Manhattan’s NBAF may be moving ahead soon

The stalled plan for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas may be regaining traction in Washington.

“I am encouraged with what we are hearing,” Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday. “Kansas stands ready to partner with the Department of Homeland Security to move this important national security priority forward.”

Congress earmarked initial construction financing for the $1 billion NBAF lab, which would research foot-and-mouth and other dangerous animal diseases that can be passed to humans. But progress has slowed since a site next to Kansas State University in Manhattan was chosen in 2008. The anticipated completion date has been pushed back several years to 2018.

Opposition to the project has centered on the possibility of accidental release of toxins.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., brought up the delay in releasing $90 million in federal funding set aside for NBAF construction during a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, The Topeka Capital Journal reported.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano responded to Moran’s comments by telling Moran the agency still favors the building of the laboratory near Kansas State.

“I think it’s necessary for the country, and I think it’s time to fish or cut bait,” Napolitano said.

Moran said officials with Homeland Security have authority to approve the land transfer for the project and to release $40 million earmarked for an electric power plant and $50 million to begin construction. Napolitano said she was eager to release $40 million tied to the utility plant and proposed a meeting with Brownback or members of the Kansas congressional delegation to discuss cost issues.

“When you say the time is now, it’s not a matter of many months,” he said. “It’s a matter of a few weeks before this needs to happen.”

Napolitano said that was her “understanding as well.”