From Illinois Business Journal news services
The director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has chosen a site in north St. Louis city as the preferred alternative for the $1.75 billion Next NGA West project, rejecting a site next to Scott Air Force Base that had been the subject of a hard lobby by Illinois leaders.
The site at Cass and Jefferson avenues will house the 3,100 employees of the agency, which handles intelligence work for the federal government.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for NGA West project in the St. Louis area. The statement analyzed four sites and the environmental effects related to the construction and operation of a new, purpose-built campus for the agency.
The FEIS identifies an environmentally preferred alternative and the agency’s preferred alternative.
“After careful consideration of all of the available information, I have determined that the St. Louis City site is the agency’s preferred alternative,” said Robert Cardillo, NGA director.
The agency refers to the preferred alternative as the APA — an important step in the process to select a site that positions NGA to meet future mission challenges.
Identifying the APA included reviewing the final environmental analysis findings and a careful evaluation of each site using mission, security, laws/regulations/executive orders, cost and schedule criteria, an NGA statement said.
“The St. Louis City site provides NGA with the most technological, academic and professional environment for this agency to develop the capabilities and solutions necessary to solve the hardest intelligence and national security problems entrusted to us by the American people,” said Cardillo.
The APA is part of the National Environmental Policy Act process, and is not the final decision.
A comment period begins April 1 and ends April 16 to allow for additional public input before the signing of the final Record of Decision (no sooner than 30 days from the release of the FEIS). The Record of Decision is expected to be complete by early June 2016.
The NGA site selection process began in 2012 when the agency announced plans to move from its current location at 3200 South Second Street and Arsenal Street. A series of planning studies, including an economic analysis, determined it would be less costly, quicker and less disruptive, to build a new facility rather than upgrade current facilities.
Virtually every Illinois elected official was backing a 182-acre site alongside Scott Air Force Base.
Illinois state Representative Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, said he was disappointed in the recommendation.
“I still believe that Illinois is the best location for the NGA. The land is a trifecta: it’s shovel ready, adjacent to Scott Air Force Base and Interstate 64. Couple this with the security and infrastructure available at Scott Air Force Base and you are left with an excellent location that is second to none. The Governor, legislators and local leaders have worked hard to put together a competitive plan that highlights our regions strengths in an effort to secure over 3,000 new jobs. We won’t give up promoting our state as the best home of the NGA.”
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, released the following statement:
“We are disappointed that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has not decided to build its new facility here in Illinois. Scott Air Force Base remains one of our nation’s most important defense installations. We’re going to continue to work hard and see through this process of relocating the agency to the site adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. During the upcoming comment period on this decision – and beyond – we will continue working with the Department of Defense and stakeholders at home to protect the future of Scott, its dedicated employees, and its enormous impact on the regional economy.”
Madison County Board Chairman Alan J. Dunstan issued this statement:
“I am disappointed in the decision by National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo not to locate the new, western headquarters of the agency adjacent to Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County. The St. Clair County site is, in my opinion, clearly superior to the site the director selected.
“My disappointment in the director’s decision is tempered by the unified effort of Illinois’ U.S. Senators, Congressmen, Governor, and county and municipal officials to promote Southwestern Illinois and work in support of St. Clair County’s efforts to bring the NGA to the Metro East.
“I also want to thank Chairman Mark Kern, members of the St. Clair County board and other St. Clair County leaders for putting together an excellent proposal and working diligently to bring the NGA facility to the Southwestern Illinois. While their efforts were not successful, Chairman Kern and his team were successful in promoting our area and the myriad of development opportunities that exist in St. Clair and Madison counties.”