Sandwich and National Guard Hold Gun Range Forum

SANDWICH – Sandwich selectmen recently held a forum with the Massachusetts Army National Guard, including a presentation detailing their plans to create a large multi-purpose machine gun range at Joint Base Cape Cod.

The presentation was followed by a questions and answers portion for attendees.

During the presentation, representatives of the National Guard addressed concerns from the public regarding the range, including environmental and groundwater contamination and noise pollution.

According to Jake McCumber, National Resources and Training Lands Manager for Camp Edwards, an environmental mitigation plan developed with and approved by MassWildlife established a funding requirement from the federal government that nearly doubled their annual budget for wildlife monitoring and habitat restoration.

McCumber said MassWildlife affirmed their plan provided a “net benefit and overall positive outcomes a whole suite of State listed animals and their habitats.”

Camp Edwards Base Commander Colonel Matthew Porter cited a 2015 study by the EPA to ease concerns about metal pollutants at the base.

“In 2015, the EPA has come over and made a decision that groundwater contamination is not caused by small armed range metal constituents,” said Porter, “which is what we’re concerned about, both lead and copper.”

“Right now we’re only concerned with copper because we aren’t firing lead anymore.”

The representatives also listed practical matters, as alternative ranges designated for training would force guardsmen to travel long distances to fulfill U.S. Army requirements.

The guardsmen present also invited the public to guided tours of the camp and the proposed range, which are held on Fridays.

The presentation received a mixed response from those of the public who were present.

During the Q&A portion, some attendees expressed qualms about the transparency and reliability of the studies performed by the National Guard, as well as the accessibility of relevant data.

Additional concerns were raised such as the planned removal of roughly 170 acres of trees to make way for the range, effects of the copper used in ammunition on the surrounding environment, the potential for noise pollution at nearby neighborhoods and schools, and the National Guard’s approach to tackling climate change on Cape Cod.

“We are charged with protecting the habitat as well as the groundwater, those are our two charges, but we always consider climate change,” said Porter.

“We’re mandated to do so.”

Another meeting is scheduled to take place at the Falmouth Select Board on Thursday, August 26 at 6 p.m. at Falmouth High School.


Written by Matthew Tomlinson

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