The U.S. Army announced last week the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCOE) at Fort Benning, Ga.
This statement evaluates the potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the shift to the MCOE.
Among the specific topics addressed in the document are construction, operation, facilities maintenance, personnel increases and training activities associated with proposed MCOE actions. Implementation alternatives labeled A, B, and C were also analyzed in he MCOE FEIS. Thirty days after the publication of the notice of availability of the MCOE FEIS, the Army will issue a Record of Decision announcing the selected alternative.
Alternative A is the Army's preffered alternative. It consists of 43 projects and entails cantonment (temporary quarters for troops) impacts, and maneuver and range development impacts to 10,045 acres total.
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Alternative B consists of 48 projects in the cantonment, maneuver and range areas and impacts 24,596 acres total.
The no action alternative, Alternative C, says that fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2013 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)/Transformation projects identified in the BRAC/Transformation Environmental Impact Statement are evaluated, but because the BRAC/Transformation actions have already been approved for implementation, regardless of the decision taken under MCOE Proposed Action, they are included in the no action alternative.
Alternative A, the Army's preferred alternative, would have significant impacts on cultural resources, soils, water resources, special status species (particularly the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, relict trillium and gopher tortoise), and Unique Ecological Areas (UEA). A plan to minimize the impacts to the Red-cockaded Woodpecker was developed through consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a MCOE release.
As expected, the MCOE will bring economic gains along with personnel and population growth to Fort Benning and the surrounding communities. The FEIS statement says that this growth could have a negative impact on a community not prepared to support such an increase, however. So, schools need to be built and on-post traffic congestion during peak hours needs to be abated. The latter concern is already being addressed by the re-opening of closed access control points across the installation and road expansions. Short-term construction emissions are also expected, however, it will not affect regional air quality in the long term, the MCOE release about the FEIS statement stated.
Noise will likely be a big issue as training activities increase and training areas move and expand, the release said. According to the MCOE release, 96 family housing complexes adjacent to Dixie Road will be affected by noise contours. Since post housing has been privatized through the Residential Communities Initiative (RCI), Fort Benning will have to work with RCI representatives to address the noise issue and come up with options to attenuate noise. Those issues will be analyzed in a separate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document. NEPA is an analysis conducted to evaluate an installation's disposal decisions in terms of the environmental impact, according to the United State Department of Defense Web site: http://www.defenselink.mil.
To view he MCOE FEIS, log on to http://www.hqda.army.mil/acsim/brac/nepa_eis_docs.htm.
The statement is also available at the following libraries:
Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library, Columbus Public Library, Harris County Public Library, Phenix City Public Library, Richland Public Library, South Columbus Branch Library, Fort Benning Main Post Library.