Kansas Reported Winner of Federal Animal Disease Lab

At least two states, Mississippi and Texas, may challenge the reported U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommendation that the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility be built in Manhattan, Kansas, at Kansas State University. The Associated Press reported today that it had obtained a copy of DHS's Preferred Alternative Selection Memorandum explaining Manhattan was chosen because of proximity to existing biohazard research, community acceptance, and the state's incentives. DHS chose five finalist locations last summer in Kansas, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, and North Carolina.

AP's report said the apparent selection of Kansas frustrated Texas and Mississippi, including the latter's governor, Haley Barbour. When his state's Flora Industrial Park site made the finalist group, he said the $450 million facility "will provide huge benefits to Mississippi, especially in terms of job creation and construction. The importance of this facility is evidenced by its classification as a Biosafety Level 4 -- the nation's highest rating -- as well as the highly competitive site selection process."

The facility has its detractors, including opponents who say it should not be located in a major cattle-producing state. It would contain 520,000 square feet of space for researchers to study animal diseases, such as avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease, along with potential agents that could affect people.

It would employ about 400 people when completed, including more than 200 scientists. The facility will replace the USDA's Plum Island Animal Disease Center located off the coast of Long Island, N.Y., where DHS has been in charge of safety and security since 2003.

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