Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Finding of No Significant Impact

24-AH 64 "Apache" helicopters
The Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of the Army (DOA) announced two public meetings next week to discuss their plans to issue yet another Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 238,000 acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS) in southeastern Colorado. 
The Department of Defense has spent more than a decade implementing plans to expand the PCMS through additional training, intensified use, expanded operations and land acquisition. Every internal military planning document obtained by Not 1 More Acre! has insisted that the PCMS in its current size can neither meet mission requirements nor sustain the environment to meet multi-force training requirements.
By contrast, the Army's recent public statements have all reversed those positions and indicate that use of the existing Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is able to satisfy all mission and environmental requirements without causing any significant impacts.  
These later conclusions were presented without supporting data, are completely at odds with the Army's previous positions, and are false.

The Department of Defense and Department of the Army cannot meet its maneuver training requirements at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site without causing irreversible degradation and total destruction to PCMS and the region (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas), which is located on fragile shortgrass prairie at the headwinds of the 1930's Dust Bowl.
In fact, Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is not capable of sustaining any military training. Instead, military impacts on shortgrass perpetuate another national environmental disaster that has the potential to wipe out the Southern Great Plains only eighty years after government policy led to the Dust Bowl.
DOD's environmental analysis of impacts to Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site by the new Heavy Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) is typical.  DOD found there would be no significant impact from operating and maneuvering the $3.9 billion integrated electronic weapons system on the last native shortgrass prairie in all the American Great Plains kept by generational ranchers. 
The Heavy CAB includes two attack reconnaissance battalions, an assault helicopter battalion, a general support aviation battalion, and an aviation support battalion.  
The attack reconnaissance battalions consist of 48 AH-64 Apache helicopters. The AH-64 is armed with a 30-millimeter chain gun, and it can carry up to 16 laser-guided Hellfire missiles and 76 rockets (in pods of 19 rockets each).   
The AH-64D can employ radar-guided Longbow Hellfire missiles and Longbow fire control radar ("FCR"). A single FCR-equipped Longbow Apache is reportedly able to control Longbow Hellfire missiles carried by AH-64D aircraft that are not equipped with radar sensors.
Apache Longbow Block III helicopter pilots have controlled the payload and flight path of a Gary Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (drone) while both aircraft were airborne.   
The new Heavy Combat Aviation Brigade assault battalion consists of approximately 30 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, which are the Army's second-largest helicopter at more than 20,000 pounds Maximum Take Off Gross Weight ("MTOGW").  
The general support battalion consists of 12 CH-47 Chinook helicopters (the largest aircraft in the Army's aviation fleet at 50,000 lbs MTOGW) and five specialized Blackhawk helicopters.

Army says there will be no significant impacts from the 113 helicopters assigned to the Heavy CAB to operate somewhere between an average of 4,960 and 7,652 hours at PCMS. That's not all. According to Army documents, the CAB's Full Spectrum Operations Training Strategy will schedule 8,539 aviation hours at PCMS. Nearly one-half of all flying hours are expected to be flown by the AH-64 Apache attack aircraft.
The Heavy CAB is equipped with at least twelve of the Army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones. The Gray Eagle is an upgrade of the MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with a more powerful engine and larger payload. Each Gray Eagle weighs about 3,600 pounds and can carry up to four Hellfire missiles.
Add 600 - 700 electronically integrated manned and unmanned ground vehicles to the Combat Aviation Brigade DOD determined has no significant impact on the environment and rural economies at the headwinds of the Dust Bowl.  
Fort Carson is only one of many DOD users of Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site and the CAB is only one of many complex weapons systems DOD is operating there.  The new EIS will pile on more. 
The environmental analysis and public disclosure strategy designed by DOD, its contractors and politicians is crafted to trick the public into believing that impacts will be insignificant and wear opponents down with relentless and endless public comment opportunities that consume unreasonable amounts of time and money.
But if we don't speak out the only guarantee is that for a second time in a hundred years we the people will allow our government to bury the Southern Great Plains in dust.  
DOD and its contractors must be stopped at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, Colorado.  It will take each one of us to grow the campaign to stop the them.  We can. 
Represent a challenge to everything that is wrong with politics and governance in this country today. Tell the Pentagon to stop. 
People across southeastern Colorado will speak out at the meetings.  Join us.  
Tell DOD what you think by clicking the link:

PCMS weather
Dust Storm Warning: Urgent - Issued April 29 at 10:45A MDT weather message national weather service. dust storm warning remains in effect until 7 pm mdt this evening... ... areas of blowing dust will create rapid changes in visibility...with visibility below one quarter mile at times. precautionary/preparedness actions... a dust storm warning means severely limited visibilities are expected with blowing dust. travel could become extremely dangerous. persons with respiratory problems should make preparations to stay indoors until the storm passes. a high wind warning means a hazardous high wind event is expected or occurring. sustained wind speeds of at least 40 mph or gusts of 58 mph or more can lead to property damage


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