AP: Agreement paves way for biosecurity lab
TOPEKA (AP) — Department of Homeland Security officials have signed a land transfer agreement that allows for the construction of a new federal animal research lab near Kansas State University in Manhattan.
Gov. Sam Brownback and members of the state's congressional delegation announced Wednesday that the move indicated the federal department is committed to building the $1.14 billion National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility.
Kansas was selected for the animal research lab after a lengthy competition in 2009. DHS will acquire about 46 acres of land for the lab near the north end of Kansas State.
"While there is much more work to be done, signing of the land transfer agreement is a good step forward in securing the future health, wealth and security of the our nation," Brownback said in a statement. "Kansas stands ready to partner with DHS to move this important national security priority forward."
The lab would replace an aging facility at Plum Island, N.Y., where research would be conducted on deadly animal pathogens, including foot and mouth disease. Sen. Jerry Moran said damage sustained to Plum Island by Hurricane Sandy was another reason DHS needed to move quickly to replace those research capabilities.
Sen. Pat Roberts said he spoke recently with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who indicated that construction on the initial phases of lab shouldn't face further delays.
The first portion to be built will be a central utilities plant that will support the new lab. According to the DHS timeline the lab is expected to be completed and receive commissioning in 2018, with accreditation and vaccine trials beginning in 2020.
A report this summer from the National Research Council reviewed three options for moving forward with the project, ranging from moving forward with the same size and scope of operation to scaling back the project and disbursing the research at existing labs across the country.
State officials had actively promoted northeast Kansas as a potential site for the lab, seeing it as crucial to efforts to create a strong biosciences industry and create more than 300 jobs that would pay an average of more than $75,000 a year. The state is committed to issuing up to $105 million in bonds to help with the project.
Brownback and the delegation said they would continue to work for federal funding of the project.