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Baker Expresses Environmental, Safety Concerns About Proposed Machine Gun Range

Massachusetts Army National Guard
The red outline on this map of Camp Edwards shows where the Army National Guard is proposing an eight-lane machine gun range. The surface danger zone, where projectiles could land, is highlighted in pink.

Gov. Charlie Baker said his administration has questions about the environmental and public safety impacts of a proposed machine gun range on Joint Base Cape Cod, in his first public comments about the project.

“That project certainly has to go through a series of reviews and there’s going to be a very significant and aggressive outreach program,” he said during a news conference Thursday.

The Massachusetts Army National Guard would need to clear-cut 170 acres of trees to build the eight-lane range that it says is necessary to train soldiers more efficiently.

But many environmentalists and public officials have raised objections about traffic, noise, deforestation, and the impacts of chemicals associated with expended ammunition on groundwater quality. The base sits atop the Cape’s sole source aquifer, which provides drinking water to Upper Cape towns.

“The two big questions for us are going to be the public safety and environmental questions,” said Baker, who as governor commands the Massachusetts Army National Guard through an adjutant general.

The governor added that the state’s office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, local officials, and base officials will have to work through those questions together.

In 1998, then-Gov. Paul Cellucci cancelled the National Guard’s plans to build five training sites on the northern half of the base, including a mock village for urban-warfare training and ranges for rifle, machine-gun, and light-infantry training, according to a Boston Globe article at the time.

Since then, the state created the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) to review and approve base projects that don't harm wildlife or drinking water.

The next formal step in the approval process is a community advisory meeting that has yet to be scheduled.