The U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved a transfer agreement on Wednesday with Kansas elected officials for a 46-acre site north of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas — a site selected in 2008 for a proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, an updated version of the longstanding animal disease research facility on Plum Island.
The Kansas City Business Journal reports that the acquisition is a major step forward in the project that has been delayed in an era of federal economic dark days, with Republican Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts saying on Wednesday after the transfer approval that construction of the $1.14 billion facility should start now without further delay.
If congress approves funding for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, with a $105 million match from Kansas and an additional $35 million from research financing, the project would replace the Plum Island lab and be a major part of the Animal Health Corridor — scientific developments and animal health-related companies in Manhattan and Kansas City eastward to Columbia, Mo, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.
But Oliver Longwell, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, who has long opposed the proposed Kansas facility, said that even with the match from Kansas and other funds, the billion-dollar project is still “absolutely unnecessary” given the federal deficit and expenditures.
“There was no money in the president’s budget last year and we don’t think there should be this year,” Longwell said. “We are still pushing congress to evaluate other options using existing facilities.”
Longwell called Homeland Security’s land transfer approval as nothing more than a public relations effort on the part of Kansas officials to convince people the Plum Island lab’s closure is inevitable.
“They are trying to make it seem like all of congress is now onboard to approve this controversial facility when that is not true — this is in the context of a debate with the entire federal budget coming up in mid-February,” he said.
Related: Crowd Says Eliminate Idea of New Development on Plum Island