The Federal Bureau of Prisons is reinitiating a process that could lead to a new correctional institution and prison camp in Leavenworth, according to a letter released earlier this month.
The project, if approved, could account for roughly 1,400 additional prison beds, 400 new jobs and cost about $350 million, making it one of the largest construction projects in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
In November 2011, the BOP published a Draft Environmental Impact statement concerning the proposal for new facilities on the bureau's property in Leavenworth, which currently contains the U.S. Penitentiary.
A public hearing took place place in December 2011 and a public comment period, which allowed for input from residents and federal, state, regional and local officials and agencies, concluded in January 2012.
However, according to the BOP, preparation of a final Environmental Impact Statement was postponed due to "funding constraints."
"By this letter, BOP is announcing that it is reinitiating the EIS process and intends to complete its responsibilities and requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, which is required of all federal agencies," the BOP stated in the letter.
The letter goes on to state there are no changes to the proposed location or design of the facilities.
And, in response to comments received concerning the Environmental Impact Statement, the bureau is conducting follow-up studies, including cultural resource investigations, storm water runoff modeling and analysis, and a sanitary sewer capacity impact analysis, the letter states.
The information will be included in a final Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to be published this fall.
"Interested parties will have an opportunity to review and comment on the document," according to the letter.
In March, Leavenworth Mayor Mark Preisinger and City Manager Scott Miller visited Washington, D.C., and spoke with Kansas Congressional leaders about funding for the potential new prison.
Preisinger said he and Miller spoke with Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and Representatives Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder.
The city is attempting to learn more about what the BOP's letter means for the prison project, Preisinger said, but "on the surface it looks very positive."
He said one possibility is the new work outlined in the BOP letter could extend the lifespan of work that's already been done.
That work, the mayor said, is set to expire in December 2015.
"If it expires, they could have to go through the whole process again," Preisinger said.
"The more time, the better. We are hoping Congress does allocate some money toward this project, hopefully this fiscal year."