CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3511 on Tuesday, May 18, 2010, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 3511 was introduced on July 31, 2009, by Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-MP) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark-up and reported the bill, by voice vote, on May 5, 2010.
H.R. 3511 would authorize the Secretary of Interior to construct a new visitor facility in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for the public education of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. The facility authorized under the bill would include space for exhibits on the Mariana Trench Monument, a venue for education programs, a location to provide information about natural resources within the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administrative offices. The legislation would authorize "such sums" as necessary to pay for the new visitor center. In addition, the Secretary would be authorized to accept donations for the planning and construction of the center.
On January 12, 2009, President Bush established the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument by Presidential Proclamation 8335. Under the proclamation, much of the responsibility for managing the Mariana Trench Monument was left to the determination of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The proclamation stated that the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as a cooperating agency with the Department of Interior. This legislation would authorize the Secretary of Interior to pay for a new visitor's center on the Northern Mariana Islands to educate visitors about the Mariana Trench Monument. In addition, other legislation expected to be considered on the House floor on May 18, 2010, (H.R. 4493) would authorize the Secretary to build a new center in Guam to survey natural resources in the Mariana Trench Monument area.
There are 100 different units of the National Monument System, making up more than 1.8 million acres of federal land around the country. While National Monument sites are sometimes administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the vast majority are managed by the National Park Service (NPS). According to the Congressional Budget Office, it's expected that the Department of Interior will spend funds to develop a management plan and construct proper facilities. According to CRS, NPS faces an estimated $9 billion maintenance backlog on the property and facilities the agency currently controls and is unable to keep up.
A CBO score for H.R. 3511 was not yet available as of press time.