Engineering Firm Involved In Foxborough Power Plant Debacle Doing Army’s Fort Irwin EIR

The engineering firm the U.S. Army is relying upon to carry out the environmental assessment of its plan to expand its training facilities beyond the existing ones that are part of Fort Irwin was involved in a debacle with the City of Victorville over a decade ago which, initially at least, cost the city’s taxpayers $90 million.
The engineering firm of Carter and Burgess, which was later absorbed into the Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., a $10 billion dollar worldwide corporation, was responsible for a major set of faux pas relating to the City of Victorville’s efforts to outfit itself with electrical power plants that would be in place to ensure that industrial operations looking to locate into the industrial parks around the city as well as in and at the periphery of Southern California Logistics Airport would be able to operate.
That airport was built on the grounds of the former George Air Force Base, which the Department of Defense shuttered in 1992, and over which the City of Victorville had assumed control as the result of a bruising and expensive competition with the City of Adelanto in the mid-1990s. The Foxborough Industrial Park was one of the city’s planned industrial parks.
The Foxborough Power Plant project in Victorville’s Bear Valley Redevelopment Area was initially conceived as a method to provide low cost energy and steam to two incoming tenants at the Foxborough Industrial Park on the assumption that those companies, Nutro and ConAgra, required a total of between five and ten megawatts of power for their operations, and that the establishment of Nutro and ConAgra would in time lead to other companies setting up operations at Foxborough and elsewhere in Victorville. The city entered into a no-bid contract with Carter and Burgess, Inc., beginning in June 2004, to serve as a consultant with regard to design, develop, and construct a cogeneration power plant to service the energy needs of tenants at the Foxborough Industrial Park. City officials did not fully think the project through, and it was undertaken without a thorough assessment, by city officials or Carter and Burgess of the risks, and without first securing the full line of expertise to see the project to completion.
“Neither city management nor Carter and Burgess established a risk assessment, business plan, or formal budget,” the 2011-12 San Bernardino County Civil Grand Jury stated in its final report. “Without such planning, the city proceeded without clearly defined goals, milestones, or performance measures. In fact, the project was initiated with the broad objective of providing low cost power directly to tenants at the Foxborough Industrial Park without connecting to the California electrical grid system. However, toward the end of the project city management changed course and looked at options to connect the plant to the grid system.”
The grand jury said the project failed because of “dramatic growth” in its price tag.
“According to interviews with city officials, the Foxborough Power Plant project was initially estimated to cost the city approximately $17.5 million,” the grand jury report stated. “However, the costs of the project quickly rose to $22 million. In April 2005, approximately 10 months after the project commenced, the city council approved a $41 million bond issuance for the project. In June 2006, approximately two years after the initiation of the project and four months after the anticipated completion, the city council approved a second bond issuance that provided an additional $21 million in financing to Carter and Burgess. The final cost of the Foxborough Power Plant project topped $91 million with press accounts stating that over $95 million had been spent. Out of this amount, Carter and Burgess was paid approximately $8.2 million.”
The city was ill-served by Carter Burgess, the grand jury said, and was able to prove that in court.
“Due to a series of mishaps, including an overestimation of the power needs for certain tenants, multiple design revisions, and the failure of certain power generation equipment, the Foxborough Power Plant was never completed,” the grand jury report stated. “Following the cancellation of the construction project, the city initiated civil litigation against Carter and Burgess relating to the failure of the project. In December 2010 a Riverside County jury unanimously ruled in favor of the city and awarded Victorville $52,116,367 to be paid by the developer’s parent company. Despite the award of approximately $52 million, the city will still be left with approximately $40 million in losses.”
Carter and Burgess, which was subsumed by Jacobs Engineering Group, appealed the judgment award and lost.
More than a decade-and-a-half later, the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense have hired Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., which is active internationally and based in Dallas, Texas, to carry out an environmental assessment of the large-scale alterations it will be making to the Mojave Desert landscape that lies within 110,000 acres of federally owned land so that future maneuvers beyond the Army’s existing 753,537-acre National Training Center can spill over to it and take place there.
There is an international geopolitical dimension to what is occurring that goes beyond environmental considerations in California’s desert. The energetic development plan signals that after two decades of preparing U.S. warriors to fight terrorism and insurgencies and carry out operations to hold paramilitary-type terrorist cells in check, the United States Army is now preparing in the main to wage conventional warfare, cavalry to cavalry, division to division, military force to military force, traditional normal standing army to traditional normal standing army.
The battles envisioned in the future are not far removed from the large scale hostilities that took place mostly in Europe during World War II, but which were also evident during the Pacific campaign of World War II and in Korea in the early 1950s. There were few such large battles during the Vietnam Conflict, a many year-long engagement that consisted primarily of irregular warfare.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress enacted the “Fort Irwin Military Land Withdrawal Act of 2001,” the practical effect of which was to withdraw a significant portion of the public land in the Mojave Desert from  Bureau of Land Management oversight and provisionally – for a quarter of a century – transferred land use authority and other rights over the property to the U.S. military. For the most part and with only a few exceptions involving some large-scale troop landing and deployment maneuvers relating to Operation Enduring Freedom and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the land was not used in the way that had been envisioned. Now, however, the Army has awakened to the use the Mojave can be put to, and has asked Congress to authorize the extension of the 25-year license to use the property outlying Fort Irwin and the National Training Center.
The Army is now looking toward other enemies than terrorists, such as the growing standing army maintained by the People’s Republic of China, and U.S. war planners are intent on creating simulated battlegrounds such as the ones they might encounter in the decades ahead, so they can train U.S. troops in battleground tactics to be used in such a conflict.
Thus, some of the public land in the Mojave Desert in the greater Barstow area is to be converted into facilities to house troops that will be involved in war games. In some cases, those facilities will be obliterated at some point after they have been constructed. Nevertheless, that construction will take place, and such activity has an impact on the ecology and the environment.
Jacobs Engineering is awork ascertaining what changes to the desert environment will take place at Fort Irwin and in the adjoining desert, whether the improvements to be made, many of which will be destroyed using missiles, bombs, heavy duty fusillades and the like, will have no, a light, moderate, long-term, lasting or permanent impact on the desert’s ecosystem, which in some cases is hardy and in other cases delicate. Jacobs Engineering is looking into whether the construction and military activity, which is to be simulated with respect to actually killing troops on the ground but which will involve heavy and concentrated use of ordnance, bombing, the use of defoliants and incendiaries, will kill or do irreparable harm to vegetation and wildlife habitat.
The endangered desert tortoise is indigenous to the area in question.
There is no question among those knowledgeable about what the federal government is to undertake that some environmental damage and ecologic harm will come from the activities the Army is to carry out on that land.
Under federal law, national security considerations and the need for military preparedness trumps federal and state law relating to environmental concerns or those intended to prevent or offset ecological havoc. Nevertheless, the law provides for and the U.S. Government is intent upon cataloging what the anticipated actual damage the military’s use of the land in question will entail.
Within that catalog is an admission that there will be deleterious effects relating to the land itself, its soil, vegetation and wildlife, air quality and paleontological elements such as fossils and rocks as well as archeological resources such as artifacts and the like.
An unfinalized draft of Jacobs Engineering’s work acknowledges there will be moderate impacts on the vegetation growing on the desert floor in some areas and certain wildlife. The report minimized as negligible or nonexistent the threat the federal government programs will have on listed endangered species. Some of those species would see their habitat compromised but not destroyed, according to Jacobs Engineering. To a certain extent, the study says that some native plant species will be challenged by what is happening, both through direct damage and the possibility that the activity will introduce or otherwise boost non-native and invasive plant species into the area.
Most environmental impacts from the maneuver range expansion will be “less than significant,” according to Jacobs.
The U.S. Army’s activity in the area is necessary, Jacobs Engineering noted.
Army personnel already stationed at Fort Irwin will use the expanded National Training Center facility, as will other branches of the Department of Defense, including the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserve, and various arms of the federal government including the Treasury Department, Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.
Most notable and damaging in what will happen is the considerable uprating of firepower that will be brought to bear in simulating for trainees the actual conditions in a battlefield and combat situation. This will involve what is likely to be a massive collection of mechanized cavalry at the expanded training center, the deploying of tanks in simulated combat scenarios at a scope less than what occurred in North Africa during World War II, but which will nonetheless be as intensive of a gathering of the Army’s capability in this regard as has been demonstrated going back three generations.
Among the facilities to be constructed will be both above-ground and below ground communications and radar systems. While there is no marine life in the desert, extremely low frequency emanations, it has been alleged, do harm to marine mammals such as dolphins, whales and manatees.
Jacobs Engineering only gingerly dealt with the consideration and long-term damage implication of the soldiers at the expanded training center engaging in war games that will involve biological or chemical weapons. While the U.S. is conscious of the potential for an enemy of the present or future to rely on such weaponry as well as atomic, nuclear or radiological devices, it is not likely that the desert will be host to any atomic or nuclear weapon explosions or yield tests. Nevertheless, the possibility exists the Army or other branches will experiment with vectored radiation techniques.
Mark Gutglueck

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