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Salazar pushes for National Bio Agro Defense facility to come to Lower Arkansas Valley
http://www.lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/a ... news03.txt
By MIKE HARRIS - Thursday, March 23, 2006 2:46 PM MST
Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.) is pushing for the Lower Arkansas Valley to become home to a bio defense facility.
On March 21, Salazar made official a possible economic development project that has been worked on behind the scenes for a month or two, according to Wayne Snider, who is heading up the city's economic development efforts.
Salazar, in a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Defense Secretary Michael Chertoff, asked that the Lower Arkansas Valley be considered as a possible location for the establishment of a new National Bio Agro Defense Facility.
According to Snider the facility has the potential to create more than 200 high-tech, high-paying jobs, which is not only good for La Junta, it's good for the region.
The letter to Secretary Chertoff was in response to a request for assistance from community leaders in Otero and Bent counties in trying to get this project located in the valley.
“As the U.S. representative for much of the Lower Arkansas Valley, I believe the Lower Arkansas Valley would be a great place to establish this new and very important facility,” said Salazar.
Salazar said that the communities of the valley have ample space for growth and access to highway infrastructure. Salazar added that these communities are close to Fort Carson, where the facility could be used in conjunction with military training and research.
“The Lower Arkansas Valley is home to a large concentration of cattle production, and La Junta, Colo., is one of the nation's largest livestock marketing areas. It should also be noted that Colorado State University, which is one of the nation's leading agriculture colleges, is located in Fort Collins, Colo., and they have branch campuses and extension offices located in the region,” Salazar said in the letter.
The new facility is expected to replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. According to the Department of Homeland Security's Web site, “The Plum Island Animal Disease Center is an essential component of the national strategy for protecting U.S. agriculture from a bioterrorist attack involving the intentional introduction of foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, as described in the Homeland Security Presidential Directive, ‘Biodefense for the 21st Century.'”
Both DHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture conduct programs at the Plum Island Facility as part of an integrated agro-defense strategy.
The Plum Island Facility is being replaced because it is now 50 years old and is becoming increasingly more costly to maintain. Additionally, the laboratory and test space in the current facility is insufficient to support the increasing levels of research and development needed to meet concerns about accidental or intentional introduction of foreign animal diseases into the country and isn't appropriate for zoonotic disease research.
The Lower Arkansas Valley is just one possible location, but according to Snider and others it fits the bill for DHS' needs.
Snider said that it's not yet clear what will happen and whether or not the new facility will come to the valley as everything is in the preliminary stages right now.
According to the DHS Web site, “The options for a location, or locations, for the biocontainment facilities have not been identified at this time, but will be considered during the conceptual design study. DHS will continue to work closely with USDA and Health and Human Services throughout the conceptual design process, which will also include ongoing consultation with other key stakeholders including professional societies and industry groups.
“Experts from DHS, USDA and HHS, will review the key programmatic requirements for each of these options in order to assess key facility determinants such as the amount and type of required laboratory and support space. DHS will also conduct a design solicitation in the coming months in order t be able to better estimate the costs of key components of such a facility, such as biocontainment laboratories, support space, and administrative space.”
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