Metro-East News

Report: St. Clair County site has fewest negative impacts if NGA West built there

A site near Scott Air Force Base fared favorably in a new environmental impact report commissioned by the NGA.
A site near Scott Air Force Base fared favorably in a new environmental impact report commissioned by the NGA.

After a nine-month review of the four St. Louis-area sites being considered for the new home of the National Geospatial-Intelligency Agency, the 182-acre site in St. Clair County next-door to Scott Air Force Base has emerged as the one that would suffer the fewest adverse impacts.

That’s according to the environmental-impact statements released Friday morning on the four sites, which also include two in St. Louis County and one in north St. Louis, near the old Pruitt-Igoe housing complex. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared the report for NGA with the help of a private contractor, CH2M Hill, of Englewood, Colo.

The report did not name a preferred site. NGA will pick the winner in March, with construction set to begin on the 800,000 square-foot edifice a year later, and with construction set to be finished by 2021.

The EIS for St. Clair County noted the presence of a previously identified archaeological site within the footprint of the St. Clair County site. Otherwise, the report listed only minor to moderate negative impacts that would likely occur if NGA built its new home at the county location just west of Scott Air Force Base.

In anticipation of this issue, the St. Clair County Public Building Commission in late September approved going forward with an archaeology mitigation plan for the proposed National Geospatial Intelligence Agency site near MidAmerica Airport.

Dan Trapp, MidAmerica Airport director of planning, said artifacts were previously discovered during a survey for the Reider Road interchange construction. The artifacts were from mid-19th century homesteads of German settlers, according to Trapp.

Mark Kern, the St. Clair County Board chairman, noted one of the needs that NGA posted for its new campus is the availability of real estate. The proposed site in St. Clair County is nearly twice as big as the North St. Louis site, Kern said.

“But really here the bottom line is what’s best for NGA,” Kern said. “And St. Clair County is looking to step forward and doing whatever we can to do what’s best for that agency.”

Kern said he and other county leaders remain convinced that the St. Clair County site is the best of the four.

“But as I said, it’s what NGA believes and what they believe is best for them,” Kern said. “And so we’ll work to provide them everything we can to try to bring it to St. Clair County.”

NGA is seeking to build a $1.6 billion facility to replace its aging and cramped campus, just south of downtown St. Louis, near the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. The spy agency, which focuses on using secret satellite data to develop maps for military and defense uses, has main headquarters in Springfield, Va.

The environmental reports look at a wide range of impacts on each site, including economic, cultural and environmental effects. Besides St. Clair County and North St. Louis, the other sites are located in Fenton, Mo. and Mehlville, Mo.

Steve Stenger, the St. Louis County executive, has apparently written off the two sites in the county, and has instead thrown his support behind the North St. Louis site.

A major issue in the EIS was the potential negative impact on the city of St. Louis were the current NGA site at 3200 S. 2nd St., which is owned by U.S. Air Force, closed and its 3,100 employees moved to a new site.

The city would lose nearly $2.2 million in city earnings tax through the loss of tax from non-St. Louis residents who work for NGA, according to the EIS.

The EIS also noted potential “major benefits” in the visual character of the blighted North St. Louis were NGA to relocate to that neighborhood. Negative impacts, however, of locating NGA West in North St. Louis would include the demolition historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places, including homes within the footprint of the St. Louis Place Historic District.

U.S. Rep. William Lacey Clay issued a statement in which he said that the EIS showed that the North St. Louis site “would advance NGA’s vital mission, yield maximum economic benefits for the massive federal dollars invested, and would boost our entire region by transforming a distressed neighborhood near downtown St. Louis.”

Three public hearings beginning the week of Oct. 26 are scheduled to allow stakeholders in St. Louis County, North St. Louis and St. Clair County to offer their views on the environmental reports.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

NGA plans to sponsor three public “scoping sessions” to obtain stakeholder feedback on the EIS released Friday . The meetings are scheduled as follows:

▪  South St. Louis

4 to 7 p.m., Oct. 27

Crestwood Community Center

9245 Whitecliff Park Ln.

Crestwood, Mo.

▪ St. Clair County

4 to 7 p.m., Oct. 28

Katy Cavins Community Center

308 E. 5th St.

O'Fallon, Ill.

▪ St. Louis City

4 to 7 p.m., Oct. 29

St. Louis Gateway Classic Sports Foundation

2012 Dr. Martin

St. Louis, Mo.

Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat