The Tri-City Development Council asked the Department of Energy on Tuesday for 1,341 acres of Hanford land next to Richland city limits for economic development.
"TRIDEC intends this to be the first of several requests which will help offset future Hanford staff reductions," wrote Carl Adrian, TRIDEC president, in a letter to Matt McCormick, manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office.
The letter also pointed out that DOE has a long history of turning over Hanford land to community interests, leading to significant economic growth in the Hanford area and creation of jobs.
TRIDEC was joined in the latest request by the city of Richland, the Port of Benton and Benton County.
The request has the support of Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both D-Wash., and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., plus the Tri-Cities state legislative delegation, all of whom sent letters of support to DOE.
"Lands no longer needed for cleanup should not be locked away by the federal government into perpetuity," wrote Hastings. "In order to attract private investment and private sector jobs, portions of these land must be made available for transfer -- and not limited to federal leases."
The Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Hanford calls for most land in the 586 square mile nuclear reservation to be used for preservation or conservation as environmental cleanup is completed from the past production of weapons plutonium.
However, 10 percent of the land is planned for industrial use.
TRIDEC is requesting land bordered by Horn Rapids Road on the south and Stevens Drive on the east. The land primarily was used as a buffer area for parts of the nuclear reservation where plutonium production occurred. Before World War II, it was used for farming.
The parcel is one of the few "mega-sites" -- a site larger than 500 acres -- available for industrial use in Washington, according to the TRIDEC request. In the Tri-Cities, there are no other large and contiguous parcels of land near distribution systems to support industries that require a large manufacturing space or buffer areas for development and safe operations, the request said.
The site has access to large energy transmission distribution lines and switch yards, rail lines, ocean-going barges and major freeway systems.
TRIDEC and its partners are proposing dividing it into a 900-acre site, which would support one or two large enterprises providing 2,000 to 3,000 jobs combined. In addition three smaller 100- to 200-acre sites would support another 400 to 500 jobs combined.
"These new jobs will help directly offset the coming downturn in employment at the Hanford site as the cleanup mission nears completion," the request said.
Hanford has about 12,000 workers, but 1,600 jobs are expected to be cut as most of federal economic stimulus money is spent by the end of September.
"The Tri-Cities also recognizes that Congressional funding cuts and completion of cleanup along the Columbia River will lead to an additional 1,000 or more jobs being reduced from Hanford before 2015," the request said.
TRIDEC already has had interest from an undisclosed international firm looking for a large site. If the company selects the Tri-City site, it would invest at least $2 billion to develop a plant and would want to own the site rather than lease it.
TRIDEC is requesting transfer of the land at below market value because of the cost of improvements needed. Those include road, sewer, water and electrical infrastructure.
The request Tuesday for the 1,341 acres is the first of three that TRIDEC plans to request in the next five years.
"This could obviously be a big first step for the community in helping determine a piece of the post-cleanup future of the Hanford site," said Colleen French, DOE Hanford government affairs program manager.
DOE Hanford officials have 90 days to review the TRIDEC proposal and decide if transferring the land is in the government's best interest, she said.
In addition to replying to TRIDEC then, Hanford officials also will forward their recommendation to DOE headquarters. If the proposal moves forward, it would need approval by the energy secretary and then would be sent to Congress.
TRIDEC points out that DOE and other federal agencies have a long history of successfully releasing land to community interests, starting in 1958 when Richland went from being a "company" town owned by DOE for Hanford employees to a municipality with privately owned homes.
The Richland airport and hundreds of acres of nearby land were released to the Port of Benton starting in 1962. The Corps of Engineers also sold 290 acres to the port in 1961 for $100,000, leading to the development of a major dock used by the U.S. Navy for unloading nuclear materials bound for Hanford.
Camp Hanford and the 1100 Area of Hanford also have been released to community interests. Now what was once federal land is home to Energy Northwest headquarters, InnovaTek, Battelle and Washington State University Tri-Cities.
In addition, 6,000 acres of former Hanford land west of Stevens Drive and south of Horn Rapids Road now is home to companies such as ATI Allvac Specialty Metals, PermaFix and Areva. Businesses on the acreage employ about 1,000 workers.
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