Public officials speak out on Pinon Canyon Expansion

By Crystal Terrell

Lamar Daily News Staff Writer

In continued discussion regarding the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site Expansion a meeting was held on Friday night in La Junta at the Otero Junior College .

The meeting was the third in a series all in part of the Federal Environmental Review Process for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study.

Tom Warren, Director of Environmental Resources for the Fort Carson military base near Colorado Springs , opened the meeting. Warren addressed the meeting attendees by saying “We are doing this in accordance with the law,” said Warren .

“In this meeting tonight we're gonna take your comments,” said Warren as he noted to the area citizens and government officials “The Department of the army firmly does not have permission to consider or evaluate anything associated with the proposed expansion of Piñon Canyon or Fort Carson or anything else.”

Warren continued by saying that he understood the level of awareness and interest regarding the expansion.

According to Warren a request has been made to extend the comment period for the public, however Warren noted that the secretary of the Army would make the final decision as to the extension request.

Those who attended the meeting were greeted upon entrance to the college.

Attendees were asked to sign-in and to register to address those who attended.

A crowd of over 300 attended the meeting with many signing up to convey their heartfelt feelings on the expansion. Court clerk reporters were on hand to transcribe the meeting and remarks made by those who took to the podium.

Numerous government officials made comments and agency representatives from local, state and national government offices as well as many organizations spoke on behalf of their agency and personal opposition to the expansion.

Those attending the meeting included Dorothy Butcher, District 46 Colorado State Representative; Wes McKinley, District 64 Colorado State Representative; area political candidates John Albright, as well as Prowers County Commissioners Gene Millbrand and Leroy Mauch.

Comments from an audience member included the addressing of issues related to income in this area of the state. In the event that the plans proceed with the expansion the operation will affect the local agriculture economy by withdrawing revenues away from the southeastern Colorado region. The man continued by reflecting his view that the only region that will benefit will be the Colorado Springs area.

The comment seemed to set the tone of the meeting as to the clear opposition on the proposed expansion.

McKinley was the first government representative to address the attendees of the meeting. McKinley began by explaining the definition of “eminent domain” and ways, which the government has used eminent domain to seize property for progress such as the use of toll roads to take property.

“If we loose our right to keep our property then what do we have,” questioned McKinley before taking his seat.

As Millbrand made his way to the podium he began by advising the large crowd as to his own personal service in the military noting “I am a decorated Vietnam Vet.”

Millbrand stood firmly in his address commenting that as a government official he understood the role of government and that after serving in the United States Army he understood the significance of preparing the military troops to the best of their ability for the environment which they face going into battle.

Mauch reported to the crowd of his and his family's farming and ranching history in the Prowers County area. Mauch said, “We're a dying breed.” The Prowers County Commissioner ended by saying “Enough is enough!”

As the local residents, whose land is at risk of being seized in the process of eminent domain, took to the podium the passion on the topic elevated.

Heated comments and heart wrenching pleas were heard by those who simply “want the army to go away and leave them alone” noted one comment from the audience.

Numerous residents are awaiting the next process in the issues surrounding the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site Expansion. Public and Agency Review and comments will continue through November 27th or until an extension is made regarding the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study.

Those wishing to comment on the expansion can contact the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, Directorate of Environmental Compliance and Management, 1638 Elwell Street Building 6236, Fort Carson , Colorado , 80913-4000 . You may also reply by phone by calling (719) 526-0912, fax (719) 526-1705 or e-mail: .

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