Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Disposal of Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, Johnson
Agency: General Services
Criterion for Council Involvement:
- This case is the subject of litigation concerning compliance with
Section 106 (Criterion 3).
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
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.
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
Posted March 21, 2001