2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 12 Jul 2002 13:42:10 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Legislation to encroach on Camp Pendleton
There is a legislation pending to allow further encroachment upon Camp
Pendleton, the Marine training base in southern California, and the only
people organizing against it are environmental groups!

Section 2861 of the House version of the Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 2003 (HR 4546), would permit the construction and operation
of a toll road through San Onofre Beach State Park, "notwithstanding any
provision of State law that would otherwise prevent" the Defense
Department from granting an easement through the property. The Defense
Department is involved because the Marines lease the land to the
California State Park system. As I read the legislation, it would exempt
this portion of the project from state environmental and transportation laws.

Environmentalists oppose the toll road and Section 2861 because the
four-lane roadway would "bisect some of the last open space in southern
Orange County, pave over vital habitat critical to the survival of at
least eight endangered species, lead to urban sprawl, and increase water
pollution." To be funded by bonds dependent upon development impact
fees, the actual project would encourage additional suburban growth in
the area.

On the edge of the active base, the proposed toll road (as well as the
growth it triggers) would also impact the Marines. By further reducing
habitat on lands not currently used for training and other readiness
activities, it would place additional burdens on the Marines to protect
the on-base habitat. And Camp Pendleton is already one of the military's
leading case studies of how environmental protection is forcing training
restrictions. If the Marines hope to conduct night training exercises on
nearby portions of the base, they'll have to find another location.
State beaches close at Sunset, but Southern California highways normally
beam a steady stream of headlights all night long.

Indeed, Marine Corps Commandant General J.L. Jones wrote, in February,
2002, "Frankly, my preference is that the proposed toll road not be
constructed on or near Camp Pendleton. If constructed on Camp Pendleton,
the Marine Corps loses land needed for training to ensure readiness. If
constructed near Camp Pendleton, the road facilitates increased
urbanization adjacent to the base, which in turn will lead to noise
complaints from  new residents. This construction is one more
encroachment venture that will hinder our ability to prepare for war. It
will also result in additional losses of natural areas that support
endangered species, thus placing an even greater burden on Camp
Pendleton to protect the region's biodiversity."

However, the Marines agreed conditionally to the road alignment through
San Onofre Beach State Park back in 1988 and 1991, long before
"encroachment" had entered our political lexicon. So they won't
officially oppose the road proposal. Jones explained, "Nonetheless, the
Marine Corps made a commitment in 1988 to support one road alignment on
Camp Pendleton, and I will honor that commitment."

The situation is further complicated by U.S. EPA's insistence that other
alternatives, through Camp Pendleton proper, be included in the
environmental review being conducted under the leadership of the Federal
Highway Administration. It was that position that triggered Jones'
February letter, addressed to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

But the debate on Section 2861 isn't about the federal environmental
review, it's about state law. The Marines already have the authority to
grant an easement through the State Park. This year's language would
just exempt the project - at least, that portion on Defense Department
land - from state law. I doubt that the Marines ever made a commitment
to that.

More important, it appears that the Marine Corps succumbed to political
arm-twisting many years ago, and it's not in a position to change its
mind on the San Onofre alignment. But others can not only oppose Section
2861, they can question the wisdom of any highway construction along the
edge of the Marine base. That's what both regional and national
environmental groups are doing. (For more information, contact Dan
Silver, Coordinator of the Los Angeles-based Endangered Habitats League, <dsilverla@earthlink.net>.)

Since the beginning of the encroachment debate, we at CPEO have argued
that urban sprawl is the greatest threat to domestic military 
readiness, and that environmental groups and the military should work
together to combat it. Eliminating this unpublicized piece of
anti-environmental, anti-readiness legislation would be a great place to start.


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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