The plant was established in 1941, and according to the DOD, was "the world's largest powder and propellant plant, later playing a historic role providing munitions during World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts."
A Shawnee tribal claim to the entire parcel was ruled out by a panel of federal appellate judges early in 2005, alluding to the tribe's handover of the property to federal authorities in 1854. A reconsideration of that ruling this fall found the claim moot by virtue of the Army's handover of the property to the county earlier in the year.
There is some disagreement as to the taxable value of the land, with developers saying it's nearly on the negative side at this juncture, while some state revenue officials believe some taxable value is present. In any case, much more soon will be present as the remediation efforts begin with the burning of structures thought to contain nitroglycerin. According to minutes of the site's restoration advisory board, about 2,000 acres (809 hectares) are thought to be contaminated with explosives, including 140 structures, 1,500 foundations and 41 miles (66 km.) of sewer pipe throughout the propellant manufacturing areas. Cleanup of explosives contamination alone should take three years.
The Table of Contents for the installation's action plan gives an idea of the degree of work ahead: "Nitroglycerin Area Settling Ponds," "North Acid Area-Chromate Concentration Pond," and "Calcium Cyanmide Disposal Area" are just a few chapter headings. Through its 2005 fiscal year, the Army's environmental restoration unit had committed some $34 million to the project since 1989, and aimed to commit more than $67 million over the next 15-plus years.
Some 6,000 of those now-dormant acres will be reserved for a planned community and other economic development projects. The site will be home to forestry research for KSU, while KU will get acreage for a life sciences research park to be jointly developed with bioscience companies. Other facets of the project include 2,000 acres (809 hectares) to the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District, and .a new water treatment plant and 30 acres (12 hectares) of school district land for the fast-growing City of De Soto.
"Johnson County will receive a piece of property that has been untouched for sixty years," said U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a supporter of the redevelopment effort and longtime conservationist. "Tucked away in this buffer is hundreds of acres of what Johnson County looked liked a hundred years ago — creeks crisscrossing plains and hills, hardwood forests sheltering many birds and animals, along with good old Kansas prairie."
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