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Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Kansas: Disposal of Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, Johnson County

Agency: General Services Administration

Criterion for Council Involvement:

  • This case is the subject of litigation concerning compliance with Section 106 (Criterion 3).

Recent Developments

In October 2000, the United States District Court found that it was premature to rule on litigation opposing transfer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant by the General Services Administration (GSA) for development of The Wonderful World of Oz theme park. However, the Court ordered GSA to provide it with monthly reports on its progress in complying with Section 106 and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Council staff is assisting the Department of Justice in its review of GSA's reports to the Court.

GSA has been working to identify Indian tribes that may wish to participate in Section 106 consultation. To date, one tribe has indicated interest in doing so. Meanwhile, the consulting parties are seeking consensus on what the next steps should be in the Section 106 review process.


The Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant is located near the city of DeSoto in Johnson County, Kansas, in an area that is now considered ex-urban Kansas City. At the time of the plant’s establishment in 1941, Johnson County was quite rural, yet was also close enough to the rail hub of Kansas City to be considered an ideal location for an ammunition plant that produced smokeless powder and other propellants.

The 9,065-acre site was last used for production in 1992 and was declared excess to the needs of the U.S. Army in March 1998. Shortly thereafter, GSA began the process of disposing of the property. Given its use as an industrial site, the property needs extensive environmental cleanup before it can be reused.

With the exception of a few large industrial buildings and numerous ammunition storage bunkers, the property presents an undeveloped, gently rolling topography typical of rural Kansas, and is surrounded by small farms and very low-density residential development. GSA and the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) have agreed that none of the manufacturing buildings are eligible for inclusion in the National Register. The only other building is an early 1900s cabin, adapted by the Army for use as a recreational facility, which has been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register.

Prior to occupation by Euro-american settlers, the property was inhabited and controlled by the Kansa Indians; other tribes who entered the area to hunt, trade or raid were the Pawnee, Omaha, Ponca and Osage tribes. At one point, the property was part of a Shawnee reservation. Early Euro-american settlement included three towns, the remains of which were demolished when the Army took over the property in 1941.

The Oregon-California Trail, and perhaps portions of the Santa Fe Trail, crossed the property. Archeological deposits from each of these periods of use and development may remain onsite. Archeological modeling has been done for almost half of the property, and areas with high probability for archeological sites have been identified. However, more than 5,000 acres have yet to be assessed.

GSA proposes to transfer the property to the State of Kansas, which, in turn, proposes to transfer it to the Oz Entertainment Company, which would develop The Wonderful World of Oz theme park on 702 acres. (For further information, visit the General Services Administration's Web site on the Sunflower property disposal transfer and the proposed theme park's Web site.)

The developer also would clean-up the contamination on the remainder of the property, redevelop part of it for residential and commercial purposes, and set aside nearly 2,500 acres for educational, park and recreation uses. This proposal has generated great concern among many local citizens, who worry that its development will generate significant off-site impacts that will disrupt their generally rural lifestyle.

After initiating consultation with the Kansas SHPO, GSA published an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact pursuant to NEPA in December 1999. This occurred even though Section 106 review had not yet been completed. This action and other concerns led a citizens’ group, Taxpayers Opposed To Oz (appropriately called TOTO), to file suit in Federal court, citing NEPA and Section 106 violations.

In March 2000, the Council entered consultation as GSA continued to seek closure for the Section 106 review process. A major issue in the consultation is how to complete identification of archeological resources, given GSA’s reluctance to do so.

Policy Highlights

This case highlights the difficulties faced by GSA in coordinating its NEPA and Section 106 requirements during the disposal of a very large installation, particularly when trying to meet a very aggressive time schedule within the context of great public interest and scrutiny. Of particular note in this case is the involvement of a State agency (other than the SHPO) and a local government in development decisions, and GSA’s need to consider off-site effects of development that will not be complete for more than five years.

Staff contact: Ralston Cox

Posted March 21, 2001

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