The Department of Energy is prepared to take the necessary steps to transfer a parcel of Hanford land to the Tri-City Development Council in hopes of eventually creating thousands of jobs.
In a recent letter, DOE signals that the agency is looking favorably on the TRIDEC request, although it still is an early step in the process.
"That is a very exciting letter for us," said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for TRIDEC. "It's like setting a ball on the tee and saying we're going to drive it now."
TRIDEC has asked for 1,341 acres of Hanford land next to Richland city limits for economic development. It's joined in the request by the city of Richland, the Port of Benton and Benton County.
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 parcel requested by TRIDEC, is planned for industrial use.
Steps that DOE is ready to start include conducting a required environmental study, which would include a chance for public comment, and performing analyses required by the National Historic Preservation Act.
It also is prepared to obtain agreement from Hanford's regulators, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology.
"Thank you for all you are doing to create jobs in our community," wrote Matt McCormick, manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office, in a letter to Carl Adrian, TRIDEC president.
DOE does not have an estimated timeline or cost to TRIDEC yet, but will notify TRIDEC when it does.
TRIDEC is hoping that the steps needed to transfer the land can be completed in less than 18 months, Petersen said.
If the land is transferred and TRIDEC has a business that wants it, TRIDEC plans to transfer it to the business at no additional cost, he said. Otherwise, it would be transferred to the city, port or county at no cost, he said.
"TRIDEC is not in the land business," he said.
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.
TRIDEC and its partners are proposing dividing it into a 900-acre site, which could 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.
It's the first of three parcels TRIDEC plans to request in the next five years. Its goal is to replace jobs lost at Hanford as portions of environmental cleanup are completed or less federal money is spent on the project.
* More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.