Reviews | Beltsville Agricultural Research Center not ripe for development

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Henry S. Cole, Maureen Fine and Vijay Parameshwaran are members of Save BARC, a local group of local residents organized around the protection and preservation of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.

The Treasury Department plans to transfer a currency production facility from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to the Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), the largest agricultural research service facility in the United States. USDA. This decision should be reconsidered immediately. The transfer of BARC ownership from Agriculture to Treasury, authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, was done with little or no knowledge or input from area residents, a serious breach of public trust.

Environmental justice is at stake.

Serious negative impacts include increased traffic associated with private employee vehicles (there is no access to public transit at the proposed site) and a 24/7 influx of large diesel trucks during construction and operation. Contrary to smart growth principles, the Currency Production Facility’s 46-acre surface parking lot would have more than 1,300 parking spaces to accommodate staff and visitors, a number which, according to the Environmental Impact Statement from the Treasury Department, “exceeds federal guidelines”.

As noted in the Environmental Impact Statement, the facility’s traffic, added to existing traffic, would result in unacceptable traffic levels at nine intersections within the currency facility’s “region of influence”. Congested roads and traffic jams are not just an inconvenience; they would also have serious health implications for Vansville residents, including increased noise levels and exposure to high levels of toxic emissions from motor vehicles. A large number of diesel trucks would cause more congestion and increase levels of harmful pollution. Families would be exposed to these cumulative impacts for decades if this ill-conceived plan went ahead.

The Treasury Department’s Environmental Impact Statement acknowledges that the proposed location of the coinage facility would impose numerous negative impacts on families residing near the proposed site. Nearly two-thirds of the Vansville community’s population is black and Latino. The neighboring municipalities of Beltsville and Greenbelt are also more than 50% non-white and will also be affected by the construction and operation of the currency generating facility.

According to the environmental impact study, the installation would have serious impacts on the health of sensitive people in the immediate environment of the project, in particular children, the elderly and people with disabilities. These people live, go to school and play near the site.

The construction and operation of the currency production facility at the Vansville site would also have a profound impact on the area’s wetlands and on two major waterways in the area: Indian Creek and Beaverdam Creek, which flow into in the Anacostia River. During construction, a wetland and creek will be eliminated, and a creek will likely be diverted, disrupting the area’s ecosystem and compromising Anacostia’s restoration efforts. There are no plans to upgrade or adapt the current water treatment system at the BARC site for the coinage facility, raising concerns about chemical waste entering these streams.

The Beltsville Agricultural Research Center has an increasingly critical mission. As the climate crisis deepens, obtaining food from distant sources will become more difficult and more expensive. The answer is not to industrialize BARC but to improve the facility’s research, educational resources and programs to stimulate urban and regenerative agriculture – far better for emerging economic opportunities than a production facility. currencies.

We know the Biden administration is working to reduce pollution, protect public health, and preserve the country’s priceless natural resources. So why not require the Treasury to select a more appropriate site for its currency production facility?

Lana T. Arthur