Environment News Service (ENS)

Army Expansion to Impact Air, Water, Traffic, Noise, Wildlife, Energy

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

TUCSON, Arizona, September 21, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Army projects potentially significant environmental consequences from its planned five year expansion for bases in the United States, particularly in the western states.

The impacts are detailed in a newly released Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, PEIS, analyzing the addition of some 30,000 combat support troops and growing the Army by up to six active duty combat brigades. This expansion is planned for the next five years through Fiscal Year 2013.

The Army has selected 17 installations for consideration of growth 'scenarios,' with each option assigned a matrix of potential damaging effects ranging from air pollution to drains on water supplies to noise and air traffic congestion.

Eleven of the 17 installations are west of the Mississippi.

In the West, the bases slated to receive at least 1,000 more soldiers and expanded operations are: Fort Hunter-Liggett and Fort Irwin, California; Fort Bliss and Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Lewis and Yakima Training Center, Washington; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.

In the East, the bases scheduled for expansion are: Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and Fort Riley, Kansas.

The upper range scenario in the Army draft PEIS involves stationing 'multiple' brigades totaling 7,000 additional soldiers.

That upper range scenario would cause 'high' adverse effects for air pollution, soil erosion, water usage, energy consumption, threatened or endangered wildlife, noise, air or surface traffic in some combination for virtually every installation, the impact statement says.

In some instances, the adverse effects were assessed as 'very high' meaning that the impact could not be avoided through some possible mitigation.

'Unfortunately, the Army is under no legal obligation to minimize its global warming pollution or harm to the environment and public health, but it has a moral responsibility to do so,' said Daniel Patterson, Southwest director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a national assocation of workers in natural resources government agencies.

'The issue for U.S. leaders is how much more pollution, water loss, soil erosion, noise and congestion it will force on Americans when authorizing and funding Army programs,' Patterson said.

In related actions, the Army wants to expand western bases at Fort Carson in central Colorado and the Yuma Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona.

Withdrawals of large areas of land from public use for the expanded bases are proving controversial in both states, and Congress has already acted to shelve the Fort Carson expansion.

Expansion plans for Yuma Proving Grounds have yet to be detailed, but preliminary indications are that as many as 500,000 acres of federal lands may be withdrawn from public use.

'In the West, there are growing conflicts between the military's desire to claim larger landscapes for war games and weapons development, versus shrinking wildlife habitat and burgeoning recreation demands,' Patterson said. 'The Army cannot be the sole arbiter of the amount of environmental damage it will impose on America's people, lands, air, water and wildlife. Congress, the public and civilian oversight agencies need equal involvement.'

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