by Pam Zubeck
While most media last week breathlessly reported that the Army favors Fort Carson for a new combat aviation brigade (CAB), which local boosters say will bring 2,700 more troops and a 120 helicopters, others weren't very happy about it.
First, The Pueblo Chieftain reported the announcement of Fort Carson as the preferred site would intensify the disagreement over expansion of Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, which the Army has been pushing but which landowners in that area oppose.
The Chieftain reported:
Not 1 More Acre! is an opposition group that successfully sued the Army over an environmental study intended to justify a heavier training schedule at Pinon Canyon. The Army's analysis and decision to ramp up training were both set aside by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch in September 2009. Matsch called the environmental study inadequate.
The group filed comments with the Army in January that any study of using the helicopter brigade at Pinon Canyon would defy Matsch's decision that the Army had not met the regulatory requirements to justify more training activities at Pinon Canyon.
"We're alarmed that despite the order by US District Court Judge Matsch 19 months ago prohibiting expanded training at Pinon Canyon - and with a comprehensive funding ban in Congress prohibiting any expansion at Pinon Canyon - the Pentagon and its contractors are proceeding," said Jim Herrell, a board member of the group.
The Environmental Impact Statement says, "CAB stationing actions that will affect PCMS will not change existing PCMS land use classifications, and will not pose a conflict with adjacent land uses. Increased maneuver training will not result in significant cumulative impacts to land use."
Second, local activist Bill Sulzman has analyzed the EIS and says the Army really didn't respond to specific concerns about the use of the 16 Pike National Forest landing sites. In response to those concerns, the EIS said, "Please note, as explained in the above response to comment #3, there would be no change to the use of National Forest System lands for mountain/high altitude military helicopter training as analyzed in the 2007 Environmental Assessment."
Says Sulzman in an e-mail:
"This assertion is contradicted by another portion of the statement which says that no more than 1/3 of the additional training of the helicopter brigade will be at Pinon Canyon Manuever site. Simple math shows that 2/3 of the additional training will be at Fort Carson with much additional use of the Forest Service (land zones.)."
"All the individual letters in opposition were well stated and summarily brushed off with a 'thank you'," he writes, noting that support letters were "pure boosterism," including one from the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments regional planning agency.
Local economic development and government folks are excited to get more people moving here to spend money by buying goods from local merchants, homes from realtors, cars from dealerships, etc., which all feeds local sales tax coffers. In addition, the CAB would require more than $200 million in construction on post, meaning temporary construction jobs.
The EIS reports the CAB would add about 61,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, not counting the amount added by the new troops' living accommodations. But the report downplays that, saying, "There should be no net gain of carbon emissions. The aircraft are already flying somewhere and adding these carbon emissions to the global mix. For a CAB to be built, the emissions will be added to the global production of GHG (greenhouse gas). To put this in perspective, the 87,989.7 tons of C02 represent 0.000013 percent of the U.S. emissions total."
Check out the EIS for yourself here.