WASHINGTON, July 14 /PRNewswire/ -- In a letter responding to allegations by Senator Bob Kerrey, American Battle Monuments Commission Secretary, Maj. Gen. John P. Herrling, USA (Ret) stated that environmental laws and regulations are being complied with regarding the World War II Memorial. "Environmental documentation for the WWII Memorial on the approved Rainbow Pool site is being prepared -- in accordance with pertinent provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)," Herrling wrote. ABMC contracted with the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental assessment and to prepare all appropriate documentation called for by NEPA and the reviewing authorities last October. "The Corps of Engineers is now awaiting decisions on the WWII Memorial design concept before completing the analysis," Herrling said. In keeping with their normal practice for memorials, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission have agreed to consider the design concept before the EA is completed. Presentation to these commissions is scheduled later this month. "With the design concept approved, we will come back to these same commissions with the environmental assessment and a preliminary design for their subsequent approval," Herrling said. "I cannot waste the money received from our many donors to complete an EA on a design concept that has not yet been approved," Herrling said. "Had we completed an EA as Senator Kerrey suggests, it may have already been invalidated by some of the design changes that have been made over the past few months." Some of the recent changes include raising the plaza from 15 feet to between six and seven feet below street level, reducing the width of the plaza by nearly 45 feet, deletion of a proposed auditorium and the addition of a waterfall. During its review of the design concept, the CFA and NCPC both have the option to recommend changes. Those changes could further affect the validity of an environmental assessment which is completed in cooperation with the National Park Service. "This has been a totally open process from the very beginning," Herrling said. "The site selection through the approving commissions took nearly nine months and was culminated with President Clinton dedicating the site on Veterans Day 1995." The open, national design competition also took nearly nine months. The more than 400 entries were displayed at the Mellon Auditorium here last month. "Keeping this process open to public scrutiny and adhering to all aspects of the law has put us behind schedule," Herrling said, "but a fully transparent and legal process is more important to us than meeting a target deadline." ABMC is an independent, executive branch agency which operates and maintains 24 permanent U.S. military cemeteries and 27 memorial structures in 15 countries around the world, including five memorials in the U.S. The commission is also responsible for establishment of other memorials in the U.S. as directed by Congress.
SOURCE American Battle Monuments Commission