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Decision on prison won’t be revealed until late summer

Letcher County residents may have to wait until the end of the summer to find out whether or not a federal prison will be constructed in Letcher County.

Tom Webber, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) chief of Capacity Planning and Construction Branch, said nearly 300 comments about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) were submitted by the public, local agencies and regulatory agencies. BOP received more feedback in regards to the proposed Unites States Penitentiary (USP) and Federal Prison Camp (FPC) in Letcher County than it usually does for similar impact studies, Webber said.

 “That is sort of out of the ordinary,” said Webber.

BOP officials visited the proposed sites on May 18 and met with regulatory agencies.

Webber said some of the public comments included opposition, but the majority of public comments were positive.

If BOP officials decide to locate a federal prison in Letcher County, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) will include the preferred site — about 753 acres in Payne Gap owned by Pike County road builder Leonard Lawson or 700 acres in Roxana owned by Rondall Meade and Sherwood Ison.

“We anticipate the FEIS to be done by the end of the summer,” said Webber.

Both sites require extensive excavation and fill material to level and prepare the sites for construction, according to the DEIS, which was released Feb. 12. Excavation and grading associated with the Payne Gap site are estimated to cost $217,327,748 and the cost is estimated to total $141,116,447 for excavation and grading at the Roxanasite.

If the Payne Gap site is chosen, wastewater and natural gas infrastructure would be significantly impacted.

Water resources would be impacted at both sites. According to the DEIS, 2.84 acres of wetland and 14,693 linear feet of stream at Payne Gap site and 2.28 acres of wetland and 8,714 linear feet of stream at the Roxana site would be impacted by construction.

Indiana bat habitats are located at both sites requiring $719,400 for mitigation at the Payne Gap site and $973,500 for mitigation at the Roxana site.

The Payne Gap site contains 218 acres of deforestation and the Roxana site contains 118 acres of deforestation.

Construction at both sites will have adverse impacts to traffic, as well as an impact to roadways at Roxana. Potential roadway improvements would be required at both sites, according to the DEIS. A traffic impact study will be included in the FEIS.

The United States Penitentiary would house 1,088 high-security male inmates and a Federal Prison Camp would house 128 minimumsecurity male inmates, and together would employ about 300 full-time staff members.

In addition to the two facilities, the site would include a central utility plant, a firing range, two warehouses and a staff training building.

After the FEIS is released, there will be a 30-day period to review the document, Webber said. Then the BOP director will sign the Record of Decision.

Contingent on funding, the BOP would then acquire a design/build contractor to construct a facility.

Webber said the cost of building a federal prison camp in Letcher County is $460 million to $510 million.

Originally published by The Mountain Eagle on June 3, 2015. Reprinted with permission.


 

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