Interior secretary tours refuge at former arsenal |

Interior secretary tours refuge at former arsenal

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

COMMERCE CITY ” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stood by a lake with flocks of Canada geese honking in the background Friday to promote a Denver-area national wildlife refuge as a beneficiary of the economic stimulus bill moving through Congress.

Salazar, whose department oversees national refuges, said the $819 billion bill could help fund a $7 million visitor center for the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, create some 120 jobs there and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. About $4 million already has been raised for the project.

“It is a project that’s shovel-ready. It’s ready to go,” said the former U.S. senator from Colorado.

The Interior Department and other federal agencies will give priority to projects ready to go when allocating funds from the stimulus package, Salazar said.

The U.S. House has approved the $819 billion bill. The Senate is working on its own version.

Salazar met a busload of people, including Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, whose district includes the arsenal, on a tour before talking to reporters at the lake.

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is a former Superfund site. The Army started manufacturing chemical weapons in 1942 at the 27-square-mile arsenal 11 miles northeast of Denver. Shell Oil produced pesticides and other chemicals there until 1982.

As Colorado attorney general, Salazar helped negotiate an agreement with the Army and other parties to clean up contamination at the arsenal. Congress declared it a wildlife refuge.

During Salazar’s visit, a bald eagle was seen at the refuge, along with mule deer, coyotes and a herd of bison moved from another refuge.

It was the second day of a two-day Colorado trip for Salazar, who met with constituents and discussed his plans, including reforming the Minerals Management Service office in Lakewood where a sex-and-drug scandal was uncovered last year.

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