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U.S. Coast Guard statement for the record for a House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs legislative hearing on H.R. 4668 - “Point Spencer Coast Guard and Public-Private Sector Infrastructure Development Facilitation and Land Conveyance Act”

Release Date: 
September 10, 2014

1334 Longworth House Office Building

The U.S. Coast Guard is pleased to submit this statement for the record on H.R. 4668, the “Point Spencer Coast Guard Public-Private Sector Infrastructure Development Facilitation and Land Conveyance Act.”

Negotiations

In accordance with the letter of June 19, 2013, co-signed by all members of the Alaska Congressional Delegation, the Commandant of the Coast Guard is facilitating discussions and negotiations with the State of Alaska, the Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC), and the Alaska office of the Bureau of Land Management with regard to the future use and conveyance of lands on Point Spencer, Alaska. The Coast Guard believes that, through these discussions and negotiations, the most equitable allocation of, and rights to, such lands can be determined. Congressional consideration of a legislative conveyance could prejudice those negotiations.

While the Coast Guard expresses no preference with regard to the party or parties to whom such lands should be conveyed, the Coast Guard can only support the conveyance of lands and facilities if the party or parties agree to certain terms and conditions that would protect the U.S. Government’s interests: the use of all facilities as necessary to perform the statutory duties and functions of the Coast Guard, and at no cost to the U.S. Government. While the Coast Guard supports the intent of the bill, the Service does not support H.R. 4668, as currently drafted, as the bill would not achieve the aforementioned ends. The Coast Guard is committed to the ongoing negotiations and is firm in its belief that, through those discussions and negotiations, the most equitable allocation of, and rights to, such lands can be determined.

Future Operational Needs

The Coast Guard has determined that the operational commanders of the 17th Coast Guard District and the Pacific Area Command will require retention of 135 acres of land at Point Spencer that connects a specific section of the eastern coast of Point Spencer with the current and any future airstrips or runways, and which encompasses a large metal shed already existing on the property. The boundary of the area to be retained is marked on an updated map possessed by the Service, which is different than the map referenced in H.R. 4668.

The Coast Guard notes that it has not conducted an analysis of costs for re-acquiring or leasing back properties versus retaining federal ownership of the lands and redeveloping the area for the purpose of conducting permanent federal agency operations. The Coast Guard also notes a costs analysis may not be wholly appropriate at this time given that the area to be retained already contains a structure that is adequate to meet foreseeable operational needs of the Service, and the retained area is accessible from the water by small boat so personnel or cargo can be transferred relatively easily to and from Coast Guard cutters anchored offshore. Under the potential conveyance negotiated by the interested parties, the Coast Guard intends to exercise its authority under the applicable federal regulation (43 C.F.R. § 2372.1) to require the terms and conditions of any conveyance to the State of Alaska and BSNC to ensure no-cost federal use of the current and future runways or airstrips, similar to other de-militarized air facilities in Alaska, such as the Cold Bay Airport, and to ensure the establishment of a right of way easement connecting any future airstrips constructed on Point Spencer with the area of land being retained by the Coast Guard.

H.R. 4668

H.R. 4668, as currently drafted, would not adequately protect the future interests of the Coast Guard. The Service notes the following deficiencies:

  • With regard to section 2(3) and the “Point Spencer Land Conveyance Map” that is dated April 2014, Coast Guard civil engineers have determined that the land area marked as Tract 3 on that map is insufficient to support Coast Guard operations. As currently drawn, Tract 3 is only 112 acres. The land area required to support Coast Guard operations is 135 acres.
  • Sections (3)(4) and 4(e)(4) are ambiguous in terms of the Coast Guard’s role with regard to the development and implementation of, and the participation in, a Joint Management Plan for Point Spencer (JMP). Section (3)(4) requires the “development of a Joint Management Plan for the lands retained conveyed, or leased under this Act by the Coast Guard, the State and the BSNC.” Section (4)(e)(4), however, states that only the Secretary of the Interior, the State of Alaska, and the BSNC will develop this plan. The Coast Guard would oppose any entanglement in the future management of the entire 2648-acre landholding.
  • Sections 4(a)(1)(B) and 4(e)(2) do not adequately protect the interest of the U.S. Government.
    • Specifically, the remedies for hazardous substance releases are determined on a site-by-site, contaminant-by-contaminant basis, depending on the site’s future use. Thus, whether Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) Industrial Standards are sufficiently protective of human health must also be determined on a site-by-site and contaminant-by-contaminant basis. To force one set of cleanup standards (i.e., ADEC Industrial) on all remediation actions on all Coast Guard tracts may be not be justifiable, necessary, or financially prudent.
    • These sections deprive the Coast Guard of the flexibility it would otherwise be provided under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) when selecting the remedy for a hazardous substance release. Under CERCLA section 121 (42 U.S.C. § 9621), for example, the Coast Guard could, under certain circumstances, lawfully depart from ADEC Industrial Standards. Sections 4(a)(1)(B) and 4(e)(2) remove that flexibility entirely.
  • Section 4(a)(3) is consistent with the Coast Guard’s requirement that use of the current and future airstrips be open to all public aircraft at no cost, but does not provide the Coast Guard with real property rights to access future airstrips from the Coast Guard landholding. The right to use an airstrip at no cost is defeated without the existence of a no-cost right to access the airstrip from the Coast Guard landholding. To protect the Federal interests now and in the future, a floating easement or an easement in gross is absolutely necessary.

Conclusion

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this statement for the record on H.R. 4668. Again, while the Coast Guard supports the intent of the bill, the Service does not support H.R. 4668, as currently drafted, as the bill would not protect the U.S. Coast Guard’s interests. The Coast Guard is committed to the ongoing negotiations and is firm in its belief that, through those discussions and negotiations, the most equitable allocation of, and rights to, such lands can be determined. That said, the Coast Guard welcomes the opportunity to work with the sponsor to ensure that H.R. 4668 provides for the U.S. Government’s use of all facilities as necessary to perform the statutory duties and functions of the Coast Guard, and at no cost to the U.S. Government.

Last Published Date: February 21, 2017
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