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Proposed Ice Age trail too expensive, Park Service official says

Associated Press

YAKIMA – The National Park Service has shot down a proposal for an Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail that would span four western states, telling a U.S. Senate subcommittee the idea is too expensive.

The trail would stretch from Missoula to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and tell the story of the Ice Age Floods. As proposed, the automobile route would be managed by the National Park Service and follow the path of the floodwaters through Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

However, developing interpretive sites and buying land across the four states would cost between $8 million and $12 million, said Donald Murphy, Park Service deputy director. Operating the trail would cost $500,000 a year.

“Devoting limited National Park Service funds to those purposes would detract from the administration’s priority of reducing the deferred maintenance backlog in existing units of the National Park System,” Murphy told the National Parks subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Murphy’s remarks drew quick criticism from Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a sponsor of a Senate bill to create the Ice Age trail.

“This small federal investment will help rural communities throughout the region leverage tourism and economic development efforts already under way,” Cantwell said in a news release.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who is sponsoring an identical bill in the House, said through a spokeswoman that he still supports the concept. As an alternative, Murphy suggested expanding existing interpretive sites that serve as prime examples of the way the floods sculpted the land, such as the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in north-central Washington. Murphy also said the National Park Service has programs to help state and local governments enhance flood features in their areas. Scientists believe the floods occurred repeatedly between 17,000 and 13,000 years ago, when ice and water burst through ice dams at Glacial Lake Missoula.

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