BOISE, Idaho — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and other statewide elected officeholders approved a land transfer Tuesday necessary to begin an Idaho veterans cemetery in Blackfoot.
The four officials on the Idaho Land Board unanimously agreed transferring 40 acres (161874 sq. meters) from the state Department of Health and Welfare to the state Division of Veterans Services.
State and federal officials have spent the past four years examining various sites throughout eastern Idaho trying to find a location for a second state veterans cemetery. The first cemetery opened in Boise in 2004 — which now serves as the final resting place for roughly 6,500 servicemen and women.
However, the Division of Veterans Services announced in December it had found a location in Blackfoot adjacent to a state mental hospital, known as State Hospital South. The vacant lot was being leased by the Department of Health and Welfare for agricultural production.
The cemetery project is expected to cost $8.3 million. Dependent on the state receiving a $7.5 million federal grant sometime this year, construction on first phase of the cemetery project — which would develop about half of the 40-acre (161874 sq. meter) lot — could begin as early as September. With the federal government taking up the majority of the construction expenses, the state will be in charge of preservation and maintenance.
According to the state, the proposed Blackfoot cemetery will serve approximately 23,000 eastern Idaho veterans and their families.
Currently, Idaho does not have a veterans national cemetery. Officials announced last year that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it had purchased 8 acres (32375 sq. meters) in Buhl to be a national cemetery.