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In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to replace the old Plum Island Animal Disease Center off Long Island with a facility on the U.S. mainland to study Foot and Mouth Disease and other dangerous pathogens. Kansas won the job in 2008, with a site on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan.But today, more than three years later, the proposed $1.14 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility faces funding obstacles, safety questions, rising costs and political fallout. For Kansas and the Midwest, the stakes couldn’t be higher.Here you’ll find coverage and updates from Harvest Public Media, KCUR and Kansas Public Media.

All Eyes On NBAF Construction, Just No Cameras

The dirt’s far from settled at the construction site of the new home for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility— or NBAF — in Manhattan, Kan.

The $650 million lab will have the highest security designation — Level 4 — and will replace Plum Island Animal Disease Center. That’s the facility off the coast of New York that for the last half century has studied the most hazardous foreign animal diseases. The Department of Homeland Security says the new 30-acre building will be a state-of-the-art bio-containment facility that will infuse billions of dollars into a state’s economy.

But the federal government has only appropriated $40 million for the facility and additional safety questions have been raised.

For a host of possible reasons, there are a lot of eyes on the place… as in security guard eyes.

I was in Manhattan recently to work on some upcoming stories and thought I’d check out the construction progress. The facility is years away from completion (target: 2018), so I wasn’t exactly expecting much.

Sure enough, it was largely a dirt lot with big equipment sitting around waiting to be used. But I wanted to snap a few pictures because we plan to track the facility’s progress.

As soon as I raised my camera, a Department of Homeland Security guard came my way. Apparently, taking pictures of the NBAF grounds from the public sidewalk isn’t allowed. I put my camera away but was still watched like a hawk by guards on all sides of the construction as I walked around.

The interesting thing about it, the lot is right on a main street on the outskirts of the Kansas State University campus — not exactly private viewing. However, Homeland Security is certainly no group to mess around with. According to one of the guards, they’re posted at the construction site 24/7.

For more NBAF coverage, visit KCUR's Tracking NBAF page.

Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR, is a collaborative public media project that reports on important agriculture issues in the Midwest. Funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Harvest Public Media has reporters at six NPR member stations in the region. To learn more, visit www.harvestpublicmedia.org, likeHarvestPublic Media on Facebook or follow @HarvestPM on Twitter.

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