JOINT BASE CAPE COD, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — A number of questions and concerns remained unanswered about a proposed multipurpose machine-gun range after activists, community members and elected officials joined in a virtual meeting Thursday evening.

After listening to the presentations, Rosemary Dreger Carey said she had hoped the facts might be different or that her feelings toward the project would change.

"Sorry, they really haven't," Cary said, who added that she is not against Joint Base Cape Cod for training but against the machine-gun range being placed in an environmentally protected area.

"We've seen this rodeo before and don't want to see past mistakes," Cary continued. "We encourage folks to stay engaged with this issue."

About 200 people logged into the meeting hosted by Joint Base Cape Cod, which lasted about three hours.

The meeting began with a short presentation by representatives from the base, followed by four break-out sessions of 20 minutes each. The topics included why the machine-gun range is needed for training, regulatory requirements, habitat management and who the Environmental Management Commission is and why it was established, and the importance of groundwater testing.

After the break-out sessions, everyone joined back into the main session to discuss, comment and ask further questions about the proposed machine-gun range.

"This has not been a public process," Sheila Place said. Many people found out about the proposed project only after a small notice was placed in the Cape Cod Times about eight to 10 months ago, she said.

"If you would take a breath and engage the public, that would be a really good thing to do," Place said. "I've listened to you like it is a done deal and I really resent that."

The multipurpose machine-gun range, planned for the site of the base's existing KD, or "known distance" range, would cost $11.5 million.

More than 5,000 screws would be required to accommodate the operation, since it would include the area where projectiles fired on the range would land, based on the weapons and ammunition used. To create that space, the National Guard plans to clear 170 acres of forest and disturb about 199 acres of land.

The National Guard Bureau approved the project April 30 in an environmental study that found no significant impacts from the gun range.

The machine-gun range cannot move forward without the approval of the state's Environmental Management Commission, which will consider the study as part of its decision-making. The panel includes the commissioners of the state departments of Fish and Game, Environmental Protection and Conservation and Recreation.

Once the Environmental Management Commission approves the project, the Massachusetts National Guard will advertise, award and implement a species protection plan before beginning construction, Maj. Alexander McDonough said at the meeting.

"The (Environmental Management Commission) is the first and last input on a project and will continue to have oversight forever," said Michael Ciaranca, deputy director at the Environmental and Readiness Center on the base.

The Environmental Management Commission is set to have multiple meetings in June and July to discuss the project, Ciaranca said.

In the past year, community members, environmental activists and state and federal legislators have spoken out against the project.

Concerns include how the range would affect the region's aquifer and wildlife habitat, as well as the traffic and noise the range would generate.

An online petition set up by the environmental group 350Cape Cod to urge the Environmental Management Commission to veto the project has garnered close to 500 signatures as of Friday.

At the meeting, questions ranged from further details on the mitigation plan, why soldiers can't travel elsewhere for training, and what the greenhouse emissions will be from the project.

A few at the meeting voiced their support.

The people who take part in this training protect the country and there has already been significant work done in cleaning up the base, said Sharon Mitchell, who has a family member in the military.

"These men need to train for war," Mitchell said.

Jane Dumas-Otis agreed, saying she has had her drinking water in Bourne tested and it was clean. The environmental impact of this gun range, she said, is less than the clear-cutting of trees for solar panels, and less than the field of wind turbines recently approved to be built in Nantucket Sound.

Dumas-Otis said she wouldn't want any member of her family to go into battle without being trained.

"We owe it to our military," Dumas-Otis said. "Build the range."

(c)2021 Provincetown Banner, Mass.

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