- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2009

More than $55 million in economic stimulus money will be used to fix the national Mall, even though money for Mall renovations was removed during congressional debate on the stimulus package this winter.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday that $750 million in stimulus money will go to restore and repair national parks nationwide, including about $55.8 million for the Mall. About $30 million will go to fix the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, $18 million to repair a Jefferson Memorial sea wall and $7.3 million to restore the D.C. War Memorial.

Other projects announced Wednesday include $26 million to repair buildings and a sea wall at New York’s Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants first entered the country; $5 million to refurbish Philadelphia’s Independence Hall; $13.1 million to demolish and replace condemned portions of the Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah; and $54.7 million for dam removal and other projects at Olympic National Park in Washington state.

In January, majority Democrats removed $200 million in stimulus funding that had been targeted for the Mall, after Republicans criticized it as an example of wasteful spending.

Mr. Salazar called the money being spent to renovate the Mall a “down payment” on a much larger challenge to fix a national symbol that has fallen into disrepair. He said the Mall does not belong to the District of Columbia but to the nation, and called it an important symbol for all Americans.

The projects to renovate the Mall each went though a competitive process and were selected after an extensive review, said Hugh Vickery, a spokesman for the Interior Department. The money for the Mall that was initially rejected had been set aside as a pet project for a specific park, in violation of a congressional agreement not to include so-called earmarks in the stimulus bill, Mr. Vickery said.

The $787 billion stimulus law, signed by President Obama in February, assigned $750 million to the National Park Service for renovations and repairs, but left specifics up to the agency.

“We looked at the whole system and said, what needs to be done now, consistent with the goal of creating jobs now and the importance of the project to the park and relative to the health and safety of the park?” Mr. Vickery said. “This was a very competitive process.”

Renovation of the Mall “is work that really needs to be done,” Mr. Vickery said. “The sea wall [protecting the Jefferson Memorial from the Tidal Basin] is crumbling and the Reflecting Pool is cracking. Anybody who tours the Mall knows this works needs to be done.”

Mr. Salazar said the announcement, timed with observances of Earth Day, dramatized the Obama admin- istration’s commitment to restore and protect America’s most special places.

The projects are expected to save or create at least 20,000 jobs, he said.