RICHLAND - The Richland Public Facilities District announced this week that the city of Richland has received formal approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enter into a sublease agreement, which will allow for the building of the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center on Corps-leased land in Columbia Park West.
The Corps also conducted a National Environmental Policy Act compliance check and issued a finding of no significant impact, clearing the way for construction to begin.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, an early supporter of the project, said in a statement, "This is excellent news for the Tri-Cities. Projects like the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center are tremendously important for both their economic and cultural impact. I applaud the hard work and commitment of the Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Richland, the Richland Public Facilities District's CEO, Kimberly Camp and her staff, and their many volunteers on reaching this important milestone."
"This is such a big moment for the project," said Richland Public Facilites District Board Vice President Joel Rogo. "Though it's not the last hurdle, it was certainly one of the biggest. Everyone has been working very hard to make this happen and we're all very proud and relieved that it is finally done. Thanks especially to the city of Richland, our staff and the Army Corps of Engineers for all the work that went into this!"
This approval will allow construction to move forward, but in order to use any federal funds for the project the Richland Public Facilities District will work with the Federal Highway Administration.
Camp will be working with Richland Deputy City Manager Bill King to clear the last of the permitting in order to begin construction later this summer. To date, more than $25 million has been raised for the $40.5 million project.
"This is a big step forward for the Reach project. I congratulate the board and staff for their perseverance, and thank the Army Corps of Engineers for their cooperation and diligence. The Reach (project) is intended to be a great asset for the Tri-Cities and the whole region," said Richland Mayor John Fox.
The Reach project will be a 61,000-square-foot facility designed to serve as a gateway to the Hanford Reach National Monument. Designed by Seattle architectural firm Jones & Jones, the Reach project will feature exhibitions about the plants and animals of the region; basalt flows and Ice Age floods; the people of the region; the Manhattan Project and B Reactor; and environmental stewardship.
A major feature of the Reach project will be connecting visitors with the water-based recreational and educational activities in the Mid-Columbia.
"The River is the main reference at all times as you move through the architecture and site. It's what binds it all together," said John Paul Jones, the project's Architect.
The Reach project, once constructed, is expected to serve 65,000 visitors per year.
"Tourism is an important component of the Tri-Cities' economy, and in order to continue to grow visitor spending it's imperative that we have attractions that not only bring people to the region, but to keep them here longer," said Kris Watkins, CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau.
"The Reach (project) is going to be a welcome addition to our existing portfolio, adding a cultural and heritage aspect that will support the goal of making the Tri-Cities a truly world class tourism destination," Watkins added.