Whitesburg KY
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Prison officials will be here to talk about site

A local volunteer citizens group appears much closer to reaching its goal of bringing a federal prison to Letcher County.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced this week it is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that is required by federal law before the “acquisition of property and construction of a new United States Penetentiary and Federal Prison Camp in Letcher County” can begin.

In a public notice appearing in this week’s edition of The Mountain Eagle, the Bureau of Prisons announces it is “initiating a 30-day scoping process to identify community concerns and local issues that will be addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement.”

“As part of the EIS public participation process, the Bureau will be holding an open house public scoping meeting to obtain input from the public on what should be studied in the EIS,” the notice says. “The meeting will be conducted using an open house format with informational display and materials available for public review. There will be no formal presentations. Bureau staff will be present at the open house to answer general questions on the proposed action and the EIS process. The meeting will be held between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., August 13 in the Letcher County Central High School cafeteria.”

This week’s announcement is welcome news to the Letcher County Planning Commission, a volunteer group of local leaders who have been working for several years to bring a new prison and the estimated 400 jobs associated with it to Letcher County, where the unemployment rate now stands at more than 17 percent.

Sites being considered for the prison are 584 acres at Roxana and 753 acres at Payne Gap. The plan to build the prison here has been in the works since 2006, when Congressman Hal Rogers — working with Planning Commission — secured $5 million in Congress to begin the planning process.

In April, Planning Commission Chairman Elwood Cornett told the Letcher Fiscal Court it is extremely rare for an Environmental Impact Study to be favorably concluded without a prison being approved.

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