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Interior Dept. gives final OK for MLK Memorial

By Ed O'Keefe

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed the permit allowing construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall Thursday. The official sign-off means the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation can start building the memorial, which will be located next to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and within sight of the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials -- one of the last prime spots left in the historic corridor.

“It is fitting and appropriate that we honor Dr. King’s extraordinary life and legacy with a memorial here on the National Mall, alongside the timeless landmarks of American democracy and freedom," Salazar said at the event on the National Mall. "May this sacred ground help us draw strength from Dr. King’s courage, dedication and sacrifice, and inspire us to always seek a more perfect union.”

Memorial foundation president Harry E. Johnson, Sr., King's sister Christine King Farris, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and other lawmakers joined Salazar at the event.

The National Capital Planning Commission gave its final approval for the memorial on Monday, clearing the way for Salazar's signature. Several concerns in recent years have almost derailed the entire project since the emotional groundbreaking in 2006. Critics panned the choice of a Chinese sculptor to design the memorial's design and the original sculpture was considered too "confrontational" by the Federal Commission of Fine Arts. The National Park Service also raised concerns about security and asked for security barriers, but critics said they would clash with King's sense of openness.

Now, the memorial should be completed by 2011.

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 29, 2009; 2:04 PM ET
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