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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For…

There are serious objections to be met, fears to be disarmed, and rash hopes to be crushed
William Ellery Channing, from The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

In 1997, Congressman William Delahunt was asked by the Cape Cod Times how his first year in office had gone, and what grand, bold scheme was in the future. Delahunt unveiled his plan to close the Massachusetts Military Reservation, a ‘Cold War Dividend’ and create a wildlife sanctuary. But we’d keep the Coasties! He liked them!

This vision was quickly embraced by anti-military zealots, notably the late Joel Feigenbaum, who decided the best way to eliminate the military was to use environmental laws against them. They had a certain degree of success – they even taught seminars on Vieques Island, near Puerto Rico, on how to shut down a military base. That effort was more successful, and the island is now destitute.

But Camp Edwards and Otis stubbornly hung on, even though the Marine Corps was forced from the Base in 1998. Legislative efforts to close the Base stalled, as a lease was held by the Pentagon on the land and they did not choose to leave. Constant complaint, constant demonstration, constant misrepresentation – these were the techniques of the base activists, determined to prove that the Base was the source of all pollution and disease on Cape Cod.

Then Sept. 11, 2001 happened. The Base suddenly wasn’t superfluous anymore.

Today, that same William Delahunt stands exasperated on the Steps of the Massachusetts State House, complaining that ‘his’ Otis Air National Guard Base is being closed.

Really, Massachusetts didn’t fare too badly with the Base Realignment and Closing Commission, called BRAC. A far-sighted Mitt Romney described to a group of startled Republicans last winter the relationship he had developed with his one-time opponent, Sen. Ted Kennedy. Together, they wandered the halls of Congress, visiting the Republican leadership, with Kennedy standing well behind Romney at first to prevent ashtrays from being hurled at his hoary head. They offered to make capital improvements to Hanscom, Natick Labs, and other Massachusetts bases in return for keeping them open. Of course, John Kerry never bothered to accompany them on these forays. This novel strategy worked well – and today, Hanscom will gain over 1,000 new jobs. Overall, Massachusetts will gain 471 new jobs at bases throughout the state – even with the 550 lost at Otis. Compare that with complacent Connecticut, which will lose thousands of jobs on bases because they thought they were immune.

Delahunt, Romney and Kennedy held their press conference at the State House today, and vowed to try to keep Otis, too – even though they know the BRAC is 90% certain, and they actually did pretty good. Kerry, as usual, was nowhere to be seen, even though the event was held only two blocks from his Louisburg Square home - absent from duty once again.

And Bill Delahunt finally got his wish. The Base will be closed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Source Material -

U.S. Rep. Delahunt suggests conversion of base

By Williams Mills
Cape Cod Times Staff Writer
Camp Edwards, where members of the military have trained for 85 years, might better serve the citizens of Cape Cod if it were closed, U.S. Rep. William Delahunt has suggested.
In a letter to Gov. William F. Weld, Delahunt wrote, ``The presumption here seems to be that military training can and should still occur at Camp Edwards.
``Under the current circumstances,'' he told Weld, ``and with all that is at stake for thousands of Upper Cape residents, I must respectfully question that presumption.''
Until recently, Delahunt said, it was assumed military training at the 14,000-acre Camp Edwards was occurring in an area sufficiently isolated to protect the region's natural resources.
``We now know the fallacies of that assumption,'' he said, referring to current and potential pollution at the base, a federal Superfund site.
Delahunt hinted Camp Edwards be converted to a more environmentally safe use. He pointed to historical analogies on the Cape and islands, including Monomoy Island, where pilots used to drop practice bombs, and Noman's Island off Martha's Vineyard, the target for Navy strafing runs.
``Over the years, these facilities were converted into parks or
refuges, largely because the environmental benefits to protecting these resources far outweighed the costs of failing to do so,'' Delahunt said. ``With respect to Camp Edwards, these analogies are highly instructive. Now is the time to clean up this site and to find better ways to protect its resources.''
Delahunt said he was not suggesting closure of the entire 22,000-acre base.

'No margin for error'
``There is no question about our need for the continued presence and vigilance of the Coast Guard, the Veterans Administration and - at least while we study alternatives - the Air National Guard,'' he said. ``However, when it comes to the integrity of Cape Cod's ground water, which all but defines the region's public health and economic well being, there is no margin for error or guesswork.''
Steve Schwadron, a senior aide to Delahunt, said the newly elected congressman is not, ``at least for the moment,'' suggesting that Camp Edwards be converted to a refuge, but it is an alternative that ought to be placed on the table.
``It's an important question that has to be answered,'' Schwadron said about the facility's future.
Currently, about 42,000 troops from across the Northeast train at Camp Edwards.
Delahunt's letter was released at 4 p.m. yesterday. Military officials could not be reached for comment last night.

Expansion questioned
Delahunt also told Weld he opposes the military's plans to upgrade training facilities at the base. In December, the military released a draft environmental assessment of 10 proposed activities that would cost about $10 million.
``I remain deeply troubled that Camp Edwards, particularly its impact area, is located on the most sensitive portion of the Upper Cape aquifer - and about the magnitude of the potential ramifications for future water supplies for the entire region,'' he told Weld.
``Because there remains reasonable disagreement and uncertainty about the future of the base, it is inconceivable to me that we would now embark on such expensive and expansive renovations,'' he said. ``It seems to me that, at the very least, we must keep this train in the station until agreeing on its destination.''
Delahunt said he disagrees with the military that the Upper Cape base is the only suitable location for training.
``It is my view that state and federal Guard officials should prepare for all possibilities, by starting immediately to identify alternative off-Cape locations which are not environmentally vulnerable,'' he said.

Long-range vision
Delahunt also questioned whether the draft environmental assessment of base operations should continue while a ground water study of the impact area is incomplete.
``The most alarming aspect'' of the draft environmental assessment, Delahunt said, was that ``it was conceived so narrowly'' that it lacks a long-range overall vision for the base.
``We must begin to view all future investments at MMR in the context of an over-arching plan that charts a coherent future course for the entire facility with special regard for both the quality and quantity of drinking water,'' he said.
Delahunt pointed out the Cape's current annual population growth will outstrip water supplies within 25 years.

Activist grateful
Joel Feigenbaum, a longtime community activist who serves on base cleanup committees, said he was grateful to Delahunt.
``Congressman Delahunt has summarized the best thinking on the base over the last five years,'' he said. ``He is short-circuiting a lot of wasteful motion by cutting to the heart of the matter. Instead of arguing where we should put which wells before we commence firing, he's just calling into question the whole operation at Camp Edwards, and I think that's exactly what needs to be done.''
Feigenbaum also applauded Delahunt's opposition to proposed activities at the base.
``As the local member of the House of Representatives, that kills the expansion plans,'' Feigenbaum said. ``End of story.''

Comments: cctimes@capecod.net
Copyright © 1997 Cape Cod Times. All rights reserved.

1:20 PM  

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