Army Releases EIR On Ft. Irwin Airfield

(July 17)  FORT IRWIN—In its environmental impact statement on a proposal to construct a landing strip capable of accommodating C-17 cargo planes at Fort Irwin National Training in the Mojave Desert north of Barstow, the U.S. Army maintains adequate mitigation of adverse impacts would be carried out.
“Measures would be implemented to ensure that adverse environmental impacts of construction and operation of the preferred alternative would be avoided or minimized,” the executive summary of the environmental impact report states. “These measures would be incorporated into the final design, implemented by the construction contractor and/or operations contractor (if used), and included in the contract documents.”
According to the Army, “The purpose of the proposed action is to construct a C-17 capable flight landing strip with adequate maximum-on-ground parking, length, and associated infrastructure to support the objectives of Joint Forcible Entry training. This special use facility would support airfield seizures and lodgement expansion training.”
The summary continues, “The proposed action is needed to satisfy identified training needs and to allow maximum flexibility to provide realistic training scenarios. Training requirements for the National Training Center are described in the Department of the Army Combat Training Center Master Plan. The installation does not have facilities to accommodate joint airfield and drop zone training. Although the National Training Center has potentially more usable drop zones than any other installation in the U.S., airborne units and air mobile brigade combat teams (BCTs) have to train for these missions at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana. However, Fort Polk lacks the capability to integrate joint airfield and drop zone training with heavy BCTs for lodgment expansion training. The lack of an airfield at Fort Irwin with associated training infrastructure limits the scope of realistic training scenarios that can be designed at the NTC.”
The size of the air strip and its surrounding area to be impacted by the development is quantified as 445 acres in the report. Work on the project is to begin this year and the strip is to be fully operational in 2015.
The airfield would be capable of landing both C-130 and C-17 aircraft. It could also be used by Army and Marine Corps helicopters. The Army anticipates up to four training sessions at the facility per year.  Aircraft take-off and landing would be made by roughly 10 to12 C-130 and C-17s per training exercise.
While the environmental impact report acknowledges some alteration of the terrain, it asserts there will be “no impact” on flora and fauna, including any endangered species.
The report listed the plants and animals observed to be living on or near the project site, including rare and threatened or endangered species. Plants growing in the area of the project included wire lettuce, false wooly daisy, turpentine broom, Mojave aster, goldenhead, Indian ricegrass, frost mat, Cooper’s dogweed, bursage, cheesebush, devil’s lettuce, freckled milkvetch, allscale, spinescale, saltbush, red brome, Booth’s suncup, yellow cups, brown-eyed primrose, Fremont pincushion, rattlesnake weed, brittle spineflower, spiny herb, forget-me-not. coyote melon, tansy mustard, Nevada tea, desert five-spot, flatcrown buckwheat, desert trumpet, redstem stork’s bill, Texas stork’s bill, desert poppy. broad-flowered gilia,. sticky snakeweed. Pima ratany. lilac sunbonnet, creosote bush, desert alyssum, desert calico, Arizona lupine, desert lupine, water jacket, desert dandelion, whitestem blazingstar, purple mat, hole-in-the-sand plant, roundleaf oxytheca, notch-leaved phacelia. distant phacelia, desert chicory, bag bush, Russian thistle, desert senna, Mediterranean grass and desert mallow.
Animals and insects observed at or near the project site included the Arizona blister beetle, coachwhip, harvestor ant, plant bug, desert swallowtail, cliff swallow, desert horned lizard, long-nosed snake, desert cottontail, darkling beetle, common side-blotched lizard, painted lady, grasshopper, antelope ground squirrel, dragonfly, bee, Bell’s sparrow, burro, bee flies, zebra-tailed lizard, western shovel-nosed snake, western whiptail lizard, common raven, sidewinder, horned lark, long-nosed leopard lizard, tarantula hawk, white-lined sphinx moth, black-tailed jackrabbit, desert cottontail, kangaroo rats, pocket mice and field mice, desert woodrat, Botta’s pocket gopher, kit fox, grey fox, coyote, bobcat, and mountain lion, ground squirrel, whitetailed antelope squirrel,  black-throated sparrow, rock wren, roadrunner, yellow-rumped warbler, Hutton’s vireo, cliff swallow, ruby-crowned kinglet and white-crowned sparrow, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, golden eagle and prairie falcon, burrowing owl and barn owl, desert iguana, chuckwalla, gopher snake, western patch-nosed snake, blind snake, and ground snake.
The report noted threatened or special status species in the area, though it maintained they would not be harmed by the project. Those plants were the Lane Mountain milk vetch, the Mojhave Fishhook cactus, Clokey’s cryptanthe, mariposa lily and the desert cymopterus. The endangered fauna are the desert tortoise, the golden eagle, loggerhead snake and the Mohave ground squirrel.
A letter addressed to various Indian tribal and reservation officials states that there are a total of eight archaeological sites and 84 isolated finds located within the project area and immediately outside of it. The report said these sites are not in the direct construction zone of the project.
The report states that there will be some soil erosion and dust generated as well as usage of water and the generation of noise during the construction phase, and that the operation of fixed and rotary wing aircraft will result in winds that will stir up dust once operations at the facility begin.
The 278-page report can be viewed at
Public comments with regard to the project can be submitted to John Baker, Fort Irwin Director of Public Works, Environmental Division, Building 602, P.O. Box 105085, Fort Irwin, CA 92310-5085.

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