RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Critics of the proposal to build the Homeland Security biodefense lab in Granville County take most of the blame for North Carolina not winning the project. But that’s a one-sided view from the agency that made the selection.

Proponents of the projects have said that the federal bureaucracy should share in that blame. On that point, they are in agreement with the site critics, who numbered among their ranks concerned citizens and politicians at local, state and federal levels.

Their mutual point: The feds were not forthcoming in answering concerns – environmental and security heading the list – raised about the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. After all, who wants hoof-and-mouth and anthrax disease going on in their backyards or anywhere close to their water supply (Falls Lake).

In the Jay Cohen, the undersecretary for science and technology at Homeland Security who led the site selection process, noted the critical comments heard at public meetings.

But how else were people supposed to air their concerns and ask their questions if not at these public sessions? Numerous politicians complained that Homeland Security wasn’t answering questions submitted through other channels, either.

As we have noted numerous times, a Homeland Security spokesperson told months ago that the area’s “no” message had been received loud and clear.

What about Homeland Security’s lack of cooperation?

Surely the feds didn’t expect the region to accept the project without question simply because of the money ($450 million) and hundreds of jobs at stake?

Let’s revisit what Cohen wrote:

“However, the (N.C.) Umstead Research Farm Site experienced strong local opposition to the NBAF with limited federal, state, and stakeholder support.

“The well-organized and vocal opposition group to the NBAF grew to such a level that some federal and state-level representatives withdrew their original support for the project.

“Additionally, numerous negative comments about the project were received at public meetings.”

He made similar comments about opposition to the site under review in Georgia.

Advocates of the project in North Carolina also seemed to be unprepared for objections to the project. A plan late in the review process to launch a public education program about the lab foundered when backers and the Golden LEAF economic development group in Rocky Mount couldn’t agree on terms under which LEAF would provide funding.

But North Carolina’s best chance had already passed by that point. Despite leading the scoreboard of Homeland Security criteria midway through the process, the N.C. bid failed.

A site near Manhattan, Kan., prevailed in Homeland Security’s review process.

Backers of the project in N.C. hopefully will review what happened and consider ways to better handle a similar project in the future. But they aren’t the only ones who could learn from what happened in the case of the NBAF.