Base Commander Discusses Gun Range with Falmouth Select Board

FALMOUTH – Massachusetts National Guard representatives from Joint Base Cape Cod agreed to hold more public meetings and outreach efforts in the coming weeks on their proposed machine gun range during a recent meeting with Falmouth Select Board members. 

Base Commander for Camp Edwards Colonel Mathew Porter gave an update on the project to board members.

He said the project has received a finding of no significant impact under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act as well as been confirmed by the Science Advisory Council to be compliant with Environmental Management Commission protections. 

The commission was established to protect the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve, just above which the proposed machine gun range would be built. 

Porter said that the project is still waiting on an EMC Community Advisory Council Meeting, which still has open seats not yet appointed by Governor Charlie Baker. 

The range would require the clear cutting of about 170 acres of trees and would cost an estimated $11.5 million.

Porter said that the range would help improve training for soldiers, who currently must travel to a range out of state to receive necessary machine gun training.

“There are other ranges. There are ranges 200, 300, 400 miles away, and although that isn’t a large distance away, it is when you only have one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer in order to get the same training that an active component has 365 days a year to actually get done,” said Porter.

“We’d have to cancel weekends, combine weekends or day, so soldiers are gone longer away from families as well.”

Board Chairman Douglas Brown said that some of the public outcry about the project stems from much of the environmental studies having been done in-house by the National Guard, and that those against the project would want more scrutiny of the proposal from third party sources. 

Porter also said that the board could have access to environmental studies, which board members requested due to previous instances of environmental contamination on the base.

The colonel said that the base has handled the cleanup of previous contamination well, so much so that he said the public stopped coming to their briefings on its ongoing process, which was also the forum that the National Guard discussed much of the proposed machine gun range that took residents and local lawmakers by surprise.

“We had a feeling we had a lot of trust,” Porter said.

“It’s unfortunate because it’s hundreds of hours spent on briefings for the public that the public didn’t go to.”

Board member Megan English Braga said that although citizens have a responsibility to educate themselves, organizations still have a responsibility to reach out and make the public aware of big projects like the range. 

Porter said that the National Guard can set up another public meeting in the coming weeks, proposing the third week in July to gather the base’s experts on the proposed range to answer questions. 

He said that the National Guard would provide a tour and briefing of the site for board members, as well. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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