Reactions mixed to possible transfer of Hanford land for industrial development

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldOctober 11, 2012 

About 50 people turned out Wednesday night for a hearing on the possible transfer of 1,641 acres of Hanford land for industrial development.

The Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC), in partnership with Richland and Port of Benton, made the proposal to the Department of Energy last year.

TRIDEC Vice President Gary Petersen said about 10,000 acres of Hanford land already has been turned over to various city, county and private industry interests since 1966. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Richland Airport now sit on land once considered part of Hanford.

TRIDEC is part of a community reuse organization authorized by Congress in 1993 to represent communities adversely affected by DOE workforce restructuring at defense nuclear facilities.

Some who spoke Wednesday expressed concerns about who the land would be turned over to.

"I'd like to see the transfer to the Port of Benton or city of Richland and not TRIDEC," said Vince Panesko of Richland. "It scares me that (with TRIDEC in charge) there's a potential for favoritism (to private industry)."

Carl Adrian, president and CEO of TRIDEC, said the council has no intention of being in the land use business and plans to turn over the property to its partners once the land is transferred.

"We have no plans to gain financially from this," Adrian said. "Our dream is to put some of Hanford land back to practical use."

Laura Hanses, who works at Hanford, said she's worried about the possible bottleneck issues that could happen if the land's infrastructure isn't well planned, especially the increased traffic that is bound to erupt as businesses grow.

"There is already a problem with Hanford traffic," she said. "And I hope the continuing mission of Hanford will address that issue."

The 1,641 acres requested by TRIDEC are near the Richland city limits, on the northwest corner of Horn Rapids Road and Stevens Drive. However, DOE is evaluating 4,413 acres with a goal of transferring 1,641 acres that are no longer needed at Hanford.

DOE has a comprehensive land-use plan for the 586 square miles that make up the Hanford reservation.

About 80 percent of the land is earmarked for preservation or conservation after environmental cleanup is completed of contamination from past production of weapons plutonium.

TRIDEC's proposal for the land includes dividing it into a 900-acre site that could be used for one or two large enterprises providing 2,000 to 3,000 jobs. Three smaller 100- to 200-acre sites would support another 400 to 500 jobs, officials estimate.

DOE now is accepting comments on what should be considered in an environmental study of transferring the land. Comments can be emailed to landconveyanceEA@rl.gov or sent to Paula Call, NEPA document manager, U.S. Department of Energy, Richland Operations Office, P.O. Box 550, MSIN: A2-15, Richland, WA., 00352.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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