A U.S. House committee will vote Wednesday on a bill to create a Manhattan Project historical park that would include Oak Ridge, Rep. Doc Hastings announced Friday.
The legislation will be considered by the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Hastings is chair of that committee and sponsor of the bill, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act. He represents the Hanford site in Washington, which would also be part of the national park.
“I expect the Committee will vote to favorably advance the bill to the full House for consideration,” Hastings said in a news release. “A great many volunteers have been working for years to bring this idea into reality, and I’m pleased that progress is being made in the law-making process to preserve this amazing and important piece of our nation’s history.”
The Manhattan Project was a top-secret federal program during World War II to build the world’s first atomic bombs.
The park could also include Los Alamos, N.M.
Wednesday’s 10 a.m. committee meeting will be broadcast live online.
Hastings said the Manhattan Project park bills that have been introduced in the House and Senate are very similar, and they have bipartisan support. The House legislation is H.R. 5987, and the Senate bill is S. 3300.
Hastings said both chambers held committee hearings last week to listen to testimony and review the bills.
The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and represents Los Alamos. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington are cosponsors of the bill, as are senators Mark Udall of New Mexico and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
In the House, the sponsors are Hastings, and representatives Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and Ben Lujan of New Mexico.
In other news related to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the Atomic Heritage Foundation of Washington, D.C., sent out an electronic newsletter that included a summary of last week’s congressional testimony that featured Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan and Y-12 National Security Complex Historian D. Ray Smith, among others.
Here’s the Atomic Heritage Foundation story.
Congressional Hearings Affirm Congress’s Commitment to MP Park
On June 27 and 28, Congress took another major step towards the creation of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park by holding hearings on legislation to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. In the Senate, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act is S.3300 and was sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); in the House, the bill is H.R. 5987 and was sponsored by Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA).
On June 27, Senator Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, held a hearing of the National Parks Subcommittee on S. 3300, among other pieces of legislation. Herbert Frost of the National Park Service, Ingrid Kolb of the Department of Energy, and Mayor Tom Beehan of Oak Ridge testified in support of creating a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Mayor Beehan declared, “Interpretation at these sites will be about giving current and future generations an understanding of this indisputable turning point in American, and indeed world history.” He went on, “The science of the Manhattan Project has transformed contemporary society with significant contributions in fields such as nuclear medicine and nanotechnology. This Historic Park will tell all sides of the story of what occurred at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and the Tri-Cities.”
Several other senators, including Maria Cantwell (D-WA), an original cosponsor of S. 3300, and Bob Corker (R-TN), also endorsed the legislation. Senator Bingaman explained that he hopes to hold a committee markup on S. 3300 in the near future. To watch the video of the Senate hearing, please click here.
On June 28, Representative Hastings, Chairman of the the House Committee on Natural Resources, held a hearing of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands on the legislation. Victor Knox of the Department of Interior, Ingrid Kolb, and witnesses representing the three Manhattan Project sites testified.
Representative Hastings declared his dedication to preserving these pieces of history from destruction and allowing increased public access to the Manhattan Project sites. He noted the genuine bipartisan bicameral desire to advance the law. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), an original cosponsor of the legislation, emphasized the importance of remembering all the people who contributed to the Manhattan Project, including those from the surrounding communities who supported the endeavor.
Gary Petersen, the Vice-President of TRIDEC, spoke on behalf of the 1,500 people who were forced by the government to move off the Hanford site; the 50,000 people who worked there; and the people who built the site, including his father-in law. Heather McClenahan, Executive Director of the Los Alamos Historical Society, movingly testified, “At its heart, the story of the Manhattan Project is about creativity and about destruction. It is a scientific story, a soldier’s story, a spy story, and a human story.” D. Ray Smith, the historian of the Y-12 Plant, emphasized, “It’s my job to make history come alive,” and highlighted the fascination that even schoolchildren experience when learning of the trials, tribulations, and success of the Manhattan Project.
Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), who has a PhD in physics, strongly endorsed the legislation to preserve this history. Holt explained that while “Manhattan Project” has become part of the American language, people use the term without understanding what it really was.
With Senator Bingaman, Representative Hastings, and the cosponsors of the legislation in both the House and the Senate committed to getting the legislation passed, we are very hopeful that the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act will be enacted this year. To keep apprised of any news, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.