Interior announces first stimulus projects

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Friday announced a number of projects the department soon will begin under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Ultimately, Interior will spend about $3 billion of the nearly $800 billion allocated under the stimulus plan.

"Our recovery investments were made following a very rigorous process conducted across all Department of Interior bureaus to identify merit-based projects that meet the criteria of the act -- mainly to fund projects that address the department's highest-priority mission needs, to generate the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time, and to create lasting value for the American public," Salazar said.

Salazar said department officials will spend $140 million to fund 308 U.S. Geological Survey projects across all 50 states to repair and build facilities; replace and upgrade scientific equipment; advance critical national mapping activities; and reduce the backlog of deferred maintenance.

The department estimates that it will create 100,000 jobs once its entire $3 billion portion of the Recovery Act is dispersed, Salazar said, adding that Interior will closely monitor job creation as projects get under way and post that information on its Web site.

While Interior doesn't plan to increase its acquisition and financial management workforces to handle the additional projects, Salazar said agencies were prepared to hire personnel on a temporary basis if that proved necessary.

"We're comfortable we will be able to have the personnel in place," to adequately oversee the stimulus projects, he said.

In March, Salazar named Chris Henderson, formerly the chief operating officer for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, to serve as "recovery czar" and oversee the department's stimulus spending.

Specific investments announced on Friday include:

  • $15.2 million to modernize equipment at volcano observatories
  • $14.6 million to upgrade 7,500 stream gauges
  • $14.6 million to remove cableways, groundwater wells and stream gauges no longer needed to make sites safer for the public and support local economies
  • $29.4 million to address deferred maintenance at laboratories and make them more energy efficient
  • $29.4 million to modernize the Advanced National Seismic System
  • $17.8 million to improve wildlife and environmental research centers in Maryland, Missouri and Wisconsin
  • $14.6 million to improve imagery mapping used for emergency operations, natural resource management and flood control
  • $488,000 to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory to digitize and publicize bird banding data, which has applications in disease research

Interior intends to provide progress reports for each project on its Web site. Information also will be posted on the White House Web site.

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