Our Voice: Hanford land transfer a significant achievement

It has taken five years to get to this point, but it looks like the Department of Energy will keep its commitment and transfer 1,641 acres of Hanford land to the Tri-City Development Council by day’s end.

Considering DOE deadlines at Hanford have had a tendency to move, this is a big deal and an important breakthrough for the community.

The land, which has been sitting vacant, will be used to attract new business and industry.

It took a persistent effort by TRIDEC, Benton County, Port of Benton and Richland city officials — in addition to a tremendous amount of pull by former Congressman Doc Hastings — to get to this historic day.

Hastings got federal legislation passed last year that requires DOE to transfer the land to TRIDEC by the end of September. He had tried several times during his career to get the legislation approved, but struggled. Finally, just before he left office, he managed to get the land transfer deal through.

It was one of his best, final achievements.

And now, all that hard work will come to completion with a pen.

Gary Petersen, vice president of federal programs for TRIDEC, said he will represent the organization Thursday at a private signing celebration at the Tri-Cities Business and Visitor Center in Kennewick.

Petersen said the transfer of unused land by DOE for economic development is an example that the cleanup mission at Hanford is making progress.

Of the total acreage, there are 300 acres set aside that could be used by a solar project developer, and TRIDEC officials said there are two potential companies already interested in such an endeavor.

Such early interest in the site is encouraging and bodes well for finding other companies that would like to develop the property.

TRIDEC is the Community Reuse Organization that can take hold of the land from DOE, but the entity has no intention of making a profit from the property.

Outside of the 300 acres designated for a possible solar project, the rest of the property will be transferred to the Port of Benton and the city of Richland if TRIDEC finds no other business interested in it by the end of the year. The two municipalities already have figured out how to divide the land between them, Petersen said.

The 1,641 acres being transferred to the community is less than 0.5 percent of the total Hanford site, and yet it is a significant start to developing business and industry near the nuclear reservation.

There is no reason why DOE should continue to hang on to Hanford land that is not needed for the cleanup mission. It needs to be returned to the community so the Tri-Cities can gain some economic benefit from it. After all these years, it looks like the community is finally making headway.

This is one DOE deadline that is being met with cheers and applause, and we like it.