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DOE to Transfer Tracts to County

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Land: There is no timetable, however, for when this may happen

By John Severance

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration issued an amended Record of Decision (ROD) to the Environmental Impact Statement for the conveyance and transfer of certain land tracts to Los Alamos County.

The tracts include the remaining acreage of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Technical Area 21 (about 245 acres) and the remaining acreage of the Airport Tract (about 55 acres).

In the ROD, NNSA administrator Thomas D’Agostino wrote that DOE/NNSA has determined that it is no longer necessary to retain these lands and will make them available for conveyance and transfer.

“The approval of the Record of Decision under the Conveyance and Transfer Environmental Impact Statement provides DOE with the ability to continue with land transfer,” said George Rael, Assistant Manager for the Environmental Projects Office. “Given the excellent progress over the last three years with Recovery Act funding, our cleanup efforts continue to progress and provide opportunities to convey land that can be used for future development.”  

It might be a while before the land is useable because DOE and NNSA still are finishing up their cleanup efforts.

“Once they have been cleaned up, the transfer will be able to take place,” said attorney Seth Kirshenberg of Kutak Rock law firm in Washington, who is helping the county with the land transfer.

Kirshenberg said once the NNSA deems the land to be clean, certain reports will have to be filed and they will be sent to the New Mexico Environment Department.

“They can either concur or not,” Kirshenberg said. “There is no specific time frame for when the transfer will take place.”

Kirshenberg said that Los Alamos County is pushing hard for the land transfer. Council Chair Sharon Stover wrote a letter to D’Agostino a couple of months ago asking that the land be conveyed.

“The county wants the land for economic development,” Kirshenberg said. “The TA-21 tract is the largest piece of industrial land in the county.”

This marks the fourth time the ROD has been amended for the transfer and conveyance of the tracts.

• In a 2000 ROD, DOE was to convey or transfer seven tracts in whole and three tracts (the Airport, TA-21, and White Rock Y Tracts) in part by November 26, 2007, the original transfer deadline. Portions of the three partial tracts were initially withheld by DOE because of potential national security mission needs for retaining security, health, and safety buffer zones surrounding operational areas. For this reason, DOE’s decision at that time was to convey or transfer 110 acres of the Airport Tract, 20 acres of the TA-21 Tract, and 125 acres of the White Rock Y Tract. DOE stated in the ROD that it would make every effort to minimize the portions of the tracts it retains and only retain essential areas and convey or transfer the remainder of the tracts before the transfer deadline.
• On June 26, 2002, NNSA issued an Amended that announced NNSA’s determination that an eight-acre portion of the Airport Tract at its western end that had been retained to serve as a health and safety buffer zone was no longer required for that purpose and could be conveyed. NNSA additionally identified two portions of the White Rock Y Tract that were unlikely to be needed to serve as health and safety buffers and could be conveyed as well. These portions contain stretches of public roadways along State Road 502 and State Road 4 and total about 74 acres.
• On July 28, 2005, NNSA issued another Amended ROD announcing its decision to convey an additional 32.3-acre portion of the Airport Tract based on its determination that this portion of the tract located along the south side of State Road 502 was no longer required to serve as a health and safety buffer area. This decision also stated that the remainder of the Airport Tract, about 55 acres, would be retained until tritium operations ceased within the previously-retained approximately 245 acres of the TA-21 Tract.

“I have been helping the county acquire property for some time,” Kirshenberg said.
“We have amended the statute a couple of times.”