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Hearings begin on Navy range expansion

By Steve Ranson Nevada News Group
The Navy’s proposal to expand the Fallon Range Training Complex has begun the process in Washington, D.C., beginning first with the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.
Steve Ranson / LVN

Senate committee releases its version of NDAA

Hearings on the U.S. Navy’s proposal to expand its Fallon Range Training Complex have begun to wind themselves on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee recently conducted a mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act. The fiscal year 2021 NDAA establishes $8.15 billion for military construction projects and $955 million for unfunded projects.

According to the NDAA, “The bill also prohibits DOD from conducting an additional BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) round in FY 2021, provides for land conveyances at Camp Navajo, Arizona and Panama City, Florida, and extends the land withdrawals for both Fallon Range Training Complex as well as the Nevada Test and Training Range.”

Although the Senate’s initial version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020-2021 leaves out specific language on the range expansion, the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee still hasn’t presented its version of the NDAA.

“There’s still a lot of policy and political process with the land withdrawal,” said Jeremey Drew of Resources Concepts, Inc., who has been working with Churchill County in addressing the FRTC modernization.

Once the House takes up the NDAA and approves its version, Drew said a conference committee will then meet to hammer out any differences including the range proposal. He wanted to clarify the process that was omitted in other publications reporting on the recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Drew, along with other stakeholders in the range modernization, also said additional clarification is needed from the NDAA summary about the extension of land withdrawal. No other explanation was presented in the Senate committee’s version. He told Churchill County commissioners in March the House and Senate versions of the modernization will be different, but he said a conference committee will resolve any outstanding differences.

The Navy also weighed in Monday on the FRTC range modernization.

“The U.S. Navy released its Record of Decision (ROD) on (March 12), detailing the specific changes needed to modernize the Fallon Range Training Complex. The ROD also detailed dozens of mitigations and other commitments the Navy will implement to minimize impacts on the people of Nevada,” the Navy said in a statement to the Lahontan Valley News. “Modernization is critical to meet training requirements for current weapons and tactics. The Navy is committed to working with Congress to ensure our sailors and Marines get the training they need.”

In the FRTC modernization, the Navy requests to renew an existing public land withdrawal of 202,859 acres which expires in November 2021. The Navy’s main focus centers on the withdrawal of about 604,789 acres of additional public land, and to acquire about 65,160 acres of non-federal land for its range modernization and expansion.

The Navy presented its first proposal on the range modernization almost four years ago, and personnel from NAS Fallon have conducted hundreds of meetings with government agencies and communities that would be affected by the expansion.

Since that time, though, the Navy has received thousands of comments, but recreationists, environmentalists and tribal members from across the region are opposing the expansion. In early April, the Churchill County commissioners pushed for modifications on the Navy’s ROD for the FRTC modernization through the NDAA and other legislation.