Sure, there’s no Osage River in St. Clair County, Ill., even though an environmental impact statement released by the U.S. Army Corps of engineers makes such a claim.
The error’s discovery forms a key part of a county-led effort to reverse National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo’s preliminary April 1 decision to build NGA’s $1.6 billion headquarters in North St. Louis — and not St. Clair County.
But on Thursday, the NGA poured cold water on county plans for a “do-over” with the release of a statement stating that the “misidentification of the Osage River and referring to a report from St. Clair County, Michigan, are unfortunate.”
However, the “errors in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Final Environmental Impact Statement” or FEIS, will “result in no change to the FEIS findings and have no bearing on Director Cardillo’'s analysis which identified the St. Louis City site as the agency's preferred alternative for the Next NGA West initiative,” according to a statement issued by NGA spokesman Don Kerr.
Beyond the misstatements, we believe there are significant omissions in the final report. Upon closer analysis, much more has been revealed. And we will make it part of our formal comments submission in the days ahead.
Terry Beach, St. Clair County economic development director
Terry Beach, the county economic development director, made it clear the county will continue to use the FEIS as the basis for reversing Cardillo’s decision.
“Beyond the misstatements, we believe there are significant omissions in the final report,” Beach said. “Upon closer analysis, much more has been revealed. And we will make it part of our formal comments submission in the days ahead.”
The final day for submitting comments on the NGA site selection is May 2. With the help of Illinois lawmakers, St. Clair County convinced NGA to expand its comment period to 30 days from the initial 15-day period.
Cardillo’s decision to pick the North St. Louis site over St. Clair County hit leaders of the latter like a punch to the jaw. After all, for more than four decades, the U.S. federal government had pursued a clear policy when deciding where to locate its major intelligence agencies: suburban and rural settings, usually on closely guarded military installations.
The North St. Louis site, which was chosen on the basis of NGA’s power to work as an engine of urban renewal, seemed to violate this 40-year trend.
The NGA, a major federal spy agency that makes maps and other data tools for the U.S. military and other intelligence agencies based on satellite imagery, needs to move from its current home at the old St. Louis Arsenal, just south of downtown St. Louis. The nearly 190-year-old arsenal no longer can contain the rapidly growing agency, which also needs greater security and modern infrastructure such air-conditioning and data lines.
NGA plans to begin construction the the NGA West in mid-2017 and finish the 800,000 square-foot facility by 2021.
(The report) cherry-picked certain components of certain regulations which justified the St. Louis site while others which justify the Scott AFB site were ignored.
Memo circulating among metro-east decision-makers
The arguments that St. Clair County is marshaling to bring NGA West to the county are contained in a set of talking points being circulated among metro-east decision-makers entitled, “Why the Scott AFB Site for the next NGA West?”
The memo alleges the FEIS “cherry-picked certain components of certain regulations which justified the St. Louis site while others which justify the Scott AFB site were ignored.”
St. Louis officials argued forcefully that NGA should come to North St. Louis because the area sits in a federal Promise Zone that calls for federally funded projects to be built in inner city areas. St. Clair County officials argue, instead, that the Rural Development Act of 1972 mandates that rural areas be given first priority for the construction of new federal offices.
The St. Clair County talking points memo also takes aim at Cardillo’s contention that NGA belongs in North St. Louis because of the need to recruit the brightest minds from St. Louis-based universities.
St. Clair County is challenging this argument, noting that Scott “offers a distinct advantage for recruiting military personnel who are exiting the service either through retirement or other honorable discharges...They will know how to work as a team even under stressful conditions. Many have been forward deployed. Many will have advanced degrees in information assurance, cyber defense, finance and logistics, to name a few. And they will likely already have some level of security clearance which will save time.”