Officials on Joint Base Cape Cod have reacted to regional criticism over a proposed Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range by threatening to withhold financial support of local businesses. Soldiers training on the base will be directed to remain on base for all activities, notably meals, which means no patronizing area restaurants or other businesses.
In an email to Christopher Adams, co-chair of the Military-Civilian Community Council, dated Tuesday, June 1, Joint Base Cape Cod executive director Brigadier General (Ret.) Christopher M. Faux wrote that he will be recommending to the Adjutant General a conditional confinement for soldiers training on the base over the summer. The recommendation, Gen. Faux said, is due to a lack of local support for the proposed gun range.
The general said he will also issue a letter to all full-time employees on the base “identifying how this lack of community support could affect their jobs/positions.” The letter will recommend base employees “spend money on the other side of the bridge; showing the community the direct impact of the loss of their employment.”
“It truly saddens me to even consider taking these steps,” Gen. Faux wrote, “but I am more saddened by the lack of support from the businesses on Cape.”
Gen. Faux has since confirmed that the Adjutant General for the Army National Guard has rejected the proposal.
The email to Mr. Adams came two days ahead of a remote Zoom meeting of the Science Advisory Council on Thursday, June 3. The council approved the gun range, despite reservations expressed by members over potential environmental impacts.
The meeting included members of the advisory council, base officials and concerned residents. The session lasted more than four hours.
The council ultimately came to a unanimous opinion that the gun range meets current environmental performance standards. During the meeting, however, council members questioned whether enough research had been done into the impact on the environment of copper ammunition, as well as the clear-cutting of the thousands of acres of forested land to create the gun range.
The gun range project would be located on a section of the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve. It would consist of eight different firing lanes that are 800 meters long. Up to 170.5 acres of tree clearance and 199 acres of land disturbance will be needed for the range. Approximately 5,197 acres will be required to accommodate the Surface Danger Zones, the area where projectiles could fall.
The project is projected to cost $11.5 million.
Recently, the National Guard Bureau released a Finding of No Significant Impact report on the proposed range. The report concluded that “implementation of the proposed action would not have a significant impact on the quality of the human or natural environment.”
In his email, Gen. Faux noted that the Army National Guard has “scientifically proven without question that our project will not only have no impact on ground water quality but will positively impact listed species and their respective habitats.”
“Yet the only folks that speak up are naysayers, activists and anti-military groups,” the general wrote. “They are the only ones contacting the delegation and swaying opinions against our project.”
In a letter to Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker, Jr., Andrew R. Gottlieb, executive director of the Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod, wrote that the actions suggested by Gen. Faux, to deny local businesses of financial support from people on the base is “highly inappropriate.”
In his letter, Mr. Gottlieb pointed out the concerns voiced by the advisory council, noting that members “unanimously agreed that the existing environmental performance standards were out of date and not suited to review a project of this nature.”
Mr. Gottlieb also pointed out that, under the 2002 law that created the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve, the base could only hold training “that is compatible with the protection of the water supply and wildlife habitat on the reserve.” He argued that the gun range proposal “fails to substantiate the claim of a Finding of No Significant Impact” and called for the governor to prevent construction of the range.
“This project does not meet the requirements of state law and should be denied by the state’s Environmental Management Commission,” he said.