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U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander touches a cannon as he looks into the Chattanooga valley during a visit to Point Park on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, in Lookout Mountain, Tenn. Sen. Alexander visited the park to push for a bill that he says will help address maintenance backlogs at federal parks like Point Park.

Correction: A previous version of this story mentioned the bill that was approved was the National Park Restoration Act. The bill was the Department of the Interior's Environmental and Related Agencies Act which also deals with deferred maintenance.

A Senate committee passed the Department of the Interior's Environmental and Related Agencies Act on Thursday which deals with deferred maintenance at national parks.

The bill will now head to Congress. 

 "This funding for the maintenance backlog in our national parks will help restore campgrounds, trails and roads in our national parks," U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said. "This funding is a promising step in addressing park maintenance backlog– the next step is to pass our bipartisan legislation to help restore and rebuild our national parks."

Alexander is the sponsor of a separate act, the National Park Restoration Act, that also defers with deferred maintenance projects at national parks. The National Park Restoration Act would use excess money from energy leases for onshore and offshore federal land to pay for park maintenance and repairs. 

Alexander introduced the legislation earlier this year at the request of President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, he said. There are several pieces of legislation attempting to deal with the issue. Alexander previously told the Times Free Press that the National Park Restoration Act is different because it "might actually become law," due to its support from the White House. 

There is currently an $11.6 billion backlog on maintenance in National Parks, most of which is needed to fix roads. The backlog is nearly four times what the NPS receives in annual appropriations, according to a park service overview. 

Alexander believes his bill could fully eliminate the backlog in the next 10 years. 

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook @ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.

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