Two Mid-Columbia outdoor groups are recommending that some money from the possible sale of Hanford land for industrial use be used to buy undeveloped open space to replace that lost to development.
The Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society and Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network support the use of 1,341 acres of surplus Hanford land for industrial use. But they want the most benefit for the Tri-City economy and quality of life, the two groups said in a letter to the Department of Energy.
The Tri-City Development Council asked the Department of Energy in late May for 1,341 acres of Hanford land next to Richland city limits for economic development.
The Hanford Comprehensive Land Use Plan 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, including the acreage requested by TRIDEC, is planned for industrial use.
"We believe the transfer plan could be made much stronger," said the letter signed by Rick Leaumont of the Lower Audubon Society and Mike Lilga of the Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network.
It wants the title transferred to a public entity, such as Richland, rather than TRIDEC, which does not have a publicly elected board.
"The city of Richland can better direct the development of this property to meet the broad spectrum of community's needs and minimize problems associated with growth," the letter said.
However, TRIDEC said that guidance in federal law calls for surplus land to be considered for transfer to a community resource organization, which would be TRIDEC. TRIDEC is joined in its request for the land by the city of Richland, the Port of Benton and Benton County.
Unless TRIDEC has an immediate buyer for the land, it likely would turn the land over to the city of Richland or one of the other two agencies at its below-market-value cost from DOE.
TRIDEC's request included a letter of support from the Richland City Council, specifically supporting the proposal as written and saying it is part of the city's strategic plan, said DOE in a response to the outdoor groups' letters.
However, if DOE transfers the land to TRIDEC, DOE would not preclude the approach pushed by those outdoor groups, it indicated.
The two outdoors groups are asking that the property be sold by the city for at least 90 percent of its fair market value. Some of the money could be used for site improvements and to mitigate problems associated with growth, the groups' letter said.
But at least 25 percent of the money from the sale should be used to buy undeveloped natural open space, the letter said. That should include using $1.7 million to complete the purchase of the McWhorter Ranch on Rattlesnake Mountain for management by the state, the letter said.
The state now is working toward buying part of the 13,000-acre ranch next to the Hanford Reach National Monument.
"The purchase of the McWhorter Ranch and other priority natural open space areas is a way to grow our tourism base, diversify our economy and maximize the public benefit from transfer of these DOE lands," the letter said.
TRIDEC's interests lie in having the flexibility to attract industry that will bolster the Tri-City economy with the Hanford land not set aside for preservation and conservation.
"Why make it more expensive to bring in new industry?" asked Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for TRIDEC. "Our intent is to make it as attractive as we can to bring in new jobs."
TRIDEC already is concerned that the proposed land transfer and industrial development there would not be able to replace all the jobs being cut at Hanford. Most immediately the community faces the loss of more than 1,700 Hanford jobs, in cuts that started this spring but will primarily occur in late September.
Gary Ballew, economic development manager for Richland, said it was premature to be discussing financial and other specifics of a land transfer. That would have to be worked out by a decision by TRIDEC, Richland, the port and the county, he said.
DOE is expected to respond to TRIDEC's request by the end of the month.