Report text available as:

  • TXT
  • PDF   (PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip ?
 						   Calendar No. 652

115th Congress}                                            { Report
                                 SENATE
  2d Session  }                                            { 115-365

======================================================================
 
                   LA PAZ COUNTY LAND CONVEYANCE ACT

                                _______
                                

               November 14, 2018.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Ms. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 2630]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (H.R. 2630) to authorize the Secretary of the 
Interior to convey certain land to La Paz County, Arizona, and 
for other purposes, having considered the same, reports 
favorably thereon with amendments, and recommends that the 
bill, as amended, do pass.
    The amendments are as follows:

    1. On page 2, line 9, strike ``8,800'' and insert 
``5,935''.
    2. On page 2, line 16, strike ``May 24, 2017'' and insert 
``October 1, 2018''.
    3. Beginning on page 2, strike line 20 and all that follows 
through page 4, line 6, and insert the following:

    (a) In General.--Notwithstanding the planning requirement 
of sections 202 and 203 of the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1712, 1713) and in accordance 
with this section and other applicable law, as soon as 
practicable after receiving a request from the County to convey 
the Federal land, the Secretary shall convey the Federal land 
to the County.
    (b) Restrictions on Conveyance.--
          (1) In general.--The conveyance under subsection (a) 
        shall be subject to--
                  (A) valid existing rights; and
                  (B) such terms and conditions as the 
                Secretary determines to be necessary.
          (2) Exclusion.--The Secretary shall exclude from the 
        conveyance under subsection (a) any Federal land that 
        contains significant cultural, environmental, wildlife, 
        or recreational resources.
    (c) Payment of Fair Market Value.--The conveyance under 
subsection (a) shall be for the fair market value of the 
Federal land to be conveyed, as determined--
          (1) in accordance with the Federal Land Policy and 
        Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.); and
          (2) based on an appraisal that is conducted in 
        accordance with--
                  (A) the Uniform Appraisal Standards for 
                Federal Land Acquisitions; and
                  (B) the Uniform Standards of Professional 
                Appraisal Practice.
    (d) Protection of Tribal Cultural Artifacts.--As a 
condition of the conveyance under subsection (a), the County 
shall, and as a condition of any subsequent conveyance, any 
subsequent owner shall--

    4. On page 4, line 11, strike ``work'' and insert 
``coordinate''.
    5. On page 4, line 17, strike ``(d)'' and insert ``(e)''.
    6. On page 5, line 4, strike ``(e)'' and insert ``(f)''.
    7. On page 5, line 7, strike ``(f)'' and insert ``(g)''.
    8. On page 5, line 10, strike ``(b)(3)'' and insert 
``(c)(2)''.
    9. On page 5, after line 14, add the following:

    (h) Proceeds From the Sale of Land.--The proceeds from the 
sale of land under this section shall be--
          (1) deposited in the Federal Land Disposal Account 
        established by section 206(a) of the Federal Land 
        Transaction Facilitation Act (43 U.S.C. 2305(a)); and
          (2) used in accordance with that Act (43 U.S.C. 2301 
        et seq.).

                                PURPOSE

    The purpose of H.R. 2630 is to authorize the Secretary of 
the Interior (Secretary) to convey certain Federal land to La 
Paz County, Arizona.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    Nearly 77 percent of the land base in La Paz County, 
Arizona, is owned by the United States. An additional 250,000 
acres are held in trust by the United States for Indian Tribes. 
With less than five percent of La Paz County (County) in 
private ownership, opportunities for growth and economic 
development in the county are limited.
    The Ten West Link is a proposed 500 kilovolt electric 
transmission line that would run through La Paz County and 
presents an opportunity for energy-related economic 
development. The County has identified a parcel of land 
administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) near the 
proposed transmission line which the County believes will be 
suitable for the development of a large scale solar project.
    The BLM has also analyzed and considered this land for 
solar energy potential. In so doing, it has identified the 
parcel as ``variance lands,'' indicating the parcel has high 
potential but may have a minor resource conflict that would 
need to be avoided or mitigated in a sight-specific analysis. 
BLM's formal designation of ``solar energy zones'' is limited 
to lands with no resource conflicts.
    As ordered reported, H.R. 2630 authorizes the conveyance of 
approximately 5,935 acres within the parcel identified by the 
County, to allow for solar energy development. To date, there 
have been no identified environmental, wildlife, cultural 
resources, organized recreation, grazing allotments, or other 
activities that would warrant special protection on the 5,935 
acres conveyed by this Act.
    However, the Mohave people indigenous to La Paz County are 
members of, and have cultural ties to the Colorado River Indian 
Tribes (CRIT), a federally recognized Native American tribe 
headquartered in Parker, Arizona. Traditional Mohave culture 
dictates that artifacts and other remnants of Mohave life 
retain great spiritual value when they remain present on the 
land where they are buried. Given the potential for discovery 
during development, the County has committed to engage directly 
with the CRIT Historic Preservation Office to ensure that any 
uncovered tribal artifacts will be reburied on site rather than 
curated in warehouses miles from the origin of the find. This 
agreement is reflected in the legislation.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    Representative Gosar introduced H.R. 2630 in the House of 
Representatives on May 24, 2017. H.R. 2630 was favorably 
reported, with an amendment in the nature of a substitute, by 
the Committee on Natural Resources on January 29, 2018, and 
passed the House of Representatives by voice vote, as amended, 
on July 23, 2018.
    Similar legislation, S. 1222, was introduced by Senator 
Flake on May 24, 2017. The Subcommittee on Public Lands, 
Forests and Mining held a hearing on the legislation on 
February 7, 2018.
    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in 
an open business session on October 2, 2018, and ordered H.R. 
2630 favorably reported, as amended.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in 
open business session on October 2, 2018, by a majority voice 
vote of a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass H.R. 
2630, if amended as described herein.

                          COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS

    During its consideration of H.R. 2630, the Committee 
adopted amendments to reduce the amount of land to be conveyed 
from approximately 8,800 acres to 5,935 acres; update the map 
reflecting the new parcel; and remove the phased conveyance of 
the lands from BLM to the County. In addition, the adopted 
amendments direct the conveyance proceeds into the Federal Land 
Disposal Account established by the Federal Land Transaction 
Facilitation Act, and made a number of technical changes.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

Sec. 1. Short title

    Section 1 sets forth the short title.

Sec. 2. Definitions

    Section 2 defines key terms.

Sec. 3. Conveyance to La Paz County, Arizona

    Subsection (a) directs the Secretary to convey 
approximately 5,935 acres of Federal land to La Paz County, 
Arizona upon the County's request.
    Subsection (b) requires that the conveyance be subject to 
valid existing rights and such terms and conditions the 
Secretary determines to be necessary. This subsection also 
directs the Secretary to exclude from the conveyance any lands 
that contain significant cultural, environmental, wildlife or 
recreational resources.
    Subsection (c) requires La Paz County to pay fair market 
value for the conveyed land, as determined in accordance with 
the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701 et 
seq.) and based on an appraisal done pursuant to applicable 
standards.
    Subsection (d) conditions the conveyance to the County, as 
well as any subsequent conveyance to another owner, on: (1) 
making good faith efforts to avoid disturbing Tribal artifacts; 
(2) minimizing impacts on any disturbed Tribal artifacts; (3) 
coordinating with the CRIT Tribal Historic Preservation Office 
to identify culturally and historically significant artifacts; 
and (4) allowing Tribal representatives to rebury any unearthed 
artifacts near the discovery location. This provision reflects 
an agreement between CRIT and the County to protect the 
cultural resources on the land conveyed by this Act.
    Subsection (e) requires the map depicting the conveyed 
parcel to be available publically and allows the Secretary and 
County to make minor boundary adjustments and corrections by 
mutual agreement.
    Subsection (f) withdraws the Federal land authorized for 
conveyance from mining and mineral leasing laws.
    Subsection (g) requires the County to pay the appraised 
value, as well as all conveyance-related costs, as a condition 
of the Federal land conveyance.
    Subsection (h) directs proceeds from the land sale to the 
Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act's Federal Land 
Disposal Account (43 U.S.C. 2305(a)).

                   COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS

    The following estimate of the costs of this measure has 
been provided by the Congressional Budget Office: H.R. 2630 
would direct the Department of the Interior (DOI) to convey, 
upon request, up to 5,935 acres of federal land to La Paz 
County, Arizona. The county would be required to pay the 
estimated fair-market value for the affected lands, which would 
be used by commercial entities to produce solar energy.
    Based on the value of similar lands in La Paz County, CBO 
estimates that the county would pay DOI between $700 and $1,000 
per acre to acquire those lands or about $5 million in total. 
Those payments would be recorded as reductions in direct 
spending. CBO expects that the payment and land conveyance 
would occur within the 2019-2028 period.
    Because enacting H.R. 2630 would affect direct spending, 
pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Enacting the bill would not 
affect revenues.
    CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2630 would not increase 
net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2029.
    H.R. 2630 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
    On January 23, 2018, CBO transmitted a cost estimate for 
H.R. 2630, the La Paz County Land Conveyance Act, as ordered 
reported by the House Committee on National Resources on 
November 30, 2017. The House Committee version of the 
legislation directed the sale of more acreage over a longer 
time period than would be the case for the Senate Committee 
version. The CBO cost estimates reflect those differences. CBO 
estimates that enacting the House Committee version of the 
legislation would reduce direct spending by $3 million over the 
10 year period.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Jacob Fabian. 
The estimate was reviewed by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out H.R. 2630. The Act is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of H.R. 2630, as ordered reported.

                   CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED SPENDING

    H.R. 2630, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    The testimony provided by the Department of the Interior at 
the February 7, 2018, hearing on S. 1222, similar legislation 
to H.R. 2630, follows:

Statement of Brian Steed, Deputy Director for Policy & Programs, Bureau 
          of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior

    Thank you for inviting the Department of the Interior 
(Department) to testify on S. 1222, the La Paz County Land 
Conveyance Act. The bill proposes to convey to La Paz County, 
Arizona, approximately 8,000 acres of public lands managed by 
the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Secretary Zinke, through 
Secretarial Order 3347, has pledged to expand access to 
America's public lands and increase hunting, fishing, and 
recreational opportunities nationwide. In addition, the 
Secretary is focused on restoring full collaboration and 
coordination with local communities, working with partners to 
promote multiple use on public lands, and making the Department 
a better neighbor. While the Department supports the goals of 
S. 1222 that align with these important priorities, we have 
concerns with the legislation as drafted.


                               background


    La Paz County, located in western Arizona, is home to over 
20,000 people and holds important recreational value because of 
its close proximity to the Colorado River; the Cibola, Bill 
Williams River, and Imperial National Wildlife Refuges; and a 
number of cultural and historic sites, including old mines and 
ghost towns.
    The BLM regularly leases and conveys lands to local 
governments and nonprofit entities for a variety of public 
purposes. These leases and conveyances are typically 
accomplished under the provisions of the Recreation and Public 
Purposes Act (R&PP Act) or through direction supplied by 
specific Acts of Congress. Such direction allows the BLM to 
help States, local communities, and nonprofit organizations 
obtain lands at nominal cost for important public purposes. The 
Department generally supports appropriate legislative 
conveyances at nominal cost if the lands are to be used for 
purposes consistent with the R&PP Act, and if the conveyances 
have reversionary clauses to enforce this requirement.
    It should be noted that Secretary Zinke is opposed to the 
wide-scale sale or transfer of Federal lands. That said, 
Secretary Zinke is interested in working with Congress on 
proposals that have the specific goal of preserving access and 
recreational opportunities for future generations while 
supporting local community needs.


                                s. 1222


    S. 1222 directs the Secretary of the Interior to convey 
approximately 8,000 acres managed by the BLM to La Paz County 
for uses consistent with the R&PP Act and subject to valid 
existing rights. The bill also contains a reversionary clause 
that provides for the land to revert to the United States, at 
the discretion of the Secretary, if it ceases to be used for 
recreation and public purposes. While the County would receive 
the land itself at no cost, the County would pay any 
administrative costs associated with the conveyance (e.g., 
cultural and cadastral surveys).
    The County would also have the option under S. 1222 to 
acquire the Federal reversionary interest in these lands at 
fair market value, as determined by an appraisal. The bill 
further states that the County would be responsible for the 
costs associated with this appraisal and includes language 
releasing the United States from liability for any hazardous 
materials that may be present on the public lands before the 
date of conveyance.
    As a matter of policy, the Department supports working with 
local governments to resolve land tenure issues that advance 
worthwhile public policy objectives. In general, the Department 
supports the proposed conveyance, if it is consistent with the 
existing R&PP authority. We are concerned, however, that the 
total acreage proposed for conveyance is significantly larger 
than what is normally authorized for public purposes under the 
R&PP Act, and we are concerned that this legislation, as 
currently drafted, would ultimately mandate conveyances that 
effectively authorize non-R&PP use. Our understanding is also 
that La Paz County ultimately intends to use the site for solar 
energy development, which would be inconsistent with the R&PP 
Act. We would like to work with the sponsor on amendments to 
the bill that more closely tailors it to the needs of La Paz 
County while ensuring that unnecessary acreage remains 
available for multiple uses.
    The Department is also committed to continuing its 
adherence to the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land 
Acquisition and Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal 
Practice, and appreciates the sponsor's including these 
provisions in the bill. We recommend the bill be modified to 
clarify that the appraisal process will be managed by DOI's 
Office of Valuation Services. The Office of Valuation Services 
provides credible, timely, and efficient valuation services to 
ensure public trust in Federal real property transactions.
    Finally, we note that the lands proposed for conveyance 
have not been identified as potentially suitable for disposal 
in the Yuma Resource Management Plan, which the BLM completed 
in 2010.


                               conclusion


    Thank you for the opportunity to present the Department's 
views on S. 1222. We look forward to working with the sponsor 
and the Committee on modifications to the bill that will meet 
the needs of La Paz County and benefit the American people.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by H.R. 2630 as ordered 
reported.

                                  [all]