Walla Walla, Wash. – After thorough review, the Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed both an environmental compliance and real estate review of the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center proposal. The Corps has approved the City of Richland’s request to enter into a sublease agreement with the Richland Public Facilities District, which would allow construction of the Center on Corps-leased land in Columbia Park West in Richland, Wash. The Center is a project of the Richland Public Facilities District proposed to be built on land currently leased by the District to the City of Richland for park and recreation purposes.
The Corps review included two important components—National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance plus approval of a proposal for the City of Richland to enter into a sublease agreement with the Richland Public Facilities District.
“Like many other proposals we receive, this proposal was evaluated in great detail within a well-established review process,” said Lt. Col. David Caldwell, Walla Walla District commander. “It’s a complex process, and it’s how we serve as good stewards of the environment and federal real estate.”
The Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for environmental review of the proposal and worked within an established NEPA compliance process. The environmental review process involved local entities, state and Federal agencies and Indian tribes. The District assessed the proposed Center’s environmental compliance with eight federal laws, two federal executive orders, and three Washington state laws and permits. NEPA compliance for the project was comprised of the Corps conducting a public scoping meeting, preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA), submitting it for public review, addressing public comments received in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and signed approval of the FONSI by Lt. Col. Caldwell.
Additionally, the Corps completed a real estate review of a sublease between the City of Richland and the Richland Public Facilities District for use of the federally owned, Corps-administered property. While the Walla Walla District is not a signatory to that sublease, the District’s lease with the City of Richland requires a review of any subordinate real estate agreements proposed for the federally owned land.
The project has been coordinated by the District with the City of Richland, Richland Public Facilities District, Washington State Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Wanapum Band. Each agency, organization or tribe was contacted and provided information on the proposed Center. The Corps provided technical consultation with three tribes that requested it.
As part of the review process, the District also asked for public comments until May 23, 2011, on a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the project. Comments were received from two individuals during the public review period. Both documents are available at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Hanford/default.asp.