Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced Saturday that the U.S. Senate approved a resolution containing his requests for up to $30 million in additional funding for the Blue Grass Army Depot.

The legislation is now on its way to the President George W. Bush for his signature.

Sen. McConnell, R-Ky, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured the funds for the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program at BGAD bringing the total funding level this year to approximately $430 million, representing the highest level of funding ever for ACWA.

“This funding will help ensure that the Department of Defense complies with the 2017 deadline for the safe disposal of the chemical weapon stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot,” McConnell said. “The elimination of these dangerous weapons is a top priority for me, and the people living near the facility can rest assured that I will fight until these heinous weapons have been eliminated.”

McConnell was responsible for enacting the mandated 2017 deadline last year.

“Everyone associated with the project is pleased,” said Craig Williams, director of the Berea-based Chemical Weapons Working Group. “Anytime there is an increase in the funding necessary to move forward, I think it shows a renewed sense of commitment by the Pentagon and the Congress. I also think it is a reflection of the pursuit of this project by Sen. McConnell.”

Of the $30 million, Williams said $10 million will come out of the military construction line item in the budget and will specifically be restricted for construction purposes at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

“The other $20 million is for the ACWA program, which captures the Kentucky and Colorado sites,” he said. “It’s unknown at this point in time as to what percentage of those funds will go to Colorado and what will go to Kentucky.”

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved the 2009 president’s budget request that included an additional $47 million in funding for chemical weapons destruction at the Blue Grass Army Depot and the destruction site in Pueblo, Colo.

However, the request issued by McConnell in February also had included an extra $20 million that is only to be used at the Richmond site.

There have been many strides made at BGAD since ground was broken at the construction site on October 28, 2006.

This year’s projects at the depot have included: placing underground utilities such as gas lines, storm drains and sewer pipes; erecting canopy covers to protect truck and car inspection areas at the access control building; installing concrete for the munitions demilitarization building and control support building; and constructing a substation for electricity distribution.

When operational, the facilities included in the destruction plant will be used to neutralize and render harmless the stockpile of chemical weapons that has been stored at the depot, some for as long as 60 years.

Bryan Marshall can be reached at bmarshall@richmondregister.com or 624-6691.

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