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Moccasin Bend National Park Bill Passes Senate - But Maybe Too Late

Posted by Tom Kunesh to TN IND

The full U.S. Senate passed the bill making Moccasin Bend a national park on Tuesday night, but the action may have come too late in the session.

The version passed was different from that approved earlier in the House, and additional House action is necessary. However, the House may not reconvene prior to the start of the new Congress in January.

The bill was approved and lumped with four other items, and that could also be a source of contention on getting it approved - even if the House does go back in session, it was stated.

The bill making Moccasin Bend an archaeological district and part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was approved as Senate Bill 980.

If this Congress does not approve the Moccasin Bend legislation, the process must start over in the new Congress.

Rep. Zach Wamp, who has been pushing the bill, was expected to have gotten quick approval of the Senate version. But officials said there may not be an opportunity this session.

Congress this week has been focused on the Homeland Security Bill. The way it was approved in the Senate does not require any major action by the House, it was stated. However, there was some indication that House members might have to come back to take some minor actions on the Homeland bill.

House members had been awaiting whether that legislation would cause them to be ready for another vote.

The Moccasin Bend bill was brought up on the Senate floor by unanimous consent on Tuesday - at the tailend of a lameduck session.

It passed as An act to establish the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District in the State of Tennessee as a unit of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

It was approved with several amendments. One dealt with the Virgin River Dinosaur Preserve Act. Another involved the protection of paleontological resources on federal lands. A third was the Enhanced Protection of Our Cultural Heritage Act of 2002. The fourth tag-along on the Moccasin Bend bill was the Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark Act.

Sen. Bill Frist in early September had said he believed he could get passage of a bill this year to provide federal protection for Moccasin Bend.

Under the compromise plan, Moccasin Bend would not be a separate unit of the National Park Service, but would be part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

Also, the Moccasin Bend Psychiatric Hospital and the Moccasin Bend Golf Course would not be part of the park.

Rep. Wamp, who pushed for a broader bill that passed the House, said he believed he could get approval for the compromise in the House and get it passed by President George Bush.

Sen. Frist in September said, "I believe this compromise meets our priorities and will pave the way for Senate approval,

"Together with Rep. Zach Wamp's efforts on the House side and our effort in the Senate, it's my hope that we'll be able to pass a bill this year."

The compromise changes went through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Sen. Frist said the Senate would not have passed the House version.

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