At tonight’s Council meeting, we plan to add an item to the agenda about sending a letter with City’s comments on the proposed development at the Beltsville BARC facility. Please see the draft comments below. You may also send your own comments about the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) here on the project’s website. The deadline to send written comments is December 21st.
The City of College Park is located southwest of the proposed project but outside of the study area for the DEIS. The College Park City Council is concerned that our community will experience impacts from the project that have not been studied or addressed. Our concerns are described below.
Traffic and Transportation
The impact of additional traffic on already heavily congested local roads is a major concern. The DEIS studies 15 intersections identified in the local region of influence (ROI) and finds that several of them will have failing levels of service (LOS). Other intersections in the study area will have failing and increased queue lengths. It neglects, however, to consider the likely impacts on other nearby roadways. Arterials such as MD 193, US Route 1, and Kenilworth Avenue have not been adequately studied. These roads are already highly congested and will be used by employees living in nearby neighborhoods to reach the project site. The local ROI should be extended west to US Route 1 and south to MD 193 to capture the signalized intersections along these routes for analysis. The most recent traffic data from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) should be utilized.
The traffic problem will be further exacerbated if the FBI Headquarters moves to Greenbelt, which is a possibility that could be revived with the new administration.
Additionally, the proposed site is not directly accessible by public transportation. It is encouraging that the DEIS recommends exploring Metrobus routes to serve the Project Site. Additionally, dedicated shuttles from the Greenbelt Metro should be evaluated. The extension of the Green Line to the Muirkirk MARC station or even further north could significantly mitigate the proposed increase in traffic congestion.
Streams and Waterways
The College Park area has three streams that will be impacted by the project: Indian Creek, Little Paint Branch and Paint Branch. As many neighborhoods in the City lie within the 100-year floodplain, the increases in impervious surface from the project and changes to groundwater and hydrology, elevate the risk for increased flooding. The BARC is home to several watersheds including the Indian Creek and Upper Beaverdam Creek. The DEIS states that there will be permanent fill of 0.94 acres of wetlands and 0.65 acres of wetland buffer, as well as the potential for increased stormwater volume and runoff, sedimentation, and soil contamination. The potential impacts to these watersheds need to be considered in detail to show the impacts on local streams. Additional floodplain modeling for this watershed must be done at this time to understand the full impacts and offer mitigation strategies. It cannot wait until later in the design phase. We are also concerned that local water quality will be degraded and endanger aquatic biota in the streams that cannot tolerate warmwater conditions.
The area around the proposed site is a prime nesting spot for certain bird species, and BARC has been studying some of these for many decades. The loss of undeveloped land with the construction of one million square feet of new development will have a negative impact on these bird species. Further study is needed to evaluate these impacts and to recommend minimization practices that can be implemented.
The DEIS is not clear about the energy sources to be used in the facility. The use of solar and geothermal should be prioritized. The DEIS should also include information on waste produced and how this waste will be managed at the facility. It should describe options for recycling, and specific processes to ensure that hazardous waste is kept separate from normal waste with appropriate safeguards in place for disposal, monitoring and tracking.
Also, the DEIS needs to include the water and sewer requirements for the facility and the impact on the existing system. It should include information on any special systems required to handle the by-products of the printing and engraving process to ensure that chemicals or other toxic by-products are not entering the sewer system.
In general, more information is needed on the overall environmental impact of the 24-hour operation of the proposed facility, especially regarding lighting and heavy truck requirements. A minimum of LEED Silver certification of the facility is imperative.
Impact on BARC
We are concerned about the potential negative impact on BARC as an institution given its stature as a premier agricultural research facility with paramount importance to our country and farm economy. The research done at BARC has been, and is why, the United States is a leader in food production and agricultural innovations.
Please take the City of College Park’s expressed concerns into consideration as the agency moves forward with the Final DEIS. Thank you for your consideration.