expansion project on the refuge.
The Minnesota Valley NWR was created over 25 years ago as a result of local residents' strong interest in restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitats of the Lower Minnesota River Valley. These citizens brought together a variety of interests . . . environmentalists, industry, transportation, elected officials, the general public, and natural resource agencies who recognized the value of the natural resources of the area. Based on their hard work and dedication, Congress passed Public Law 94466, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Act, on October 8, 1976, which established the refuge. Unlike most other National Wildlife Refuges, Minnesota Valley NWR is somewhat unique in that it is primarily located in an urban setting. In this area, fish and wildlife populations coexist with over two million Twin Cities residents.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The mission of Minnesota Valley NWR is two-fold . . . (l) to restore and protect the important fish, wildlife, and plant communities of the lower Minnesota river valley and its surrounding watershed . . . and (2) to provide top quality wildlife-dependent outdoor recreation and environmental education to Twin Cities residents. Since establishment, the refuge has acquired 10,000 of its authorized 14,000 acres, it has built a state-of-the-art wildlife interpretation and visitor center, and it has developed top-quality public use programs and facilities.
In the establishment legislation, Congress acknowledged of the refuge's urban setting and the need for the Fish and Wildlife Service to work with industry and transportation. Section 9 of the Act, entitled ''continued public services'' provides that, ''nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting or preventing the provision of vital public services, including (1) the continuation of commercial navigation in the main navigation channel of the Minnesota River . . .; (2) construction, improvement, and replacement of highways or bridges, whether or not the highway is a federal-aid highway; or (3) any other activity which the Secretary determines to be necessary; if the provision of such services is otherwise in accordance with law. Any activity referred to in this section shall be carried out so as to minimize the disruption of the wildlife and the reduction of recreational and scenic values of the area, consistent with economic feasibility.''
Under section 9 of the Act, we interpreted the expansion of the Twin Cities International Airport to be a ''vital public service.'' Further, under the Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Fish and Wildlife Service has no authority to regulate airspace above a refuge. However, under section 4(f) of the 1966 Department of Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 303), the Secretary of Transportation may not approve a transportation project which requires the use of any publicly-owned land from a public park, recreation area, or wildlife and waterfowl refuge of national, state, or local significance unless there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to the use of such land and unless the project includes all possible planning to minimize harm resulting from the use. This law applies to projects that make ''constructive use'' of such lands, including through the type of overflights that would occur over the refuge in this case.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It was under this provision of law that we worked with the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure that disturbance to wildlife and wildlife-dependent recreation was minimized. From the onset, it was the Service's objective to ensure that this project would not result in a net loss of wildlife habitats and that the public would not experience a net loss of opportunity to view wildlife in its natural setting. We believe those objectives have been achieved.
Let me explain, beginning with some information about the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport expansion project. At the direction of the Minnesota state legislature in 1989, the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the Metropolitan Council began a process to determine the best alternative to meet the region's commercial aviation needs for the next 30 years. In 1992, FAA and MAC began the public phase of this planning process by announcing their intent to prepare an environmental impact statement concerning this project. This process was known as the dual tract airport planning process and at that time, several alternatives were considered including expanding the existing airport and the construction of a completely new facility in the outlying areas of the Twin Cities. In December, 1995, FAA and MAC issued a draft EIS. Comments from the public and affected agencies were then requested and received.
In March 1996, MAC and the Metropolitan Council submitted their report to the state legislature which contained recommendations on the preferred alternative. In response to this report, the Minnesota state legislature, in April, 1996, selected the expansion of the existing airport as the preferred alternative and mandated its implementation.
Among other items, this alternative called for a new 8,000 foot north-south runway to be constructed on the west side of the existing airport property. I want to emphasize again that no part of this new runway will be constructed on either existing or future refuge lands. The south end of this new runway will be located approximately 1 1/4 miles north of the refuge. Upon completion, however, the new runway will result in at least 8,000 commercial flights per month either departing or descending over the refuge at elevations as low as 500 feet. This translates into at least one flight over the refuge at relatively low elevations every other minute. Clearly, this project presented a matter of grave concern for the refuge and the Service.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As we stated earlier, this particular project will not be built upon refuge lands, so fish and wildlife habitats will not be directly used or harmed from the construction activities. Upon a search of the literature, we were unable to determine that commercial overflights of wildlife areas would have significant detrimental impacts upon fish and wildlife populations common to Minnesota Valley NWR. Some information is available suggesting disturbance to some species, but the literature is inconclusive about whether commercial airport operations have any long term effects upon wildlife species common to this area.
What is clear, however, is that the overflights will significantly impact ''noise-sensitive'' public use activities of the refuge. At Minnesota Valley NWR, the intense aircraft noise at frequent intervals will, among other things, significantly impede normal conversation of refuge visitors. Neither our long-standing and traditional outdoor activities, such environmental education with inner city youth, nor birding activities, which require listening to bird songs to verify visible sightings, will be able to be continued in their current location due to the aircraft overflights. This includes our youth waterfowl hunting, where we practice and demonstrate hunting ethics and proper hunting techniques. Finally, our visiting public's ability to view wildlife in its natural setting without significant intrusions will also be compromised.
In light of these noise impacts, FAA and MAC correctly determined that the construction and operation of the runway will result in a ''constructive use'' of refuge lands by the airport. This constructive use is harmful to refuge programs and activities and is therefore subject to Section 4(f) of the 1966 Department of Transportation Act.
As mentioned earlier, the Service position was to ensure that this project would not result in a net loss of wildlife habitats or a reduction in the public's opportunity to view wildlife in its natural setting. Towards these ends, we sent a letter to the FAA during the public comment period on their draft EIS expressing our concerns that there was not a sufficient effort to mitigate these effects of the project on the refuge. Consequently, discussions among the parties led us to the agreement we now have entered into with the Metropolitan Airports Commission and concurred in by FAA. We provided MAC and FAA an assessment of what it believed to be acceptable compensation for the impacts of the new runway. The five major components of this mitigation package included (1) the replacement of approximately 4,000 acres of refuge lands adversely impacted by noise; (2) the construction of a visitor contact and environmental education facility located upstream from existing facilities and away from the aircraft noise, (3) replacement of other environmental education and interpretive facilities; (4) an operations trust fund to underwrite the costs of operating two facilities rather than just one; and (5) costs associated with the planning and administration of this project. Based on our best estimates, we valued the total cost of this mitigation package to be approximately $26.9 million.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Two points should be noted here. First of all, the refuge will continue to maintain ownership of the lands to be directly impacted by the overflightsthese lands will be managed for their residual wildlife values. Secondly, the Service agreed to a cash settlement with the realization that mitigation for this project was quite complex and could not be easily achieved with traditional forms of mitigation. We felt that to ensure quality, mitigation needed to be accomplished over a period of several years and should be accomplished under the direct supervision of refuge managers and/or biologists. Through the Memorandum of Agreement subsequently signed by the Service and MAC, and concurred with by FAA, the Service received assurance that the refuge would not experience a net loss of wildlife habitat and that the public will not experience a net loss of opportunity to view wildlife in its natural setting.
Nearly 60 percent of the mitigation package will be directed towards land acquisition. At this time, the Service has not identified specific lands for acquisition nor scheduled the construction of replacement facilities. To the degree possible, all of these mitigation projects will be determined through the comprehensive conservation plan for Minnesota Valley NWR. Through this process, which is scheduled for completion early in the year 2000, the Service will engage the public and request their assistance in identifying additional lands and facilities which will offset the impacts of the airport expansion project upon Minnesota Valley NWR.
We should also mention that the staff at Minnesota Valley NWR has engaged the public in both the negotiations and subsequent discussions concerning the airport expansion project. The original citizens group, the Friends of Minnesota Valley, has been actively involved and has strongly supported the service in these efforts. In addition, several private conservation organizations including the Minnesota River Valley National Audubon Society chapter, are in support of the mitigation and associated memorandum of agreement.
In closing, we view the impacts of the airport expansion project as a regrettable but unavoidable loss to refuge programs and activities resulting from actions outside our jurisdiction and control. At the same time, we are very pleased with the agreement reached between MAC and FAA and we look forward to working with these two agencies in the future as we address natural resource issues of Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This concludes my prepared remarks and I will be happy to respond to any questions you and the members of the Committee may have.
STATEMENT OF LYNNE S. PICKARD, MANAGER, COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEEDS DIVISION, OFFICE OF AIRPORT PLANNING AND PROGRAMMING, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
Good morning. I am Lynne Pickard. the Manager of the Community and Environmental Needs Division in the Office of Airport Planning and Programming at the Federal Aviation Administration (''FAA''). I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning to discuss the impact of the expansion of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (''MSP Airport'') on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (''Refuge''). I am pleased to appear on behalf of the FAA Associate Administrator for Airports, Susan Kurland, who is speaking at our Southwest Region Partnership Conference in Fort Worth. Texas. today.
I know that this Committee is very interested in exploring how the MSP Airport project will affect the Refuge, and what steps the FAA has taken to mitigate any adverse environmental impacts on the Refuge. My colleagues from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission (''MAC'') and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (''USFWS'') will discuss other perspectives of these impacts, and the work that we have done jointly to address these issues.
In order to discuss fully the FAA's determination of the effect of the expansion of the MSP Airport on the Refuge and the mitigation for the Refuge, I would first like to explain how the Department of Transportation (''DOT'') and the FAA interpret and implement Section 4(f) of the DOT Act of 1966. codified at 49 U.S.C. §303. This statute applies to decisions by the DOT to approve transportation projects, including FAA approval of airport development projects. It provides special protection to publicly owned parks, recreation areas, and wildlife and waterfowl refuges of national, state, or local significance, as well as to land of a historic site (whether publicly owned or private) of national, state or local significance. Section 4(f) permits the DOT to approve the use of these protected resources for a transportation project only when the Secretary of Transportation (or his or her delegee) has determined (1) that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of such land, and (2) the transportation project includes all possible planning to minimize harm resulting from the use. Section 4(f) is an environmental requirement exclusively applicable to transportation projects that are subject to approval by the DOT. The FAA is strongly committed to ensuring that airport development projects that we approve and fund fully meet environmental protection requirements.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As the DOT has implemented Section 4(f), our interpretation of the provision is that it applies not only to the acquisition of an interest in land but also to situations where serious impacts result in ''constructive use'' of land. ''Constructive'' use may occur when a transportation project is constructed near, but not actually on, Section 4(f) lands. Constructive use of the land occurs where the proximity of the project may impact the land sufficiently to constitute a substantial impairment of the activities, features, or attributes of the resource. The same protection standards apply whether the use of the land is physical or constructive. When a transportation project makes constructive use of land, the DOT and FAA adhere to the requirements of Section 4(f) to find that there is no feasible and prudent alternative and to include all possible planning to minimize harm.
With respect to the MSP Airport project, the MAC proposed a new air carrier runway and associated airport development for FAA approval. The proposal was mandated by the Minnesota State Legislature after nearly seven years of planning studies, and includes a new 8,000-foot air carrier runway on the west side of the MSP Airport, new taxiways, and associated facilities. The purpose of these airport improvements is to improve airport capacity, operations, and safety, and reduce airline delays. The cost of this project is estimated at $1.8 billion through the year 2010.
Consistent with its duties under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the FAA prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (''EIS'') and, in conjunction with the EIS, made a determination with respect to Section 4(f). The FAA actively sought public involvement and input throughout the preparation of the EIS, and coordinated with Federal, state, and local agencies with environmental jurisdiction and expertise. Ultimately, the FAA determined that the MSP Airport expansion would require the physical use of one historic site and the constructive use of another historic site and of publicly owned lands of the Refuge.
In making the determination of substantial impairment, the FAA considered the potential noise impact of the project. The FAA determined that noise increases would substantially impair the value of some of the publicly owned portions of the Refuge near the airport by adversely affecting their use for outdoor educational and environmental interpretive activities such as school field trips and scouting visits, as well as wildlife recreational activities such as nature walks, bird-watching and fishing. In summary, the noise impact of the new runway was determined to substantially impair the use of portions of the Refuge for certain human activities that currently take place within those areas. According to FAA's analysis, a little over a thousand acres of Refuge under USFWS ownership would be adversely affected by an increase in noise levels. In total, the Refuge comprises over 9,000 acres, interspersed with an additional 6,900 acres of state and locally owned recreation areas, in seven discontinuous management units that extend 34 miles and are part of the 80-mile long Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Recreation Area, and State Trail.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The substantial impairment determination and resulting constructive use determination were based on the public use impacts resulting from increased noise levels, and not on impacts to the Refuge's ecological integrity or wildlife resources. The Department of the Interior was consulted on the potential jeopardy to endangered or threatened species and critical habitat and they determined that there would be no adverse effects. Based on studies of wildlife compatibility with aircraft noise, the FAA believes that aircraft noise would not substantially diminish wildlife habitat or resources in the Refuge, although the FAA recognizes in its evaluation that it is difficult to quantify noise impacts to wildlife in absolute terms. The FAA's determination in this case is reinforced by the high degree of waterfowl habituation observed at areas adjacent to existing runways at the MSP Airport. It should also be noted that the portion of the Refuge in close proximity to the airport is located near the urban core of the Twin Cities region and is adjacent to significant rail and road transportation corridors. These transportation facilities existed at the time of the establishment of the Refuge and have always affected the noise environment. Monitored ambient noise levels in the Refuge in the general vicinity of the airport are comparable to levels typically encountered in suburban residential to noisy urban residential areas.
Having made a Section 4(f) constructive use determination, the FAA determined through its review of the airport development proposal in the EIS and Section 4(f) documentation that there was no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of the resource. Alternatives that were examined and rejected include new sites for an airport, alternative expansion concepts for the MSP Airport, high-speed intercity rail, a remote runway concept linked to the MSP Airport by high-speed transit, the shifting of some aviation users to supplemental airports in the region, alternative flight procedures to avoid the Refuge, and the alternative of taking no action at all. As I have mentioned, none of these alternatives were feasible and prudent.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The final Section 4(f) requirement is to include all possible planning to minimize harm resulting from the use of the Section 4(f) resource. As is our practice, the FAA coordinated with and gave deference to the USFWS, the agency with jurisdiction over the Section 4(f) resource when determining appropriate measures to minimize harm. The resulting mitigation plan reflected in the agreement between the USFWS and MAC, with FAA as a concurring party, was developed during detailed consultations among the three parties over a period of two years.
The agreement, referred to as a Memorandum of Agreement (''MOA''), provides a specific program to satisfy all possible planning to minimize harm to the Refuge from the airport development project. It provides for monetary compensation to be paid by the MAC to the USFWS to offset the unavoidable adverse airport project impacts to the Refuge. No FAA Airport Improvement Program dollars will be used to compensate the Refuge. The MOA provides that the compensation will be used to provide the Refuge with replacement land of habitat quality equal to that impacted by the airport project and to provide for the construction of ponds, hiking trails, and other improvements to replace comparable Refuge components adversely impacted as a result of the airport project. The MOA recognizes that, in exchange for compensation, heights of structures on Refuge property near the airport will be limited to be compatible with aircraft operations, and that aircraft shall have the right of flight and to make noise over the Refuge property that is the subject of compensation. Finally, the MOA acknowledges that USFWS will continue to appropriately manage Refuge lands that are the subject of the agreementthat is, the Refuge lands subject to constructive use because of aircraft noise will still continue to function as a diminished value Refuge area under USFWS management.
The MOA recognizes that the amount of monetary compensation will be based on appraised values in conformance with applicable appraisal standards and regulations. The appraisal process had not been completed at the time of signature of the MOA, and accordingly, there is flexible language in the MOA regarding the $20 million appraised value as of that time. The $20 million figure is regarded as the ''floor'' of a final appraisal amount, with amounts to be determined for realignment compensation and increased operational costs. The appraisal has recently been completed, and FAA's review of the appraisal is being finalized.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Monetary compensation mitigation plans are not unprecedented in Section 4(f) analyses. The provision of funds by an airport proprietor, such as the MAC, needing to use a Section 4(f) resource to the agency owning the resource, in this case, the USFWS, so that a comparable replacement resource can be provided is one of several accepted means of minimizing harm under Section 4(f). In the past, compensation has been used to mitigate adverse environmental impacts where replacement of land and facilities and/or design measures are warranted. These mitigation measures are recognized in published FAA environmental guidance. The FAA has long recognized that environmental mitigation associated with an airport capital development project qualifies as a capital cost of the airport. The association between environmental mitigation and the airport capital development project is particularly strong when the mitigation relates to Section 4(f) because the statutory requirement is for the project to include all possible planning to minimize harm.
The need for Section 4(f) mitigation plans is not a frequent occurrence. Indeed, this is consistent with the purpose of the statute: to protect and preserve Section 4(f) resources and to set a high standard for using such resources for transportation projects. Simply put, the FAA has no need to make many Section 4(f) determinations because the agency tries not to use Section 4(f) resources. Furthermore, most FAA Section 4(f) determinations and mitigations are for uses of urban parks. e.g., local parks, ball fields, and publicly used school playgrounds, because these tend to be the types of Section 4(f) resources in close proximity to airports.
However, there are examples of other Section 4(f) situations involving airport development projects. The Toledo Express Airport, in a Memorandum of Understanding with a local park district, agreed to provide land on which to relocate a campground that was used by an airport project. Near Cincinnati, a County-owned recreational field was relocated as a result of a runway extension: the airport proprietor agreed to replace the field. Lambert St. Louis Airport will fund the replacement of several urban parks impacted by a recently approved new runway. There are also instances of the replacement of softball fields affected by airport development, and effects on historic property that have been mitigated with the assistance of funds from the airport proprietor.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At this point, it is worthwhile to note that the Refuge compensation plan does not stand alone as a solution to address adverse environmental impacts of the airport development. Rather, it is only a portion of an overall plan. The scope of the MSP Airport expansion project is enormous, with the Refuge accounting for only a portion of potentially affected lands. To address the entire expansion project, the FAA and the MAC developed an extensive mitigation plan that needed to account for a variety of factors. Community noise mitigation and acquisition will cost many times the amount needed to mitigate the Refuge. The MSP airport project as a whole encompasses a range of concerns, from the environmental to the economic, from the significance of private use and enjoyment of park lands to the importance of the public benefits of a safe and modern airport.
In this case, the MAC, the USFWS, and the FAA all agreed that this compensation plan and the other terms in the MOA would be the best response to the adverse effects of the MSP Airport project. The monetary component of the overall plan will provide the Refuge with replacement land of habitat quality equal to that which will be affected by the project. Moreover, it will provide for the construction of ponds, hiking trails and trail markers, and other necessary site improvements or replacements.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, the FAA takes its responsibility to the environment and the public very seriously. In formulating the Section 4(f) mitigation plan for this project, the relevant agencies considered other alternatives that might avoid affecting the Refuge. Each alternative considered involved evaluations of potential Section 4(f) affected lands. These other alternatives are not considered feasible and prudent under Section 4(f) standards.
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning to discuss an issue that I know is of great importance to this Committee. Improvements to airport capacity and safety can be achieved in an environmentally responsible manner. We at the FAA believe the compensation plan and mitigation steps for the MSP Airport are an example of how this balance can be achieved.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning. On behalf of Administrator Jane Garvey and Associate Administrator Susan Kurland, I would like to say that we appreciate your interest in the MSP Airport expansion project, and look forward to any dialogue with you and the Members of the Committee that may help us improve our work on environmental issues. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.
STATEMENT OF NELSON T. FRENCH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FRIENDS OF THE MINNESOTA VALLEY
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am Nelson French, Executive Director of the Friends of the Minnesota Valley. It is indeed an honor to be invited to appear before you today to speak with you about the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the recently concluded discussions between the USFWS, Federal Aviation Administration and Metropolitan Airports Commission regarding the mitigation of impacts associated with the expansion of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The Friends of the Minnesota Valley was incorporated June 21, 1982 as a non-profit organization and is one of many similar organizations cooperating with the USFWS in local communities across the country. Many of you who have refuges in your districts are likely familiar with your Friends organizations.
The Friends envision a healthy Lower Minnesota River Watershed where an informed citizenry takes personal and group responsibility to ensure that natural ecological systems and human economic and social systems coexist in a fashion sustainable into the future. The mission of the Friends is supporting conservation and management of the natural and cultural resources of the Lower Minnesota River Watershed, and promoting environmental awareness.
Before we get to today's topic, I would like to share with you a bit about our history and the way in which we have chosen to work within our community as I believe it is relevant to the issue being discussed today.
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The dream of having a national wildlife refuge in the Minnesota Valley was developed in the early 1970's by a group of citizens called the Burnsville Environmental Council. Frustrated with their failure to stop the expansion of land fill operations in the Burnsville portion of the Minnesota River floodplain they decided that a more comprehensive approach was necessary to protect the river bottoms in their community. As a result, in 1974, the Burnsville group produced a 24 page booklet that proposed a Minnesota River National Wildlife and Recreation Area. The Council sent the booklet to everyone from local city councils to the President of the United States. Fortunately, then Congressman Bill Frenzel responded by asking the Department of Interior to investigate the feasibility of establishing a national wildlife refuge in the valley. The result was the development, in 1975, of a proposal for the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The Burnsville Environmental Council reached out across the river and asked the Bloomington Natural Resources Commission for help. Together they formed the Lower Minnesota River Valley Citizen's Committeenow known as Friends of the Minnesota Valley.
The Lower Minnesota River Valley Citizen's Committee kept up the contacts between the volunteers and invited people to share in the vision of the refuge proposal along a 34 mile long stretch of the Minnesota River. Countless presentations were made to communities and community groups up and down the river for the purpose of educating people about the project and seeking endorsements and working out consensus on issues of concern within the community. After this engaging process, the citizens committee was able to get support and resources from more than 40 private groups including: local and national conservation organizations; chambers of commerce; corporations; the Jaycees; State agencies; the Minnesota Legislature; and local units of government. Through this process many issues were worked out between stakeholders who had differing views on the refuge proposaland consensus was reached.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On July 11, 1975, then Senator Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey introduced a bill to establish the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Congressman Oberstar, along with former Congressmen Frenzel and Hagedorn, followed by introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives. By late September, 1976, both houses of Congress had passed the authorizing legislation and President Ford signed the bill creating the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge on October 9, 1976.
The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a magnificent urban wildlife refuge that owes it's existence to the Friends of the Minnesota Valley and its precursor citizen committee and a community with the willingness to work together to achieve common goals.
The Friends of the Minnesota Valley did not stop supporting conservation efforts in the Lower Minnesota River Watershed with the establishment of the refuge, however. We knew that our work had only just begun. Since establishment we have successfully worked to obtain funds to acquire refuge lands, construct the Visitor and Education Center, and provide an excellent environmental educational resource for the twin cities' public.
While continuing to work on the basic non-profit organizational survival needs of fund raising and membership, the Friends have helped enlist volunteers, enroll Refuge neighbors in the private landowner registry program, coordinate efforts for water quality monitoring, communicate with residents of the watershed and the Twin Cities, and foster partnerships to improve the Lower Minnesota River Watershed and ecosystem.
The Current Situation
In February, 1998, the Friends of the Minnesota Valley began working with the Metropolitan Airports Commission and staff to see if we could develop an agreed upon solution to the potentially contentious issue of expansion of the MSP airport and its impacts on the public uses of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. We knew the 1996 decision by the Minnesota Legislature to expand the MSP International Airport and route air traffic over the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge had to be implemented. After extensive review of the situation, our organization, in concert with 16 local and national conservation and community organizations, supported the concept of mitigating the impacts associated with the expansion of Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In late May, 1998, the Friends of the Minnesota Valley, Friends of the Mississippi River, Fort Snelling State Park Association, Izaak Walton League-MN Division, Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter and Minnesota Audubon Council co-sponsored a public open house and invited representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, Metropolitan Airports Commission, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to brief the public on the impacts to the Refuge from the airport expansion. This was the first time that these three agencies were together in front of the public addressing the issues associated with the airport expansion and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This event was well attended and a lot of good information was shared between the agencies and between the agencies and interested citizens. An outcome of this meeting was significant progress towards the necessary development of community consensus on this issue.
The Friends of the Minnesota Valley regrets the loss to the public of a significant nationally recognized natural resource due to the expansion of MSP International Airportthe Black Dog Lake and Long Meadow Lake Units of the Refuge will experience significant noise intrusion and will no longer be available for certain environmental education and natural resource observation activities.
The Friends of the Minnesota Valley recognizes that MSP International Airport must expand to meet the needs of the flying public and has contended that the expansion of the airport at its present location will likely result in less overall environmental and natural resource damage in Minnesota than would construction of a new airport.
The Friends of the Minnesota Valley has stressed that the loss of natural resource value to in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge resulting from the new runway construction and use must be compensatedthereby placing these values on the balance sheet. The proposed agreement of not less than $20,000,000 with the likelihood that total compensation will be greater as actual replacement costs and operational costs are factored in is acceptable compensation for this loss to the community.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Friends of the Minnesota Valley applauds the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Federal Aviation Administration and USFWS for recognizing the serious nature of the impacts to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and deciding to compensate for the losses.
The Friends of the Minnesota Valley views this as a step in engaging the Metropolitan Airports Commission as a partner in conservation in the Lower Minnesota River Watershed, recognizing that they too are a resident of the watershed and must take personal group responsibility to insure that the principles of sustainable development are achieved.
We look forward to working with the USFWS and the community to develop the National Wildlife Refuge Enhancement Act of 1997 required Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and mitigate the impacts through related actions in this plan.
Response to Question From Committee
In your letter to us you had asked the Friends to comment on this question: ''The Committee would appreciate your addressing the issue of how the Fish and Wildlife Service agreement for compensation will impact the rights of private property owners to receive compensation for the constructive use of their land in connection with the protection of wildlife.''
It is our understanding that private wildlife lands are not eligible for review under the constructive use provisions of Section 4(f) of the 1966 Department of Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 303). It is our understanding that the agreement between the USFWS and the Metropolitan Airports Commission will have no impact on the rights of private property landowners to receive compensation for their land through a fee title acquisition transaction in connection with the protection of wildlife.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This concludes my prepared remarks. Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today. Mr. Chairman, I will be happy to respond to any questions you and the members of the Committee may have.
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