[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 11 (Friday, January 16, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 3065-3080]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-914]


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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY


Science and Technology Directorate; Record of Decision for the 
National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Science and Technology Directorate (Office of National 
Laboratories within the Office of Research), DHS.

ACTION: Record of Decision (ROD).

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and 
Technology Directorate is issuing this ROD on the proposed siting, 
construction, and operation of the National Bio and Agro-Defense 
Facility (NBAF) (the Proposed Action). This ROD is based on the 
information and analysis in the NBAF Final Environmental Impact 
Statement (NBAF Final EIS) including public comments, and consideration 
of other appropriate factors such as national policy, site evaluation 
criteria, threat and risk assessment, costs, security, and other 
programmatic requirements. The Notice of Availability for the NBAF 
Final EIS was published in the Federal Register (73 FR 75665-75667) on 
December 12, 2008.
    DHS has decided to implement the Preferred Alternative identified 
in Section 2.6 of the NBAF Final EIS. Implementation of this 
alternative would result in construction of the NBAF at the Manhattan 
Campus Site in Manhattan, Kansas, and initiation of the transition of 
mission activities and resources from the Plum Island Animal Disease 
Center (PIADC), located on Plum Island, New York, to the Manhattan 
Campus Site.
    DHS appreciates the significant cost, time, and effort that each 
consortium expended during this comprehensive decision process, and DHS 
thanks the consortia for their support of the homeland security 
mission. The comprehensive and well thought out proposals from states 
around the Nation and their consortia reflected the impressive 
capabilities of their communities. Each consortium and host state 
demonstrated a strong desire to make the Nation safer for animal 
agriculture through advanced research on foreign animal and zoonotic 
and emerging diseases.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT: The NBAF Final EIS (approximately 
5,000 pages), Executive Summary, and this ROD are available on the DHS 
Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/nbaf. Requests for copies of the NBAF 
Final EIS, the Executive Summary, or this ROD should be mailed to Mr. 
James V. Johnson: Department of Homeland Security; Science and 
Technology Directorate; Office of National Laboratories, Room 10-052, 
Mail Stop 2100; 245 Murray Lane, SW., Building 410; 
Washington, DC 20528. You may also request copies from: toll-free 
facsimile 1-866-508-NBAF (6223); toll-free voice mail 1-866-501-NBAF 
(6223); or e-mail at

[[Page 3066]]

nbafprogrammanager@dhs.gov. For more information or general questions 
about the NBAF EIS, contact Mr. James V. Johnson at the address given 
previously.
    Copies of the NBAF Final EIS, Executive Summary, and this ROD are 
also available for review at the following public reading rooms:

Georgia

University of Georgia Main Library, 320 South Jackson Street, Athens, 
GA 30602.
Oconee County Library, 1080 Experiment Station Road, Watkinsville, GA 
30677.

Kansas

Manhattan Public Library, 629 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502.
Hale Library, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.

Mississippi

City of Flora Library, 144 Clark Street, Flora, MS 39071.

New York

Acton Public Library, 60 Old Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook, CT 06475.
Southold Free Library, 53705 Main Road, Southold, NY 11971.

North Carolina

Richard H. Thornton Library, 210 Main Street, Oxford NC 27565-0339.
South Branch Library, 1547 South Campus Drive, Creedmoor, NC 27522.

Texas

Central Library, 600 Soledad, San Antonio, TX 78205.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    DHS prepared this ROD pursuant to the regulations of the Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) for implementing the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR Parts 1500-1508) and DHS Directive 023-01 
(renumbered from management Directive 5100.1), Environmental Planning 
Program. This ROD is based on: (1) The site's ability to satisfy the 
evaluation criteria published in the ``Public Notice Soliciting 
Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for Potential Sites for the NBAF'' 
(which was published in the Federal Register on January 19, 2006); (2) 
the site's ability to satisfy the preferences (including request of 
site in-kind contributions to offset infrastructure costs) communicated 
to all second round potential NBAF sites (by letter dated December 8, 
2006); (3) confirmation of the site offers for site infrastructure 
costs (submitted to DHS by March 31, 2008); (4) the environmental 
impacts identified in the NBAF Final EIS; and (5) information contained 
in the supporting documents (Threat and Risk Assessment, Site Cost 
Analysis, Site Characterization Study, and The Plum Island Facility 
Closure and Transition Cost Study).

Purpose and Need for Agency Action

    DHS is charged with the responsibility and has the national 
stewardship mandate for detecting, preventing, protecting against, and 
responding to terrorist attacks within the United States. These 
responsibilities, as applied to the defense of animal agriculture, are 
shared with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and require a 
coordinated strategy to adequately protect the Nation against threats 
to animal agriculture. Consultations between DHS and USDA on a 
coordinated agricultural research strategy, as called for in the 
Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-296) and Homeland Security 
Presidential Directive 9 (HSPD-9), ``Defense of United States 
Agriculture and Food,'' dated January 30, 2004, revealed a capability 
gap that must be filled by an integrated research, development, test, 
and evaluation infrastructure for combating agricultural and public 
health threats posed by foreign animal and zoonotic diseases. The DHS 
Science and Technology Directorate is responsible for addressing the 
identified gap.
    Accordingly, to bridge the capability gap and to comply with HSPD-
9, DHS proposed to build the NBAF, an integrated research, development, 
test, and evaluation facility.
    Co-locating DHS with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection 
Service--Veterinary Services (APHIS-VS) and Agricultural Research 
Service (ARS) at the NBAF would enable research, diagnostics, and 
responses to outbreaks in agricultural animals (i.e. cattle, swine, and 
sheep) at a U.S.-based facility. Co-locating these functions in a 
single secure facility would maximize synergies and provide enhanced 
capabilities for the detection and prevention of foreign animal 
diseases in the United States.
    The NBAF would meet the capabilities required in HSPD-9 by 
providing a domestic, modern, integrated high-containment facility 
containing BSL-2, BSL-3E, BSL-3Ag, and BSL-4 laboratories for an 
estimated 250 to 350 scientists and support staff to safely and 
effectively address the accidental or intentional introduction into the 
United States of animal diseases of high consequence.
    Currently, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), where 
much of the Biosafety Level-3 Agricultural (BSL-3Ag) research on 
foreign animal diseases is performed, is an essential component of the 
national strategy for protecting U.S. agriculture from threats caused 
by intentional attack (i.e., agro-terrorism) or unintentional 
introduction of foreign animal disease viruses such as foot and mouth 
disease virus (FMDV). However, PIADC was built in the 1950s, is nearing 
the end of its lifecycle, and does not contain the necessary biosafety 
level facilities to meet the NBAF research requirements. The NBAF would 
fulfill the need for a secure U.S. facility that could support 
collaborative efforts among researchers from Federal and state 
agencies, academia, and international partners to perform necessary 
research at the required biosafety levels 3 and 4. Additionally, as 
discussed in the recent Report of the Commission on the Prevention of 
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Proliferation and Terrorism (December 
2008), the United States should continue to undertake a series of 
mutually reinforcing domestic measures to prevent bioterrorism.
    Prior to passage of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 
(H.R. 6124 [2008 Farm Bill]) which became law on May 22, 2008, the 
United States Code (21 U.S.C. Section 113a) stipulated that live FMDV 
could not be studied on the U.S. mainland unless the Secretary of 
Agriculture made a determination that such study was necessary and in 
the public interest and issued a permit for such research to be 
conducted on the mainland. Section 7524 of the 2008 Farm Bill directs 
the Secretary of Agriculture to issue a permit to the Secretary of 
Homeland Security for work on the live FMDV at any facility that is a 
successor to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and charged with 
researching high-consequence biological threats involving zoonotic and 
foreign animal diseases. The permit is limited to a single successor 
facility. On December 18, 2008, the Secretary of Homeland Security, 
Michael Chertoff sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Ed 
Schafer requesting that a permit be issued if a mainland site is 
selected. On January 9, 2009 DHS received a letter from Secretary 
Schafer that affirmed USDA's intention of complying with Congressional 
direction to issue a permit for the movement and use of live FMDV at 
the NBAF.
    As stated in Section 2.2.2 of the NBAF EIS, the NBAF may be 
operated as a

[[Page 3067]]

Government Owned/Government Operated Facility (GOGO) or as a Government 
Owned/Contractor Operated Facility (GOCO). The final decision regarding 
the operating model for the NBAF will be made at a later date. The 
current planning approach is to utilize the Plum Island operating 
model, which is a GOGO facility. Should a decision be made to operate 
the NBAF as a GOCO facility, procurement of such services would follow 
the Federal Acquisition Regulation and applicable DHS procurement 
requirements, and a program management plan, which would set forth 
management, supervisory, and contracting activities between the Federal 
government and a contractor, would be prepared.

Site Selection Process and Evaluation Criteria

    DHS conducted a competitive site selection process to identify and 
evaluate potential candidate sites for the NBAF; Plum Island was also 
included as an alternative site for evaluation, as described in Chapter 
2, Section 2.3.1 of the NBAF Final EIS. The site selection process was 
initiated by publication of a Notice of Request for EOI submissions for 
Potential Sites for the NBAF in the Federal Register on January 19, 
2006 (71 FR 3107-3109). DHS requested EOI submissions from Federal 
agencies, state and local governments, industry, academia, and 
interested parties and organizations for potential locations that would 
accommodate the construction and operation of the NBAF.
    Twenty-nine EOI submissions were received from consortia comprised 
of various governmental, industry, and academic partners by the March 
31, 2006 response deadline. DHS developed and implemented a rigorous 
process for the first round evaluation of the 29 EOIs received, against 
DHS's four evaluation criteria (i.e., Proximity to Research 
Capabilities, Proximity to Workforce, Acquisition/Construction/
Operations (ACO) Requirements, and Community Acceptance) and associated 
sub-criteria. These criteria and their associated sub-criteria were 
developed by an interagency working group to ensure that the NBAF would 
meet the interdependent needs of DHS and USDA to adequately protect the 
Nation against biological threats to animal agriculture. DHS emphasizes 
that the Proximity to Research Capabilities and Workforce ratings apply 
exclusively to the specific research and workforce needs of the 
proposed NBAF and are not a general statement on the research 
capability and workforce expertise of the proposing states and 
consortia. For example, the Proximity to Research evaluation criterion 
considered existing research programs that could be linked to NBAF 
mission requirements pertaining to large livestock diseases studied in 
Biosafety Level 3 and 4 facilities and the Proximity to Workforce 
evaluation criterion considered site proximity to a local labor force 
with expertise in biocontainment facilities relevant to the NBAF 
mission. Included within the ACO criterion were sub-criteria in the 
areas of: (1) Land acquisition/development potential, (2) environmental 
compatibility, including the presence of existing environmental 
concerns/contamination or environmentally sensitive areas, and (3) 
adequate utility infrastructure. These factors, in part, enabled DHS to 
screen candidate sites for significant environmental constraints prior 
to initiating the EIS. Three committees comprised of Federal employees 
evaluated the EOI submissions, assessing their strengths, weaknesses, 
and deficiencies against the four evaluation criteria and associated 
sub-criteria. A Steering Committee, also comprised of Federal 
employees, made recommendations to the DHS Selection Authority (DHS 
Under Secretary for Science and Technology), who then selected those 
sites that had sufficient qualifications with regard to the evaluation 
criteria, and eliminated others from further consideration. On August 
9, 2006, DHS selected 18 sites submitted by 12 consortia for further 
review.
    Subsequently, on December 8, 2006, DHS sent a letter to the 12 
remaining consortia. This letter requested additional information to 
complete the next phase of the evaluations, communicated DHS's 
``preferences'' within each of the four criteria, provided instructions 
on how to submit the requested information, and provided information on 
the next steps in the site selection process. DHS stated it would give 
strong preference to six specific ``preferences'' in the next phase of 
the evaluation. Two examples of these preferences are: (1) For the 
proximity to research criterion, that the proposed site is within a 
comprehensive research community that has existing research programs in 
areas related to the NBAF mission requirements (veterinary, medical and 
public health, and agriculture), and (2) for the ACO criterion, any in-
kind contributions [e.g., deeded land at no cost rather than sale, new 
utility provisions and/or upgrades (e.g., sewer, electricity, water, 
chilled water, steamed water, etc.) and new roadways] would be offered 
to DHS (by the consortium, state government, local government, or 
private entities). The decision to offer land, financial offsets or 
other incentives was solely at the discretion of the consortium. This 
letter is posted on the DHS Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/nbaf.
    Upon receipt of the requested additional information and in-kind 
offers from the consortia in February 2007, an evaluation team of USDA 
and DHS Federal employees conducted site visits to 17 sites. The Hinds 
County Site, originally proposed by the Mississippi Consortium, was 
withdrawn in a letter DHS received on April 5, 2007. The intent of each 
site visit was to: (1) Verify the information provided and 
representations made in the EOI submissions and the additional 
information submitted, (2) enable evaluation committee representatives 
to view any observable physical conditions and constraints at the 
proposed sites and, if applicable, (3) to view the sites' utilities and 
infrastructure. Based on the evaluation team's analysis of the 
additional information and observations on the site visits, the team 
provided recommendations to the DHS Selection Authority. Additionally 
and independently of the evaluation team, the DHS Selection Authority 
(DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology) visited each of the 17 
sites.
    In July 2007, DHS identified five site alternatives that surpassed 
others in meeting the DHS evaluation criteria, sub-criteria, and DHS 
preferences, and determined that they, along with the Plum Island Site, 
would be evaluated in the EIS as reasonable alternatives for the 
proposed NBAF. The Final Selection Memorandum for Site Selection for 
the Second Round Potential Sites for the National Bio and Agro-Defense 
Facility (NBAF) and the Plum Island Memorandum for the Record, which 
are available on the DHS--Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/nbaf, 
documented the findings of this process. The site alternatives selected 
for evaluation in the EIS were:

South Milledge Avenue Site; Athens, Georgia
Manhattan Campus Site; Manhattan, Kansas
Flora Industrial Park Site; Flora, Mississippi
Plum Island Site; Plum Island, New York
Umstead Research Farm Site; Butner, North Carolina
Texas Research Park Site; San Antonio, Texas

[[Page 3068]]

NEPA Process

    On July 31, 2007, DHS published a Notice of Intent in the Federal 
Register (72 FR 41764-41765) to prepare the NBAF EIS to evaluate the 
environmental impacts of constructing and operating the proposed NBAF 
at one of the reasonable site alternatives. The 60-day scoping period 
for the NBAF EIS ended on September 28, 2007. Scoping meetings were 
held in the vicinity of the six site alternatives (Old Saybrook, 
Connecticut; Southold, New York; Manhattan, Kansas; Flora, Mississippi; 
San Antonio, Texas; Creedmoor, NC; and Athens, Georgia), along with one 
regional meeting in Washington, DC.
    More than 1,350 people attended the scoping meetings. Nearly 300 
people provided oral comments at the public meetings, and more than 
3,870 comments were received during the scoping period. Areas of 
concern shared by many commentors during scoping were the placement of 
the proposed NBAF in a highly populated area or in an area that houses 
institutionalized populations. These concerns focused on the public 
health risk should an accidental or intentional (criminal or terrorist) 
release occur, its potential effects on the population, and the ability 
of affected communities to evacuate the area. Other concerns were: 
locating the facility near herds or flocks of animals susceptible to 
the diseases studied, environmental effects to biological and natural 
resources, and resources required for the construction and operation of 
the NBAF, particularly water. Details on the scoping process and issues 
identified are documented in the February 2008, NBAF EIS Scoping 
Report, which is available on the DHS Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/nbaf and in the aforementioned public reading rooms.
    The Notice of Availability of the NBAF Draft EIS was published in 
the Federal Register on June 27, 2008 (73 FR 36540-36542). The public 
comment period extended through August 25, 2008. Thirteen public 
meetings were held between late July and mid-August 2008 at the same 
locations as the scoping meetings or at nearby alternate locations as 
follows: Washington, DC (one meeting); Butner, North Carolina (two 
meetings); Manhattan, Kansas (two meetings); Flora, Mississippi (two 
meetings); San Antonio, Texas (two meetings); Old Saybrook, Connecticut 
(one meeting); Greenport, New York (one meeting); and Athens, Georgia 
(two meetings).
    During the 60-day public comment period on the NBAF Draft EIS, more 
than 1,770 individuals attended the public meetings on the NBAF Draft 
EIS, 378 of whom provided oral comments. Analysis of the oral and 
written comment documents received, yielded more than 5,400 delineated 
comments. Specifically, a number of comments focused on the ability of 
DHS to safely operate the NBAF and the potential for a pathogenic 
release to occur through accidents, natural phenomena, and terrorist 
actions. The majority of the comments related to the following 
concerns: (1) Ability of DHS to safely operate a biosafety facility; 
(2) the May 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report 
regarding whether FMD research could be safely conducted on the U.S. 
mainland; (3) impacts of natural phenomena such as tornadoes, 
earthquakes, and hurricanes on the NBAF resulting in the release of a 
pathogen; (4) the possibility that an escaped infected mosquito vector 
would cause a pathogen such as Rift Valley fever virus to become 
established in the United States; (5) economic effects of a release or 
a perceived release on the local, state, and national livestock 
industry or on local deer populations and the hunting industry; (6) 
accident risk of transportation of infectious agents; (7) the 
likelihood that the NBAF and the surrounding community would become a 
prime terrorist target that DHS could not adequately protect from 
attack; (8) release of a pathogen due to human error or by disgruntled 
employee(s); (9) the availability of appropriate funding to safely 
construct and operate the NBAF; (10) use of the NBAF to manufacture 
bioweapons; (11) the need for and effects of mosquito control and 
spraying of insecticides; (12) the site selection process and the 
evaluation criteria used to select the Preferred Alternative; (13) 
waste management regarding carcass disposal, including identification 
of precise methods of disposal, the effects to local sewage treatment 
infrastructure, and possible effects to air quality from incineration; 
(14) pollution of ground or surface water resources due to spills and 
leaks; (15) the amount of water that would be used by the NBAF in light 
of the current regional drought in North Carolina and Georgia; (16) in 
Georgia, the proximity of the South Milledge Avenue Site to the State 
Botanical Gardens, the Audubon-designated Important Bird Area, and the 
Oconee River; (17) in North Carolina, concerns that institutionalized 
populations were not afforded the appropriate level of analysis; (18) 
in New York, the limited routes from an island location should an 
accident requiring evacuation occur; and (19) in Kansas, the number of 
cattle in the region and the economic effects of a release impacting 
them.
    All comments received during the public comment period were 
considered. DHS's responses to comments are presented in Appendix H of 
the NBAF Final EIS, and the NBAF EIS was revised, as necessary, in 
response to comments. The Notice of Availability for the NBAF Final EIS 
was published in the Federal Register on December 12, 2008 (73 FR 
75665-75667).
    As identified in the Notice of Availability of the NBAF Draft EIS 
and as further discussed in Section 2.6 of the NBAF Final EIS, 
additional studies were performed to provide important decision-making 
information, and for formulation of this ROD. The supporting documents 
considered include: (1) Threat and Risk Assessment dated October 2008, 
(2) Site Cost Analysis, dated July 25, 2008 (3) Site Characterization 
Study, dated July 25, 2008 (4) Plum Island Facility Closure and 
Transition Cost Study dated July 2008; and (5) a prior analysis of the 
alternative sites against DHS's four evaluation criteria (i.e., Final 
Selection Memorandum for Site Selection for the Second Round Potential 
Sites for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) dated July 
2007, and The Plum Island Memorandum for the Record dated November 
2008). CEQ regulations (40 CFR 1505.1(e)) encourage agencies to make 
ancillary decision documents available to the public before a decision 
is made. Accordingly, the Site Cost Analysis, Site Characterization 
Study, Plum Island Facility Closure and Transition Cost Study, Final 
Selection Memorandum, and other reports were made available in August 
2008 on the DHS Web site with redactions to mask certain sensitive 
financial and security information. The Threat and Risk Assessment, 
which was designated For Official Use Only, was not posted on the Web 
site. Relevant information from these reports was used in the 
preparation of the NBAF Final EIS.

II. Alternatives Considered

    DHS evaluated the potential environmental impacts that could result 
from implementation of alternatives for construction and operation of 
the NBAF. A No Action Alternative and the six site alternatives were 
analyzed in the NBAF EIS.

No Action Alternative

    Under the No Action Alternative, consideration of which is required 
by NEPA, the NBAF would not be constructed. DHS and USDA would continue 
to use the PIADC on Plum

[[Page 3069]]

Island, New York. Plum Island is an 840-acre island located about 12 
miles southwest of New London, Connecticut, and 1.5 miles from the 
northeast tip of Long Island, New York (i.e., Orient Point). While the 
island is technically located in the Village of Greenport, Town of 
Southold, Suffolk County, New York, Plum Island is administered wholly 
by the Federal government. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 recognized 
that protecting the U.S. agricultural infrastructure is a critical 
element of homeland security and transferred PIADC from USDA to DHS in 
2003. While DHS now has responsibility for operating PIADC, both DHS 
and USDA conduct programs there as part of an integrated agro-defense 
strategy.
    Under the No Action Alternative, investment in necessary facility 
upgrades, replacements, and repairs, which are ongoing, would continue 
so that PIADC could continue to operate at its current BSL-3Ag 
capability. However, PIADC's capabilities would not be expanded to 
address the NBAF mission requirements. The BSL-3Ag work at PIADC (large 
livestock research on foreign animal diseases and zoonotic diseases in 
the United States) would continue, and BSL-4 research would continue to 
be performed outside of the United States. This alternative does not 
satisfy the purpose of and the need for the Proposed Action.

South Milledge Avenue Site; Athens, Georgia

    This alternative would locate the NBAF at the South Milledge Avenue 
Site located west of the South Milledge Avenue and Whitehall Road 
intersection in Clarke County, Georgia. The site is part of the 
University of Georgia Whitehall Farm and is located near the University 
of Georgia Livestock Instructional Area. The site is a 67-acre tract of 
land consisting of open pastureland and wooded land and is utilized by 
the University of Georgia Equestrian Team. The topography is rolling 
terrain, which slopes towards the southwest. The site has been 
undeveloped land since at least 1936 and is currently zoned for 
government use.

Manhattan Campus Site; Manhattan, Kansas

    This alternative would locate the NBAF on the campus of Kansas 
State University (KSU) immediately adjacent to the Biosecurity Research 
Institute. The Biosecurity Research Institute, constructed in 2006, is 
a KSU BSL-3Ag research facility. The Manhattan Campus Site consists of 
approximately 48.4 acres southeast of the intersection of Kimball 
Avenue and Denison Avenue. The site has been used for animal research 
since the 1970s. The site includes several structures, including five 
research buildings, a residential structure, and a storage building for 
recycling materials. The site is currently zoned as University District 
and was annexed to the City of Manhattan in 1994. The 48.4-acre site 
could be expanded to 70 acres.

Flora Industrial Park Site; Flora, Mississippi

    This alternative would locate the NBAF at the Flora Industrial Park 
Site, which is located in Madison County, Mississippi. The site is 
owned by the Madison County Economic Development Authority. Flora 
Industrial Park is a mixed-use commercial park 45 miles from the 
Jackson-Evers International Airport. Additional land is available 
surrounding the site for support facilities. The site is located on the 
east side of U.S. Highway 49, north and east of the intersection with 
North 1st Street. The Flora Industrial Park Site is approximately 150 
acres of idle pasture land with two small ponds and a few scattered 
wooded areas. An overhead power transmission line is present through 
the south-central and west-central portions of the site. The site is 
currently zoned as limited industrial. Based on historical information, 
the site had previously been cultivated and was in pasture land and 
previously occupied by two small tenant houses and one hay barn. 
Adjoining properties appear to have been predominantly agricultural and 
rural residential until construction of the southwest-adjoining Primos 
Manufacturing Company in the early 2000s.

Plum Island Site; Plum Island, New York

    This alternative would locate the NBAF on Plum Island, New York. 
The Plum Island Site consists of approximately 24 acres of land located 
directly to the east of the existing PIADC, which is on the western 
shore of Plum Island. Although one of the requirements listed in DHS's 
request for EOIs stated that a minimum of 30 acres would be required, 
the Plum Island Site would not require the full 30 acres. Existing 
facilities associated with PIADC would be available for use with the 
NBAF and would reduce the amount of space required. The 24-acre site 
has no existing structures. Dense underbrush and gravel roads are found 
within the southwestern and northeastern portions. The southeastern 
portion of the island has previously been used for sand mining and is 
generally void of vegetation. The northwestern portion of the island 
has minor vegetation. A potable water line bisects the site from east 
to west, and an underground electric service borders the site on the 
north side. Based on a review of the historical information, the Plum 
Island Site was formerly utilized as a landfill area for miscellaneous 
non-infectious wastes associated with PIADC, but the site has since 
been remediated.

Umstead Research Farm Site; Butner, North Carolina

    This alternative would locate the NBAF at the Umstead Research Farm 
Site in Butner, North Carolina. The site is currently owned and 
operated by North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Research Farms 
Division. The site is located north of the terminus of Dillon Drive 
along the northern property boundary of the C.A. Dillon Youth 
Development Center in Butner. The site is a 249-acre tract of pasture, 
grassland, and wooded land that is zoned as institutional. The site 
area was operated from early 1942 to June 1943 as part of Camp Butner, 
a training facility for light infantry and artillery during World War 
II. Other operations included ammunition storage, a redeployment 
center, and a general and convalescent hospital. The site has been 
undeveloped wooded land since at least 1940, except for one cemetery. 
The site has historically been maintained as undeveloped wooded land; 
however, in the fall of 2001, the site and surrounding area were 
partially logged.

Texas Research Park Site; San Antonio, Texas

    The Texas Research Park Site in San Antonio, Texas, extends over 
the Bexar County line into a portion of Medina County. The 100.1-acre 
site is located west of Lambda Drive, south of the proposed extension 
of Omicron Drive, and is currently vacant, undeveloped land covered in 
dense vegetation comprised of trees, shrubs, and tall prairie grasses. 
The site appears to have consisted of vacant, undeveloped ranch land 
before 1938 to the present. The site has no zoning category because it 
is outside the San Antonio city limits. The entire Texas Research Park 
property is a 1,000-acre industrial district 4 miles outside the San 
Antonio city limits.

III. Preferred Alternative

    CEQ regulations require an agency to identify its preferred 
alternative(s) in the final environmental impact statement (40 CFR 
1502.14). The

[[Page 3070]]

preferred alternative is the alternative that the agency believes would 
best fulfill its statutory mission, giving consideration to 
environmental, economic, technical, and other factors. DHS's Preferred 
Alternative and the basis for its selection are described in Section 
2.6 of the NBAF Final EIS. Additionally, DHS published the Preferred 
Alternative Selection Memorandum in December 2008, which describes in 
more detail the basis for the selection of the Preferred Alternative, 
on the DHS Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/nbaf. DHS's Preferred 
Alternative is to construct and operate the NBAF at the Manhattan 
Campus Site in Manhattan, Kansas.
    DHS developed and implemented a decision process to identify the 
Preferred Alternative in the NBAF Final EIS. A Steering Committee, 
comprised of Federal employees from DHS and USDA, was convened to lead 
the evaluation process and make recommendations to the DHS Decision 
Authority (the DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology). The 
process involved a qualitative analysis of the strengths and weaknesses 
of each action alternative (i.e., site alternative) followed by an 
overall data comparison to develop a relative ranking of each site 
alternative. The Steering Committee also considered the No Action 
Alternative and weighed it against the Proposed Action of constructing 
and operating the NBAF at the highest ranked site alternative.
    The Steering Committee updated the findings from the previously 
described second round evaluation of site alternatives using new and 
emerging data collected since July 2007. This data was contained in the 
following support documents, as previously discussed: (1) Threat and 
Risk Assessment dated October 2008, (2) Site Cost Analysis, dated July 
25, 2008, (3) Site Characterization Study, dated July 25, 2008, and (4) 
Plum Island Facility Closure and Transition Cost Study dated July 2008. 
Additionally, on February 29, 2008, DHS sent a letter to each 
consortium requesting they confirm or update the details of their site 
offers (in response to the December 8, 2006 DHS letter) and provided a 
final opportunity to identify contingences to their offers. DHS also 
provided background on the process it would follow to identify its 
preferred site alternative. The February 29, 2008 letter was not a 
request for financial proposals, but rather an opportunity for the 
consortia to verify and update their original in-kind offers received 
in February 2007 in response to the December 2006 letter request. DHS 
required responses to be postmarked by March 30, 2008 (later changed to 
March 31, 2008 to fall on a weekday). The decision to offer land, 
funds, or other assets was solely at the discretion of each consortium. 
The amount of the contribution and how the contribution would be funded 
(e.g., bonds, taxes) was determined by the consortia and/or the state 
and local government officials.
    The Steering Committee next considered the environmental impacts 
presented in the NBAF EIS including the public comments made at the 
public meetings and by other means during the 60-day public comment 
period on the NBAF Draft EIS, along with the information in the Threat 
and Risk Assessment. The Steering Committee found that the NBAF EIS and 
the Threat and Risk Assessment presented very little differentiation 
between the sites. In fact, the NBAF EIS determined that the risk of 
release of a biological pathogen from the NBAF was independent of where 
the NBAF was located. The Steering Committee also determined that, 
based on its review of the NBAF EIS, the likelihood of a release of a 
pathogen was very low, given appropriate attention to the design, 
construction, and operation of the NBAF with an array of safety 
controls. The Steering Committee further determined that the risk of 
release of any identified pathogen proposed for study within the NBAF 
could be mitigated by implementation of operational protocols, rigid 
security measures, and adherence to the U.S. Government biosecurity 
guidelines.
    With respect to the economic consequence if a release of FMDV from 
the NBAF were to happen, the Steering Committee found that the Nation's 
meat export trade status would suffer the greatest impact and that this 
is independent of the site of the NBAF. The World Organization for 
Animal Health (OIE) affirms the Steering Committee's findings. OIE, 
created in 1924 by 28 countries, issues standards, guidelines, and 
recommendations which are designated as the international referenced in 
the field of animal diseases and zoonoses. As of January 2009, the OIE 
consisted of 172 nations, including the U.S. The OIE's determination 
regarding a country's FMD status significantly impacts that country's 
ability to export meat. Dr. Bernard Vallat, the Director General of the 
OIE, in a letter to DHS, dated November 24, 2008, stated the following:

    ``You asked a specific question as to whether it would make a 
difference in terms of the health status of a country if a foot-and-
mouth (FMD) disease outbreak would occur in the mainland or on an 
off shore island like Plum Island. My response is based on today's 
international recommendations, as published in the Terrestrial 
Animal Health Code of the OIE, which constitutes the only 
internationally accepted standards. Today's international standards 
provide recommendations that significantly reduce the sanitary and 
economic impact of the affected country or zone in case of such an 
outbreak, provided there is a credible veterinary infrastructure 
that can guarantee the early detection and the rapid response in 
accordance with the measures recommended by the OIE. However, 
regardless of where in the territory of a country an outbreak of FMD 
occurs, the FMD status of the country is lost immediately upon the 
first notification to the OIE. The difference, in terms of the 
national impact of this outbreak, is more related to how the 
country's authorities respond to the incursion, rather then where 
the outbreak occurs.
    As was the case in the recent outbreak at Pirbright, United 
Kingdom, the veterinary authorities immediately notified the OIE and 
established a ``containment zone'' as defined in the Terrestrial 
Animal Health Code. Once they could demonstrate that all cases had 
been contained within such zone and that no further cases were 
detected within a 30-day period, the entire country regained its 
FMD-free status, with the only exception of the containment zone. 
The necessary and lengthy period to regain the free status, as 
described in the Code is not limited to the containment zone, 
something in the past applied to the entire affected country or 
zone.''

    Chapter 4.3 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (Zoning and 
Compartmentalization) includes guidance on establishing a containment 
zone. Article 4.3.3 of the Code states:

    ``Establishment of a containment zone should be based on a rapid 
response including appropriate standstill of movement of animals and 
commodities upon notification of suspicion of the specified disease 
and the demonstration that the outbreaks are contained within this 
zone through epidemiological investigation (trace-back, trace-
forward) after confirmation of infection. The primary outbreak and 
likely source of the outbreak should be identified and all cases 
shown to be epidemiologically linked. For the effective 
establishment of a containment zone, it is necessary to demonstrate 
that there have been no new cases in the containment zone within a 
minimum of two incubation periods from the last detected case.''

    The Steering Committee determined that, based on the lack of 
differentiation among the sites regarding the risk of a release and the 
economic consequences of a release, that it was most important to 
select a location that would optimize the capability to diagnose and 
cure large animal diseases through strong research programs and 
expedient diagnostic and response capabilities. Furthermore, the 
Steering Committee found that the environmental impacts analyzed in the

[[Page 3071]]

EIS and the site specific threats were all very similar and that there 
were only minor differentiators in the EIS and the Threat and Risk 
Assessment. Therefore, the key differentiators among the sites were 
DHS's initial four evaluation criteria. Because the NBAF is intended to 
be the Nation's preeminent research facility for foreign animal and 
zoonotic disease research, the site's proximity to research 
capabilities that can be linked to NBAF mission requirements was 
emphasized among the four evaluation criteria. Overall site evaluations 
were followed by the ranking of the sites to determine the recommended 
site alternative.
    The Steering Committee then considered the No Action Alternative 
and weighed it against the Proposed Action of constructing and 
operating the NBAF at the highest ranked site alternative to determine 
the recommended Preferred Alternative. Based on numerous strengths in 
terms of the evaluation criteria, the Steering Committee concluded that 
the Manhattan Campus Site best met the purpose and need to site, 
construct and operate the NBAF.
    The Manhattan Campus Site's location near KSU provides proximity to 
existing research capabilities that can be linked to NBAF mission 
requirements. Additionally, the site's proximity to the KSU College of 
Veterinary Medicine, KSU College of Agriculture, and the Biosecurity 
Research Institute is relevant to the NBAF mission and is, therefore, a 
significant strength. The NBAF EIS demonstrated that construction and 
operation of the NBAF at the Manhattan Campus Site would be 
environmentally acceptable, because almost all environmental impacts 
fell into the ``no impacts to minor impacts'' category. As stated in 
the NBAF EIS, the risk of release of a pathogen was independent of 
where the NBAF was located. The information presented in the Threat and 
Risk Assessment was found to be comparable to the other site 
alternatives. The Manhattan Campus Site alternative demonstrated very 
strong community acceptance from local, state, and Federal officials 
and stakeholders. Additionally, the consortium offered a substantial, 
unconditional offset package, including the immediate and long-term use 
of the existing Biosecurity Research Institute, an existing Biosecurity 
Level 3 facility within close proximity to the Manhattan Campus Site in 
which research pertaining to livestock disease is conducted. Taking 
into consideration the offsets to infrastructure costs and ``in-kind'' 
contributions offered by the consortia, the Manhattan Campus Site is 
among the least expensive location to construct and operate the NBAF. 
Following a comparison of this site with the No Action Alternative, DHS 
selected the Manhattan Campus Site as the Preferred Alternative for 
implementation.

IV. Alternatives Considered But Dismissed

    In developing a range of reasonable alternatives early in the NEPA 
process, DHS considered other potential alternatives, including 
suggestions made by the public during the scoping process. The 
following alternatives were considered but were determined not to be 
reasonable alternatives for evaluation in the NBAF Draft EIS:
    Upgrade PIADC. The proposed NBAF would require BSL-4 capability. 
PIADC does not have BSL-4 laboratory space, and the existing 
infrastructure is inadequate to support a BSL-4 laboratory. 
Refurbishing the existing facilities and obsolete infrastructure to 
allow PIADC to meet the new mission would be more costly than building 
the NBAF on Plum Island. In addition, for the existing facility to be 
refurbished, current research activities might have to be suspended for 
extensive periods.
    Use Existing Laboratory Facilities. No existing U.S. facility could 
meet the NBAF mission needs as determined by DHS and USDA. Although a 
number of BSL-3 and BSL-4 facilities are located in the U.S., they do 
not have the capacity to conduct the large livestock research required. 
Similar facilities in Winnipeg, Canada, and Geelong, Australia, do not 
have the capacity to address potential outbreak scenarios in the United 
States in a timely manner and cannot guarantee their availability to 
meet U.S. research requirements.
    Other Locations. Other potential locations were considered during 
the NBAF site selection process, but they were eliminated based on 
evaluation by the DHS evaluation committee. It was suggested during the 
scoping process that the NBAF be constructed in a remote location such 
as an island distant from populated areas or in a location that would 
be inhospitable (e.g., desert or arctic habitat) to escaped animal 
hosts or vectors. However, the evaluation criteria called for proximity 
to research programs that could be linked to the NBAF mission and 
proximity to a technical workforce with applicable skills for the NBAF 
mission. The Plum Island Site represents an isolated location while 
meeting the evaluation requirements. It was also suggested that the 
NBAF could be constructed beneath a mountain; however, the cost and 
feasibility of such a construction project would be prohibitive.

V. Summary of Environmental Impacts

    A sliding-scale approach was the basis for the environmental 
impacts analysis in the NBAF EIS. This approach reflects CEQ 
requirements for implementing NEPA and its instruction that Federal 
agencies preparing EISs ``focus on significant environmental issues and 
alternatives'' (40 CFR 1502.1) and that impacts be discussed ``in 
proportion to their significance'' (40 CFR 1502.2(b)). That is, certain 
aspects of the alternatives have a greater potential for creating 
environmental effects than others. Thus, the NBAF EIS addressed 
resource areas pertinent to the sites considered. Impacts were assessed 
for land use and visual resources; infrastructure; air quality; noise; 
geology and soils; water resources; biological resources; cultural 
resources; socioeconomics; traffic and transportation; existing 
hazardous, toxic, or radiological waste; waste management; 
environmental justice; as well as operational impacts on human health 
and safety and wildlife from normal operations and accidental releases 
of pathogens. Environmental impacts of current, proposed, and 
reasonably foreseeable activities at candidate sites were included in 
the cumulative impacts analysis presented in the NBAF EIS.
    DHS has weighed environmental impacts as one factor in its decision 
making, analyzing existing environmental impacts and the potential 
impacts that might occur for each reasonable alternative, including the 
irreversible or irretrievable commitments of resources. Under the No 
Action Alternative, continued operations of the PIADC would have little 
or no incremental environmental impacts, except that construction of 
ongoing infrastructure upgrades could have negligible to minor and 
temporary effects on such resources as land resources, geology and 
soils, and water resources during construction.
    As demonstrated in the NBAF Final EIS, short term impacts 
associated with the construction of the NBAF and normal facility 
operations under the Proposed Action are not expected to result in any 
unacceptable environmental consequences at any of the site 
alternatives, though each site does have its own unique adverse 
environmental aspects. Potential construction impacts have been 
minimized through the site selection process and proposed placement of 
the proposed NBAF within the boundaries of each site alternative, based 
on the

[[Page 3072]]

conceptual design. There would be little or no direct effects to 
wetlands, water resources, natural biotic communities, protected 
species, or cultural and archaeological resources at any site 
alternative. Normal facility operations were determined to have no 
potential for adverse impacts on biological resources and human health 
and safety. The NBAF would provide state-of-the-art operating 
procedures and biocontainment design features to minimize the potential 
for laboratory-acquired infections and accidental releases of 
pathogens. Nonetheless, some minor impacts would occur from 
construction and operations and are unavoidable under the Proposed 
Action.

Land Use and Visual Resources

    Under each of the site alternatives, conversion of approximately 30 
acres of open land to the NBAF would occur. Land use would be 
consistent with the local zoning classifications under all site 
alternatives, except that an amendment to the Clarke County, Georgia 
comprehensive plan might be required to allow the NBAF to be 
constructed at the South Milledge Avenue site. Placement of the NBAF on 
undeveloped land would alter the viewshed of each of the sites, 
although this effect may be most pronounced at the South Milledge 
Avenue Site and least pronounced at the Manhattan Campus Site due to 
the adjoining and nearby land uses, respectively. Similarly, during 
normal operations, outdoor nighttime lighting would have impacts at all 
sites, with the detrimental effects varying based on adjoining land 
uses. Use of shielded fixtures and the minimum intensity of lighting 
that are necessary to provide adequate security could mitigate the 
effects.

Infrastructure

    Construction of some infrastructure improvements, including 
utilities and roadways would be required at all sites, and their 
environmental impacts were evaluated in the NBAF EIS. The need for 
infrastructure improvements would be greatest for the Umstead Research 
Park Site, the South Milledge Avenue Site, the Plum Island Site, and 
the Flora Industrial Park Site with the least for the Manhattan Campus 
Site. Utility requirements would be similar for all site alternatives. 
Water use would vary to some degree for each site, but NBAF operation 
would result in use of approximately 36 million (Plum Island Site) to 
52 million (Texas Research Park Site) gallons per year. Electric power 
demands would be very similar for all sites ranging from 12.8 to 13.1 
megawatts, with connection to existing or new substations required at 
all site alternatives. A new substation would be required at the South 
Milledge Avenue Site and construction of new underwater power cables 
would be required to provide redundant power to the Plum Island Site. 
Operation at all sites except the Plum Island Site would use natural 
gas as the primary fuel for operating the NBAF. New connecting lines 
would be needed at the South Milledge Avenue Site, the Flora Industrial 
Park Site, and the Umstead Research Farm Site. For sanitary sewer, the 
NBAF operation would generate between 25 million and 30 million gallons 
of wastewater per year. Capacity would be available from all existing 
or planned wastewater treatment facilities serving the alternative 
sites. Wastewater discharged by the NBAF would meet all local 
wastewater permit requirements and would be pretreated as necessary. 
New sewer lines would be needed at the Flora Industrial Park Site, the 
Umstead Research Farm Site, and the Texas Research Park Site.

Air Quality and Severe Weather

    Air quality effects would occur with construction and operation of 
the NBAF for all sites with similar regulatory air permitting 
requirements. Operation of the NBAF would result in air emissions from 
boilers, emergency generators, and traffic from employees and 
deliveries. Additional air emissions would occur from carcass and 
pathologic waste treatment that may include incineration, alkaline 
hydrolysis, or rendering. Conservative estimates of air emissions 
indicate that operation of the NBAF could affect regional air-quality 
standards for PM2.5 (particulate matter with diameter less 
than or equal to 2.5 microns). The Plum Island Site is in non-
attainment areas for ozone and PM2.5 therefore, air 
emissions from the NBAF would need to comply with the State 
Implementation Plan (SIP) to improve air quality and the requirement 
that a conformity analysis be performed. Following final design, the 
potential and actual NBAF air emissions will be evaluated to 
demonstrate compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards and 
applicable air-quality permitting requirements.
    The NBAF would be designed to withstand normal meteorological 
conditions and the effects of severe weather events including 
tornadoes. Specifically, NBAF would be designed and constructed to meet 
or exceed the wind load standards of the International Building Code, 
American Society of Civil Engineers Standard No. 7, Minimum Design 
Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, and the codes of the local 
jurisdiction, which take into account the functional use of the 
facility as a laboratory.

Noise

    Construction of NBAF would result in some temporary increase in 
noise levels near the sites from construction equipment and activities. 
As a consequence of the NBAF operations, minor increases in noise 
levels from employee traffic and heating and cooling facilities would 
occur and operation of emergency generators would result in sporadic 
noise increases during testing. Impacts on adjoining properties would 
vary based on the associated land uses and presence of sensitive 
receptors. Potential impacts could be mitigated by conducting generator 
testing during normal business hours. If blasting is required during 
construction, a blasting plan would be developed to mitigate potential 
noise levels.

Geology and Soils

    Effects to geology and soils would be similar for all sites. The 
NBAF would be designed to withstand and minimize the effects of 
earthquakes including the seismic design provisions of the 
International Building Code, American Society of Civil Engineers 
Standard No. 7, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other 
Structures, and the codes of the local jurisdiction, which take into 
account the functional use of the facility as a laboratory. Temporary 
effects to soils would occur due to excavation and site clearing, but 
erosion control measures would minimize any adverse effects from 
construction and operation. Prime and unique farmland soils would 
potentially be affected at all sites. A detailed geotechnical study 
would be performed to guide the final facility design in order to 
mitigate the effects of any geologic hazards on the NBAF to include 
identification of fractures, geologic fault traces, voids or other 
solution features, unstable soils, or other subsurface conditions which 
could impact facility construction and operations.

Water Resources

    Potential effects to water resources could occur with construction 
activities and would be similar for all sites. However, the South 
Milledge Avenue Site, the Flora Industrial Park Site, and the Umstead 
Research Farm Site are closer to surface waters so the potential for 
effects are greater at these sites. Runoff from the construction site 
has the potential to enter surface or groundwater sources, but 
stormwater management during construction would

[[Page 3073]]

minimize the potential for this to occur. Similar effects could occur 
with operation of the NBAF. Strict compliance with stormwater pollution 
prevention plans and spill management protocols would minimize the 
potential and mitigate the potential effects of a spill. Wastewater 
would be collected and conveyed to existing wastewater treatment 
facilities and pretreated as required to meet all local wastewater 
permit requirements.

Biological Resources

    Effects to vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, aquatic life, and 
threatened or endangered species would be similar for all site 
alternatives with a few exceptions. Site clearing would remove 
approximately 30 acres of vegetation, although all of the sites have 
been previously disturbed to some degree. Wetlands would be affected at 
the South Milledge Avenue Site from road and utility crossings (less 
than 0.5 acres), and approximately 0.2 acres of forested uplands would 
be lost. Threatened or endangered species, aquatic resources, and 
wildlife would not be directly affected by construction or normal 
operations at any site. Noise and light from the NBAF could affect 
wildlife, particularly migratory birds, with this potential determined 
to be greatest for the South Milledge Avenue Site and Umstead Research 
Farm Site. Mitigation of potential noise and light impacts were 
previously described.
    During operation, an accidental release of pathogens from the NBAF 
would adversely affect susceptible wildlife populations and would be 
similar for all sites. To minimize potential impacts in the unlikely 
event of a release, DHS would have site-specific standard operating 
procedures and response plans in place prior to the initiation of 
research activities at the proposed NBAF.

Socioeconomics

    Construction activities at all sites would result in between 1,300 
and 1,614 temporary jobs generating between $138.2 million and $183.9 
million in labor income and between $12.5 million and $24.7 million in 
state and local taxes. Population, housing, and quality of life would 
not be affected by construction. Operation of the NBAF would result in 
250 to 350 direct jobs and an estimated income of between $26.8 million 
and $30.4 million annually. Population growth due to the NBAF would be 
a small portion of the estimated growth in the regions surrounding all 
sites. The effect of the NBAF on the housing market and quality of life 
(i.e., schools, law enforcement, fire protection, medical facilities, 
recreation, and health and safety) would be negligible. Law enforcement 
and fire protection personnel could be trained by DHS to respond to 
incidents at the NBAF.
    The risk of an accidental release of a pathogen is extremely low, 
but the economic effect could be substantial for all sites. The primary 
economic effect of an accidental release of FMD virus would be the 
banning of exports of U.S. livestock products regardless of the 
location of the accidental release, which could reach as high as $4.2 
billion until the U.S. was declared foot and mouth disease (FMD) free. 
Response measures to minimize risks and quickly contain any accidental 
release would greatly reduce the potential economic loss.

Traffic and Transportation

    Local traffic at all sites would be temporarily affected by general 
construction traffic. Operation of the NBAF would result in only minor 
increases in daily traffic on roads near all the sites except for roads 
near the Umstead Research Farm Site (Range Road and Old Route 75), 
which are not heavily used by local traffic and would experience a 140% 
increase in average daily traffic. Transportation of research materials 
would not significantly increase the risk of a traffic-related 
incident.

Existing Hazardous, Toxic, and Radiological Waste

    Recent investigations at the Umstead Research Farm Site indicate 
that the potential for unexploded materials from past military training 
is low. The Plum Island Site was previously used to dispose of military 
materials but has been remediated (cleaned up) and should not be a 
safety concern for workers. Training for construction workers for 
either of these sites may be required prior to initiation of 
construction activities to ensure worker safety. None of the other 
sites would require remediation or additional considerations for the 
protection of workers, the public, or the environment.

Waste Management

    Waste generation and management would be similar for all sites, 
although the amount of wastewater would vary somewhat for each site 
based on total water use. Wastewater discharged by the NBAF would be 
pretreated as required to meet all local wastewater permit and 
acceptance requirements, as previously described. Construction would 
generate construction debris, sanitary solid waste, and wastewater. 
Operation of the NBAF would result in generation of wastewater, waste 
solids, and medical, hazardous, and industrial solid wastes.

Health and Safety

    The effects of the NBAF on health and safety due to construction 
and normal operations would be similar for all sites. Standard safety 
protocols would minimize the likelihood of accidents and personal 
injury at the NBAF, and normal operations pose no threat to the 
surrounding communities. An evaluation was conducted to determine the 
potential for an accidental or intentional (criminal or terrorist) 
release of a pathogen from the NBAF and the potential for the pathogen 
to spread from each site alternative. The evaluation considered the 
accident scenarios with and without measures to prevent and contain a 
release. The hazard analysis concluded that the likelihood of a release 
of a pathogen was extremely low, given appropriate attention to the 
design, construction and operation of the NBAF with the array of safety 
controls, including a robust facility that is capable of withstanding 
the various analyzed accident conditions. For all sites the risk of 
accidental release was independent of where the facility was located. 
The site specific consequences were shown to be essentially the same 
between the sites located on the mainland and were slightly lower for 
the Plum Island Site, due in part to there being less opportunity for 
the pathogen to become established and spread.

Environmental Justice

    No disproportionately high adverse effects to minority or low-
income populations were evident at any of the site alternatives. Visual 
effects and traffic increases due to construction would be minimized 
with proper site management protocols. Potential traffic effects would 
be minimized by limiting road closures and rerouting traffic. Economic 
benefits would potentially occur to low income or minority populations 
within the area due to a rise in construction-related jobs.

VI. The Environmentally Preferred Alternative

    The environmentally preferred alternative is the alternative that 
causes the least impact to the environment; it is also the alternative 
that best protects, preserves, and enhances historic, cultural, and 
natural resources as noted by the CEQ, in its ``Forty Most Asked 
Questions Concerning CEQ's NEPA Regulations'' (46 FR 18026, dated March 
23, 1981), with regard to 40 CFR 1505.2. Under the No Action 
Alternative, continued operation of the PIADC

[[Page 3074]]

would have little or no incremental environmental impacts, except for 
minor and temporary effects from construction of ongoing infrastructure 
upgrades. Therefore, DHS has identified the No Action Alternative as 
the environmentally preferred alternative, because it would have the 
least environmental impact in the short term. However, the No Action 
Alternative does not satisfy the purpose of and need for the Proposed 
Action and associated mission drivers.
    The NBAF EIS indicated that there would be very little difference 
in environmental impacts among the site alternatives. There would be 
impacts from construction of the NBAF over the short term and from 
subsequent normal facility operations at all sites. The major 
discriminator identified would be associated with a release of a 
pathogen where the potential impact would be slightly less at the Plum 
Island Site. This is due to both the water barrier around the island 
and the absence of nearby livestock and susceptible wildlife species. 
Regardless, the probability of a release is very low at all sites.
    Over the longer term, construction and subsequent operations of the 
NBAF at any of the site alternatives would have potential beneficial 
effects to wildlife, because the work performed at the NBAF could 
result in development of vaccines or new diagnostic tools to protect or 
contain outbreaks of foreign animal diseases.

VII. Comments on the NBAF Final EIS

    Approximately 3,000 copies of the NBAF Final EIS and/or NBAF Final 
EIS Executive Summary were distributed in hard copy or on compact disk 
to members of Congress and other elected officials; Federal, state, and 
local government agencies; Native American representatives; public 
interest groups; public reading rooms; and to individuals. In addition, 
both the NBAF Final EIS and the Executive Summary are available online 
at http://www.dhs.gov/nbaf and on request.
    Following the release of the NBAF Final EIS, DHS received letters 
and other correspondence from approximately 60 commentors, including 
government agencies, elected officials, organizations, and individuals.
     An internal DHS comment was received from the Federal 
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IV expressing concerns about 
the approach in the NBAF EIS to evaluating flood risks at the 
alternative sites. FEMA suggested that DHS evaluate flood risks at the 
Preferred Alternative site in greater detail and directed DHS to the 
Peer Review Plan, Manhattan, Kansas Levee--Section 216 Flood Risk 
Management Project Feasibility Study (dated January 2008).
    DHS notes that the document concerning the feasibility study of the 
existing Manhattan, Kansas Levee flood risk management project being 
conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District is 
intended to update and verify data on the level of flood risk 
management provided by the project. DHS is aware of the project, and 
the NBAF Final EIS acknowledges the flood risk considerations 
associated with the 1993 flood along the Big Blue and Kansas Rivers. 
Further, DHS responded to a number of comments on the NBAF Draft EIS 
relating to concerns about the failure of the Tuttle Creek Dam from 
natural phenomena and other events. The NBAF would be designed and 
built to meet or exceed all applicable building codes and to include 
design provisions sufficient to withstand the effects of site-specific 
natural phenomena events, including flooding.
     The State of Mississippi cited perceived errors in the 
NBAF Final EIS and in DHS's Preferred Alternative Selection Memorandum 
(dated December 2008) concerning evaluation of the Flora Industrial 
Park Site with regard to its proximity to research capabilities, ample 
workforce, and level of community acceptance as compared with other 
alternative sites, including the Preferred Alternative site. The State 
provided DHS with information about the collaborative university 
research and veterinary programs that comprise the Gulf States Bio and 
Agro-Defense Consortium along with Battelle Memorial Institute, the 
presence of four BSL-3 laboratories in the Jackson metropolitan area, 
development of the state's high-technology and manufacturing employment 
business sectors and associated workforce, among other information. 
They also noted statements made by the DHS Under Secretary for Science 
and Technology relative to the strength afforded to the Gulf States Bio 
and Agro-Defense Consortium's NBAF proposal by the participation of 
Battelle. The State asked that the NBAF Final EIS be amended to correct 
the cited inaccuracies relative to the Flora Industrial Park Site.
    DHS acknowledges the additional information provided by the State 
of Mississippi relative to research capabilities and workforce 
availability in Mississippi and, specifically, in the greater Jackson 
area. DHS further acknowledges exceptionally strong community support 
for the Flora Industrial Site, as well as unwavering support by all 
levels of the State's government throughout this process. This 
information has been carefully considered by DHS. In the DHS Final 
Selection Memorandum for Site Selection for the Second Round Potential 
Sites for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) (dated July 
2007), the Flora, Mississippi site was included as a site alternative, 
because Battelle's participation in the consortium provided additional 
benefits that had not been initially considered by the evaluation 
committees. However, as part of the Preferred Alternative selection 
process, the Steering Committee again reassessed previous ratings that 
included Battelle's capabilities and determined that ratings of ``Does 
Not Meet Overall Criteria'' were appropriate for the Proximity to 
Research and Workforce criteria. As discussed in Part I of this ROD, 
DHS emphasizes that the Proximity to Research and Workforce ratings 
apply exclusively to the specific research and workforce needs of the 
proposed NBAF facility, and are not a general statement on the research 
capability and workforce expertise in Mississippi or other proposing 
States. DHS continues to believe that the consortium offered a highly 
innovative proposal that included Battelle. Battelle was fully 
committed to the consortium and offered a partnership with experts that 
would benefit the NBAF in Mississippi until such time that a local 
workforce with expertise in research and biocontainment facilities 
relevant to the NBAF mission could be developed. However, given the 
immediacy of the need and the highly competitive package of existing 
assets offered by the Preferred Alternative, the Manhattan Campus Site 
in Kansas remained the best alternative of all the strong candidates.
     The Gulf States Bio and Agro-Defense Consortium commented 
that the text found in the NBAF Final EIS did not match the findings 
presented in Table ES-3 ``Comparison of Environmental Effects'' of the 
NBAF Final EIS.
    Section 3.13.6.3 of the NBAF EIS discusses the cumulative impacts 
in Madison County due to several public and private activities proposed 
or ongoing that would have potential to impact resources. DHS 
originally used this analysis to apply the ``moderate'' rating in the 
``cumulative effects'' category in Table ES-3 ``Comparison of 
Environmental Effects'' of the NBAF Final EIS. Upon further analysis of 
the data, DHS acknowledges that this rating is subject to 
interpretation and could be changed to ``minor.'' DHS reaffirms that

[[Page 3075]]

the NBAF EIS offered very little differentiation among the sites. The 
Flora Industrial Park Site was given the highest overall EIS rating of 
``no to minor environmental impacts'' by the Steering Committee. The 
changes do not affect the outcome of the decision process by the 
Steering Committee or the Decision Authority.
     The Greater Jackson Chapter Partnership, submitted 
comments on behalf of the Gulf States Bio and Agro-Defense Consortium, 
in which they commented on the selection of the Manhattan Campus Site 
as the Preferred Alternative and expressed concerns about the 
evaluation process for selecting the Preferred Alternative. Comments 
submitted were similar to those submitted by the State of Mississippi. 
They also cited the differences in costs between the Flora Industrial 
Park Site and the Manhattan Campus Site as presented in the NBAF Final 
EIS; they questioned how numerical differences in costs could receive 
the same qualitative rating by DHS.
    DHS shares concerns about costs in a time of fiscal uncertainty for 
the Nation. As discussed in the Preferred Alternative Selection 
Memorandum, DHS evaluated the total life-cycle costs of the 
alternatives and carefully weighed the cost differences among the 
alternatives in selecting a Preferred Alternative site. The Steering 
Committee's review indicated that the offsets to infrastructure costs 
and ``in-kind'' contributions offered by the Heartland BioAgro 
Consortium, including immediate and long-term use of the existing 
Biosecurity Research Institute at KSU, resulted in the Manhattan Campus 
Site being rated among the least expensive sites at which to construct 
and operate the NBAF when all factors were considered.
     U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi expressed his 
support for the comments submitted by the Gulf States Bio and Agro-
Defense Consortium regarding DHS's selection of the Preferred 
Alternative. Senator Cochran also articulated concerns regarding 
information in the DHS Preferred Alternative Selection Memorandum, 
dated December 2008, and in the NBAF Final EIS analysis of the costs 
associated with building at the site alternatives. Specifically, 
Senator Cochran expressed concerns about statements regarding the 
estimated costs of building the NBAF at the Manhattan, Kansas site and 
at the Flora, Mississippi site. He noted that the NBAF Final EIS cites 
a cost savings of $65,011,459 if NBAF were built at the Flora, 
Mississippi site rather than the Manhattan, Kansas site. Senator 
Cochran also questioned how ``in-kind'' contributions were factored 
into the cost analysis, noting his understanding that the in-kind 
pledges offered by Mississippi and Kansas were approximately equal in 
value, especially when total life-cycle costs of the alternatives are 
considered.
    As previously discussed, DHS did consider the total life-cycle 
costs of the alternatives in selecting a Preferred Alternative. Both 
the Gulf States Bio and Agro-Defense Consortium and Heartland BioAgro 
Consortium offered in-kind contribution packages that completely offset 
estimated site development costs and both received the highest marks 
for this criterion. Additionally, the Heartland BioAgro Consortium's 
offer of the immediate and long-term use of the existing Biosecurity 
Research Institute, a Biosafety Level 3 facility within close proximity 
to the Manhattan Campus Site in which research on pathogens threatening 
large livestock is conducted, was a very attractive in-kind 
contribution which would further offset the cost of locating the NBAF 
at the Manhattan Campus Site. It is also important to note that the 
life-cycle cost of constructing the NBAF was only one aspect of the 
evaluation criteria considered in the final decision. As discussed in 
the Preferred Alternative Selection Memorandum and in this ROD, other 
evaluation criteria were considered and provided distinguishing 
factors.
     Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi expressed 
support for the NBAF, while also expressing concern regarding the site 
selection process. He asked that DHS weigh more heavily the possible 
effects of a pathogen release at each site, rather than relying solely 
on the tenet that the risk of release is independent of site location. 
The Congressman observed that there is precedent for placing national 
laboratories in rural areas and noted that remote and rural locations 
provide an additional layer of security and reduced risk. Congressman 
Thompson also expressed concerns about perceived negative references by 
DHS to Mississippi's and the Jackson area's research capabilities and 
workforce and urged DHS to amend the NBAF Final EIS for accuracy.
    DHS has evaluated the possible effects of a pathogen release at 
each site in the NBAF EIS and commissioned the Threat and Risk 
Assessment separate from the NBAF EIS. The NBAF Steering Committee, as 
discussed in the Preferred Alternative Selection Memorandum, determined 
that the risk of release of any pathogen proposed for study at the NBAF 
could be mitigated by implementation of operational protocols, rigid 
security measures, and adherence to U.S. biosecurity guidelines. From 
the perspective of economic consequences should a release of FMDV 
occur, it was determined that the major impact would be loss of meat 
export trade status regardless of the site, and that the government's 
response to an FMD outbreak is the most critical factor regardless 
where it occurs. Consequently, DHS determined that it was most 
important to select a location for the proposed NBAF that would 
optimize the capability to diagnose and cure large animal diseases. 
Regarding the comments on perceived negative ratings, DHS again notes 
that site evaluations apply exclusively to the specific research and 
workforce needs of the proposed NBAF facility, and are not a general 
statement on the research capability and workforce availability in 
Mississippi. DHS acknowledges that the consortium offered a highly 
innovative package in its partnership with Battelle and the strengths 
of many of the surrounding schools in Mississippi. However, the 
selected site was able to best meet the immediate need of the research 
and workforce requirements of the NBAF mission.
     The office of Congressman Tim Bishop of New York suggested 
consideration of an alternative to keep PIADC in its current BSL-3Ag 
state while placing the proposed NBAF BSL-4 elsewhere.
    This option was considered by DHS, but it was not analyzed as a 
separate alternative, because the environmental impacts were already 
considered within the range of reasonable alternatives analyzed in the 
NBAF EIS. When analyzing this option against DHS's purpose and need for 
action, DHS concluded that it would not provide enhanced capabilities 
to detect and prevent threats to animal agriculture. Additionally, the 
practical consequences of splitting the NBAF laboratory functions would 
produce a fractured workforce, result in decreased efficiencies and 
increased costs and was found to not meet the purpose and need as 
stated in the NBAF EIS. Therefore, DHS considered but did not select 
the option of building a BSL-4 only laboratory and leaving PIADC in its 
current state.
     The Texas Bio and Agro-Defense Consortium (TBAC) submitted 
comments expressing several areas of concern regarding the analysis in 
the NBAF Final EIS and the selection of the Manhattan Campus Site as 
the Preferred Alterative for the siting, construction, and operation of 
the NBAF. TBAC's

[[Page 3076]]

comments were endorsed in a letter submitted by the State of Texas. 
Their concerns focused on the following issues: (1) The site evaluation 
criteria; (2) the cost analysis in the EIS; (3) risks posed by certain 
environmental impacts; and (4) the site selection process.
    TBAC commented that DHS erred in its evaluation of Texas research 
capabilities, construction costs, workforce, and community acceptance 
criteria. They asserted that DHS erred in its evaluation of 
construction costs at the various sites, and that additional financing 
requirements were unreasonably added in an untimely manner. They 
expressed concern regarding the perceived failure of the EIS to 
adequately consider risks and environmental impacts, specifically the 
risk of a release of hazardous substances due to naturally-occurring 
events such as tornadoes. TBAC commented on several aspects of the DHS 
site selection procedures such as initial and subsequent ratings and 
requests from DHS for supplemental information.
    DHS does not agree with TBAC's assertion that the NBAF Final EIS is 
flawed because the EIS failed to consider the evaluation criteria. DHS 
did consider the evaluation criteria to establish the range of 
reasonable alternatives analyzed in the EIS. Any further use of the 
evaluation criteria in the EIS is not necessary and is not required by 
CEQ's regulations for implementing NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulation 
Parts 1500 et seq.). CEQ regulations state that an EIS ``* * * shall 
provide full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts 
and shall inform decision makers and the public of the reasonable 
alternatives * * * An environmental impact statement is more than a 
disclosure document. It shall be used by Federal officials in 
conjunction with other relevant material to plan actions and make 
decisions (40 CFR 1502.1).'' DHS believes that the NBAF Final EIS has 
been prepared in full compliance with NEPA and CEQ regulations.
    DHS's four evaluation criteria, associated sub-criteria, and 
preferences were used, in part, to assist DHS in the selection of 
reasonable alternatives for analysis in the NBAF EIS and in selection 
of a Preferred Alternative. TBAC asserted that DHS unfairly added 
additional financing requirements to the process. As discussed under 
Part I of this ROD (Site Selection Process and Evaluation Criteria), 
DHS communicated its initial criteria, sub-criteria, and preferences 
throughout the process. One of the initial sub-criteria and then a DHS 
preference, communicated to the consortia in DHS's December 8, 2006 
letter, was for ``in-kind'' contributions to assist DHS in the 
completion of this project. As discussed previously, DHS sent the 
consortia a letter dated February 29, 2008 requesting verification of 
their final offers by the due date of March 31, 2008. TBAC submitted 
the verification of its final offer by March 31, 2008. The State of 
Texas then sent a letter on September 26, 2008 to DHS stating they 
would use their ``best efforts to secure appropriation of not less than 
the additional $56.3 million from the state funding sources best suited 
to meet the NBAF's project timeline.'' DHS responded to this letter 
stating ``in order to maintain the fairness and integrity of DHS's NBAF 
Decision Process, the additional $56.3 million cannot be considered by 
the Steering Committee because it is not a clarification of the 
previous offer.'' While DHS maintains that this additional offer could 
not be considered, it is notable that even if the additional Texas 
financial offsets of the September 26, 2008 letter had been included, 
the Manhattan Campus Site would still be the site offering best value 
to the Government.
    TBAC stated that the NBAF EIS failed to assess risks and impacts of 
releases resulting from natural phenomena, specifically tornadoes, and 
asked that DHS reevaluate the release threat from tornado activity. The 
NBAF Final EIS adequately evaluates the risks and impacts from 
tornadoes and natural phenomena at all the alternative sites. DHS 
received numerous comments from individuals and organizations regarding 
the risks posed to NBAF by natural phenomena hazards such as tornadoes, 
earthquakes, hurricanes, etc at the Manhattan Campus Site and the other 
site alternatives. DHS has responded to these comments in the NBAF 
Final EIS Comment Response Document. As previously stated in this ROD, 
the NBAF would be designed to withstand normal meteorological 
conditions as well as the effects of severe weather events, including 
tornadoes and would meet or exceed the wind load standards of the 
International Building Code, American Society of Civil Engineers 
Standard No. 7, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other 
Structures, and the codes of the local jurisdiction, which take into 
account the use of the facility as a laboratory.
    TBAC also questioned the conclusion in the NBAF EIS that noise 
effects would be similar for all sites and asserted that the noise 
analysis and conclusions dismissed the fact that the Texas Research 
Park is located in an unpopulated area. Section 3.5 of the NBAF EIS 
begins by describing the methodology for evaluating potential impacts 
and then describes the acoustic environment for each site followed by 
an assessment of potential impacts. For the Texas Research Park Site, 
it is noted that it is ``* * *currently located in a rural, undeveloped 
area west of San Antonio but has been designated as a future industrial 
and research park site. There are no known sensitive noise receptors at 
the site'' (see Section 3.5.8.1 of the NBAF Final EIS). The EIS clearly 
acknowledges the current acoustic environment of Texas Research Park 
Site. As further described in the methodology section of the NBAF Final 
EIS, the noise analysis evaluated noise-generating sources at each site 
to assess potential audible effects from facility construction and 
operation. The overall conclusion was that noise was not an 
environmental impact discriminator and, therefore, all sites received 
the same qualitative rating of ``minor'' as presented in the Executive 
Summary to the NBAF Final EIS.
    Finally, TBAC commented that the text found in the NBAF Final EIS 
did not match the findings presented in Table ES-3 ``Comparison of 
Environmental Effects'' of the NBAF Final EIS. Table ES-3 is based on 
the affected environment and consequence analysis presented in Chapter 
3 of the NBAF Final EIS and could be perceived as open to 
interpretation. Specifically, a commentor to the NBAF Draft EIS 
identified a conflict between the text in Section 3.11.8.3.1 that 
indicated minor effects to traffic at the Texas Research Park Site, 
while Table ES-3 in the Executive Summary indicated a moderate effect. 
The comment response document stated that the ``Moderate'' would be 
changed to the correct listing of ``Minor'' as is detailed in Section 
3.11.8.3.1 of the NBAF EIS. DHS did not make this modification in the 
table as the response indicated. DHS acknowledges that both the 
``traffic and transportation'' and ``cumulative effects'' category for 
the Texas Research Park Site could be changed to ``Minor'' and is 
subject to interpretation. DHS again notes that the NBAF EIS offered 
very little differentiation among the sites. The Texas Research Park 
Site was given the highest overall EIS rating of ``no to minor 
environmental impacts'' by the Steering Committee. The changes do not 
affect the outcome of the decision process by the Steering Committee or 
the Decision Authority.
     A majority of the comments received on the NBAF Final EIS 
expressed opposition to the selection of the Preferred Alternative and 
expressed concerns such as the following:

[[Page 3077]]

     A pathogenic release due to accidents, natural phenomena 
such as tornadoes, and terrorist actions;
     Risks from FMD virus research on the U.S. mainland or in 
any areas with livestock populations;
     Economic and human health effects of a pathogen release on 
local and national livestock industry, ranchers, and farmers;
     The NBAF site and surrounding community becoming terrorist 
targets;
     The absence in the NBAF EIS of adequate analysis of 
physical isolation and water barrier afforded at the Plum Island Site.
    These concerns were addressed by DHS in the responses to comments 
on the NBAF Draft EIS and in the NBAF Final EIS. Many of the same 
commentors who expressed opposition to the Preferred Alternative also 
suggested that instead of construction of the NBAF, DHS should upgrade 
the existing PIADC on Plum Island, New York.
    Commentors are referred to the NBAF Final EIS and associated 
Comment Response Document (Appendix H of the NBAF Final EIS) for 
information on these issues and DHS's responses to individual comments.
     Mrs. Susan Hodges reported that her letter dated August 
25, 2008 and submitted to oppose the selection of the South Milledge 
Avenue Site was not included in the NBAF Final EIS Comment Response 
Document, although her name was listed. DHS regrets this error. Mrs. 
Hodges' letter was one of a small number of comment documents that were 
postmarked before the end of the comment period (August 25, 2008), but 
were not delivered to the NBAF Program Office in time for publication 
in the Comment Response Document. However, DHS did consider these 
comments and posted the comments and responses on the NBAF Web site as 
part of Comment Response Document.
    DHS considered all comments received on the NBAF Final EIS during 
the preparation of the ROD. However, in reviewing and balancing the 
comments received against the decision factors considered in this ROD, 
DHS determined that no substantially new, relevant information was 
identified. Therefore, DHS has not changed its view regarding the 
Preferred Alternative as presented in the NBAF Final EIS and in this 
ROD.

VIII. Decision Factors

Analysis of the Alternative Sites

    As previously described, a DHS Steering Committee reviewed new and 
emerging data relevant to the original site evaluation criteria (i.e., 
Proximity to Research Capabilities, Proximity to Workforce, 
Acquisition/Construction/Operations (ACO) Requirements, and Community 
Acceptance) for selection of the Preferred Alternative. These same 
criteria had been utilized by DHS to identify the five site 
alternatives that were analyzed in the NBAF EIS in addition to the Plum 
Island Site. DHS emphasizes that the Proximity to Research Capabilities 
and Workforce criteria apply exclusively to the specific research and 
workforce needs of the proposed NBAF and are not a general statement on 
the research capability and workforce expertise of the proposing states 
and consortia. Using the new and emerging data contained in supporting 
documents, the Steering Committee reevaluated the strengths and 
weaknesses of each site relative to the initial site ratings as 
documented in the Final Selection Memorandum for Site Selection for the 
Second Round Sites for the NBAF, dated July 2007, and the Plum Island 
Memorandum for the Record, dated November 2008, with the objective of 
updating the site ratings relative to the four evaluation criteria. The 
Steering Committee also considered the results of the NBAF Final EIS, 
including the public comments made at the public meetings and by other 
means during the 60-day public comment period on the NBAF Draft EIS.

Overall EIS and Threat and Risk Assessment Results

    As discussed in more detail in Part III (Preferred Alternative) of 
this ROD, DHS determined that the NBAF EIS and the Threat and Risk 
Assessment presented very little differentiation among the sites. In 
fact, the NBAF EIS determined that the risk of release of a biological 
pathogen from the NBAF was independent of where the NBAF was located. 
DHS also determined that, based on its review of the NBAF EIS, the 
likelihood of a release of a pathogen was very low, given appropriate 
attention to the design, construction, and operation of the NBAF with 
an array of safety controls. Finally, DHS determined that the risk of 
release of any identified pathogen proposed for study within the NBAF 
could be mitigated by implementation of operational protocols, rigid 
security measures, and adherence to the U.S. Government biosecurity 
guidelines.
    With respect to the economic consequence if a release were to 
happen, the Steering Committee found that the major impact of a release 
was due to the loss of meat export trade status and that this is 
independent of the site of the NBAF. As excerpted more fully in Part 
III (Preferred Alternative) of this ROD, the letter DHS received from 
Dr. Bernard Vallat, Director General of The World Organization for 
Animal Health (OIE), in which Dr. Vallat stated that the trade status 
impact of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus in a 
country is ``more related to how the country's authorities respond to 
the incursion, rather than where the outbreak occurs'' was particularly 
informative.
    DHS determined that, based on the lack of differentiation among the 
sites regarding the risk of a release and the economic consequences of 
a release, that it was most important to select a location that would 
optimize the capability to diagnose and cure large animal diseases 
through strong research programs and expedient diagnostic and response 
capabilities. Furthermore, DHS found that the environmental impacts 
analyzed in the EIS and the site specific threats were all very similar 
and that there were only minor differentiators in the EIS and the 
Threat and Risk Assessment. Therefore, the key differentiators among 
the sites were DHS's original initial four evaluation criteria. Because 
the NBAF is intended to be the Nation's preeminent research facility 
for foreign animal and zoonotic disease research, the site's proximity 
to research capabilities that can be linked to NBAF mission 
requirements was emphasized among the four evaluation criteria.

South Milledge Avenue Site; Athens, Georgia

    While the South Milledge Avenue Site demonstrated numerous 
strengths against the evaluation criteria, DHS found that it did not 
best meet the purpose and need to site, construct, and operate the NBAF 
based on the Research, Workforce, ACO, and Community Acceptance 
criteria. This site offers proximity to world class capabilities across 
disciplines related to the NBAF and collectively there is significant 
expertise in research on infectious diseases and pathogenesis of 
animals and humans, as well as zoonoses. However, there is no clear 
evidence of integration with the biomedical research community and the 
research focus tends to be on poultry which is not related to the NBAF 
large livestock animal disease mission. It is attractive that the area 
is rich in high containment laboratory building expertise. 
Additionally, the Emory BSL3/4 laboratories and Athens Community 
College offered training programs for NBAF workers. The EIS 
demonstrated that for the South Milledge Avenue Site, almost all

[[Page 3078]]

environmental impacts fell in the ``no impacts to minor impacts'' 
category. However, the NBAF EIS stated the site may require an 
amendment to the Athens-Clarke County Comprehensive Plan based on the 
current planned use for the area where it is located. The rating for 
the ACO criterion was further weakened because the offset package 
offered by the consortium offset only a small percentage of the project 
cost. The site continued to experience strong Federal level, state, and 
local political support. However, a well organized, vocal opposition 
group expressed numerous concerns on siting the NBAF in Athens, 
Georgia. Additionally, numerous negative comments about the project 
were received at public meetings. The information presented in the 
Threat and Risk Assessment was found to be comparable to the other site 
alternatives. Based on the lack of proximity to NBAF related research 
and workforce in comparison to the Preferred Alternative, the active 
community opposition, and the lack of a competitive offset package, DHS 
did not select the South Milledge Avenue Site as the Preferred 
Alternative for implementation.

Manhattan Campus Site, Manhattan, Kansas (Preferred Alternative)

    Based on the numerous strengths that were evident when evaluating 
the Manhattan Campus Site against the evaluation criteria, DHS found 
that this location best met the purpose and need to site, construct and 
operate the NBAF. Specifically, the site location near KSU provides 
site proximity to existing research capabilities that can be linked to 
NBAF mission requirements. Additionally, the site's proximity to the 
KSU College of Veterinary Medicine, KSU College of Agriculture, and the 
Biosecurity Research Institute is relevant to the NBAF mission and a 
significant strength. The EIS demonstrated that construction and 
operation of the NBAF at the Manhattan Campus Site would be 
environmentally acceptable as almost all environmental impacts fell 
into the ``no impacts to minor impacts'' category. As stated in the EIS 
and agreed to by the Steering Committee, the risk of release of a 
pathogen was independent of where the NBAF was located. The information 
presented in the Threat and Risk Assessment was found to be comparable 
to the other site alternatives. The Manhattan Campus Site alternative 
demonstrated very strong community acceptance from local, state, and 
Federal officials and stakeholders. Additionally, the consortium 
offered a substantial, unconditional offset package, including use of 
the existing Biosecurity Research Institute. Taking into consideration 
the offsets to infrastructure costs and ``in-kind'' contributions 
offered by the consortia, the Manhattan Campus Site is among the least 
expensive locations to construct and operate the NBAF. Following a 
comparison of this site to the No Action alternative, DHS selected this 
site alternative as the Preferred Alternative for implementation.

Flora Industrial Park Site; Flora, Mississippi

    While the Flora Industrial Park Site demonstrated numerous 
strengths against the evaluation criteria, DHS found that it did not 
best meet the purpose and need to site, construct, and operate the NBAF 
based on the Research and Workforce criteria. DHS concluded that the 
Mississippi consortium's inclusion of Battelle would not offset the 
Flora Industrial Park Site's lack of proximity to a critical mass of 
NBAF related research institutions, such as the lack of a veterinary 
school and other research entities that could be linked to NBAF mission 
requirements. While Battelle has strong in-house training programs for 
laboratories and animal research and would assist in bringing these 
training programs and expertise to NBAF, this strength does not 
overcome the lack of an established nearby university or research 
institution with related mission areas nor the lack of nearby BSL-3 
laboratory with related mission areas. The Flora, Mississippi site was 
included as a site alternative, because Battelle's participation in the 
consortium provided additional and unique benefits. However, as part of 
the Preferred Alternative selection process, the Steering Committee 
again reassessed previous ratings that included Battelle's capabilities 
and determined that this model did not overcome the previously noted 
concerns. DHS notes that these ratings apply exclusively to the 
specific research and workforce needs of the proposed NBAF, and are not 
a general statement on the research capability and workforce expertise 
in Mississippi. Battelle was fully committed to the consortium and 
offered a partnership with experts that would benefit the NBAF in 
Mississippi until such time that a local workforce with expertise in 
research and biocontainment facilities relevant to the NBAF mission 
could be developed. However, given the immediacy of the need, DHS 
concluded that the lack of existing research and workforce assets 
within proximity to the site and relevant to the NBAF mission was a 
weakness. Additionally, the Flora Industrial Park Site demonstrated 
exceptionally strong community acceptance from local, state, and 
Federal officials and stakeholders. Further, the consortium offered an 
offset package that covered a significant portion of the project cost 
and made this site one of the least expensive upon which to build. The 
EIS demonstrated that for the Flora Industrial Park Site, almost all 
environmental impacts fell in the ``no impacts to minor impacts'' 
category. The information presented in the Threat and Risk Assessment 
was found to be comparable to the other site alternatives. However, 
based on the lack of proximity to NBAF related research and workforce 
in comparison to the Preferred Alternative, DHS did not select the 
Flora Industrial Park Site as the Preferred Alternative for 
implementation.

Plum Island Site; Plum Island, New York

    While the Plum Island Site demonstrated numerous strengths against 
the evaluation criteria, DHS found that it did not best meet the 
purpose and need to site, construct, and operate the NBAF based on the 
Research, Workforce, ACO, and Community Acceptance criteria. DHS 
concluded that even though the existing PIADC has demonstrated the 
ability to effectively carry out its Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) 
research mission, the research is focused primarily on FMDV (compared 
to the broader NBAF research mission requirements) and there is a lack 
of proximity to medical and veterinary schools as well as BSL-3/4 
laboratories with related mission areas. While the current PIADC staff 
has experience with large animal research, there would still need to be 
a significant amount of training for working in BSL-4 spaces. 
Additionally, even though there would be a lower cost and risk to 
relocate research programs from the PIADC facility to the NBAF, if the 
NBAF were to be constructed on Plum Island, these cost savings would be 
overshadowed by the much higher construction cost at the Plum Island 
Site. There is strong political opposition at Federal, state, and local 
levels to having BSL-4 research on Plum Island. The EIS demonstrated 
that for the Plum Island Site almost all environmental impacts fell in 
the ``no impacts to minor impacts'' category. The information presented 
in the Threat and Risk Assessment was found to be comparable to the 
other site alternatives. Additionally, in November 2008, the World 
Organization for Animal Health (OIE) stated that, a FMD virus outbreak 
on an island would be considered no different from an FMDV outbreak on 
the mainland with respect to the impact

[[Page 3079]]

such an outbreak would have on the Nation's meat-export trade status 
and that, therefore, it was most important to optimize the facility to 
diagnose and cure large animal diseases. Accordingly, based on the lack 
of proximity to NBAF related research and workforce in comparison to 
the Preferred Alternative, the local public and political opposition to 
a BSL-4 laboratory on Plum Island, and the significant cost to build 
and operate on Plum Island, DHS did not select the Plum Island Site as 
the Preferred Alternative for implementation.

Umstead Research Farm Site; Butner, North Carolina

    While the Umstead Research Farm Site demonstrated numerous 
strengths against the evaluation criteria, DHS found that it did not 
best meet the purpose and need to site, construct, and operate the NBAF 
based on the ACO and Community Acceptance criteria. A significant 
strength is the critical mass of intellectual and scientific capital 
(comprised of universities, the private sector, and pharmaceutical and 
biotechnology companies) all within proximity to the site and that can 
be linked to NBAF mission requirements. Three area universities (Duke 
University, University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State 
University) offer significant opportunities to draw and train a skilled 
workforce. Additionally, the biomanufacturing firms and biotechnology 
research and development programs within the area, coupled with 24 BSL-
3's, provide a strong base for a skilled workforce. However, the 
Umstead Research Farm Site experienced strong local opposition to the 
NBAF with limited Federal, state, and stakeholder support. The well-
organized and vocal opposition group to the NBAF grew to such a level 
that some federal and state level representatives withdrew their 
original support for the project. Additionally, numerous negative 
comments about the project were received at public meetings. The North 
Carolina rating was not competitive for the ACO criterion because the 
North Carolina consortium offered minimal offsets to site costs. The 
EIS demonstrated that for the Umstead Research Farm Site almost all 
environmental impacts fell in the ``no impacts to minor impacts'' 
category. The information presented in the Threat and Risk Assessment 
was found to be comparable to the other site alternatives. However, 
based on the concern for the active community opposition in addition to 
the limited Federal, state, and local political support and the lack of 
a competitive offset package, DHS did not select the Umstead Research 
Farm Site as the Preferred Alternative for implementation.

Texas Research Park Site; San Antonio, Texas

    While the Texas Research Park Site demonstrated numerous strengths 
against the evaluation criteria, DHS found that it did not best meet 
the purpose and need to site, construct, and operate the NBAF based on 
the Research and ACO criteria. While a strength is the site's proximity 
to other research entities, such as a BSL-4 laboratory and several BSL-
3 laboratories, which could foster research collaboration, this 
strength is tempered by the fact that no Veterinary School or College 
of Agriculture is nearby. Site proximity to workforce is a strength, as 
there is a strong military veterinary infrastructure which possesses 
significant worldwide experience with exotic animal diseases. The Texas 
Research Park Site also demonstrated very strong community acceptance 
from local, state, and Federal officials and stakeholders. However, the 
rating for the ACO criterion was not as strong or competitive as the 
Manhattan Campus Site. While the Texas consortium offered a very good 
offset package, only a small percentage of this package was 
unconditional and could be used as a direct offset to the project cost. 
The EIS demonstrated construction and operation of the NBAF at the 
Texas Research Park Site would be environmentally acceptable as the 
impacts fell in the ``no impacts to minor impacts'' category. Finally, 
the information presented in the Threat and Risk Assessment was found 
to be comparable to the other site alternatives. Therefore, based on 
the site's lack of proximity to a Veterinary School or College of 
Agriculture and the lack of a competitive offset package, DHS did not 
select the Texas Research Park Site as the Preferred Alternative for 
implementation.

IX. Decision

    DHS has considered environmental impacts, public comments on the 
NBAF Draft EIS and the Final EIS, national policy, evaluation criteria, 
threat and risk assessments, costs, site characterizations, security, 
and other programmatic requirements in its decision to site, construct, 
and operate the NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas. It is also noted that the 
NBAF Final EIS's risk assessment of FMDV impacts to the mainland 
allowed for full public and stakeholder participation. Upon 
consultation with the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Agriculture, 
the Decision Authority (Under Secretary Cohen) accepted the unanimous 
recommendation of the Steering Committee and selected Manhattan, Kansas 
as the site for the NBAF. DHS has therefore decided, in consultation 
with USDA, to implement its Preferred Alternative to construct and 
operate the NBAF at the Manhattan Campus Site in Kansas. DHS determined 
that the Manhattan Campus Site offers the best benefit to the 
Government based upon the evaluation criteria and DHS preferences and, 
most importantly, meets the intended purpose and need to safely and 
successfully site, construct, and operate the NBAF. DHS would also 
initiate the transition of mission activities and resources from the 
Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), located on Plum Island, New 
York to the Manhattan Campus Site, including research related to FMD. 
DHS anticipates that construction of NBAF would begin in fiscal year 
2010 with completion by the end of 2014.

X. Mitigation

    As identified in Section 3.15 of the NBAF Final EIS and as 
summarized, where appropriate, in this ROD, DHS would implement 
specific mitigation measures in the design, construction, and operation 
of the NBAF. These include appropriate pollution control and best 
management practices during construction so as to minimize adverse 
impacts to the environment and to incorporate architectural design 
features, biocontainment technologies, operational procedures, training 
and protocols, and waste management technologies and procedures to 
minimize environmental impacts during routine operations. The NBAF 
would be designed and constructed to emphasize strategies for 
sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, 
material selection, and indoor environmental quality to include 
measures consistent with the low-impact design (LID) approach. To 
minimize potential impacts in the unlikely event of a release, DHS 
would have site-specific standard operating procedures and response 
plans in place prior to the initiation of research activities at the 
NBAF. Additionally, DHS intends, where applicable, to consider the 
recommendations of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on 
perimeter security found in the September 2008 Report to Congressional 
Committees entitled Biosafety Laboratories: Perimeter Security 
Assessment of the Nation's Five BSL-4 Laboratories. Upon review of the 
site specific Threat and Risk Assessment, to be developed during the

[[Page 3080]]

design phase, DHS will implement a comprehensive risk-based physical 
and personnel security program for the NBAF.
    All practicable and economically feasible means to avoid or 
minimize environmental harm from the selected alternative have been 
adopted and would, as applicable, be incorporated into the design of 
the NBAF. The mitigation measures described in Section 3.15 of the NBAF 
EIS are incorporated into this ROD and are considered part of the 
selected alternative.

    Authority: 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347 (National Environmental Policy 
Act).

    Dated: January 12, 2009.
Jay M. Cohen,
Under Secretary, Science & Technology, DHS.
[FR Doc. E9-914 Filed 1-15-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4410-10-P