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Big projects sought for chemical depot site

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The group overseeing redevelopment of a former Army chemical weapons depot in western Indiana is targeting major projects for the 11-square-mile property.

The Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority that formally took over the site last week is now marketing it as the Vermillion Rise Mega Park.

Reuse authority President Jack Fenoglio told Terre Haute Rotary members on Tuesday that the name refers to the rising up of new things from the depot.

"It is an industrial park, recreational park and hunting park," Fenoglio said. "The mega part represents the very large. Industrial developers who figure a mega site is 1,000 to 1,500 acres all in one piece. We think we have about three of those in place on the depot for three huge companies."

The Pentagon designated the 7,100-acre depot about 25 miles north of Terre Haute and 75 miles west of Indianapolis for closure in 2005. Destruction of the deadly VX nerve agent that was stored there was completed in 2008.

One possible project for the depot site is a 500-worker coal liquefaction plant first announced by Clean Coal Refining Corp., the Tribune-Star reported. The company has performed a feasibility study on using a 1,500-acre section of 4,200 acres designated for industrial development.

"Economic development is not sure until the bulldozer starts to move the dirt," Fenoglio said. "This deal is way up in the 90-percent range."

Planners have had disappointments since a deal fell through to attract military contractor Telic Corp., which planned to hire 500 workers for a manufacturing and development center at the Newport site.

The redevelopment plan calls for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to obtain 1,000 forested acres, with other sections set aside for farming and possibly hotels, restaurants and gas stations along Indiana 63 on the site's eastern edge.

Conservationists have opposed the plan, saying industrial development will destroy all but about 44 acres of the state's largest restored black-soil tallgrass prairie.

Fenoglio said one area of the depot property will be made into "a park with our own Stonehenge," with about 50 concrete pillars that were made with steel rebar and would cost millions of dollars to remove.

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