Sooner is better to establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park because ideal conditions won't last long, say supporters of Hanford's B Reactor, which would be included in the park.
They're hoping to convince the Senate Natural Resources Committee to follow the lead of Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., with proposed legislation.
Draft Senate legislation requires a management plan to be written for a new Manhattan Project site, which could take several years, and then supporters would have to return to Congress to convince it to authorize the national park.
The draft House legislation from Hastings would establish the park immediately and then would give the National Park Service a two-year deadline to complete a management plan.
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Delays could jeopardize formation of the new national park.
The timing is ideal now because of the bipartisan and interested leadership of the key Congressional committees needed to approve the plan, said Pam Larsen, executive director of the Hanford Communities, a coalition of Hanford-area local governments.
Hastings, a Republican from Pasco, chairs the House National Resources Committee and Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat from New Mexico, chairs the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Historic sites in Washington state, New Mexico and Tennessee would be included in the new multisite national park.
However, Bingaman plans to retire at the end of his term and it's unknown if the next chairman of the Senate committee will support the national park proposal.
In addition, a change in the White House could mean a change of leadership in the National Park Service. Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, has supported the proposal, and the Department of Energy has agreed to partner with the park service.
Not only B Reactor, but also the landmarks left by early settlers ordered off Hanford in World War II would be considered for inclusion in the national park. Still standing are the Bruggemann warehouse, the White Bluffs bank and Hanford school.
The proposed legislation would allow DOE to accept donations, which could help provide the cash and labor needed to repair and preserve those buildings.
The huge T Plant, which processed irradiated fuel to remove plutonium, also would be considered for inclusion in the park when DOE no longer needs it.
On Friday, 12 Hanford-area leaders sent a letter supporting establishment of the new park to Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both D-Wash.; Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and Hastings.
The letter was signed by the mayors of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland; chairmen of the Benton and Franklin County commissioners; executive directors of the Ports of Benton, Kennewick and Pasco; chairman of the Hanford Communities, the president of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, and the chief executive of the Tri-City Development Council.
Legislation is expected to be considered in House and Senate committees between now and the end of June.