Homeland Security Mt. Weather Comments Due February 22
The Department of Homeland Security has placed legally-required public notices in area newspapers seeking comments on a major expansion project at the Mt. Weather Emergency Operations Center. The deadline for public comments is February 22.
While the Mt. Weather expansion is not specifically linked to AT&T’s activities on Short Hill Mountain, the citizen’s group Short Hill rescue – and other citizens and groups – are following the issue with great interest.
The two locales – just over 20 driving miles from each other – fall under a wide variety of telecommunication, zoning and environmental statutes and regulations providing for public input under certain circumstances.
MWEOC is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA and straddles both Clarke and Loudoun counties. As such, a dozen state, local and federal government agencies are party to FEMA’s communications on the project, including the Loudoun and Clarke County Departments of Planning, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and at least 9 others.
The project involves the construction of a 30,000-sq. ft. structure known as Building 437 on the footprint of a building demolished in 2014, the demolition of an old warehouse building, the paving of a now gravel parking lot – to provide space for 45 cars, and the modification of a road at the complex.
The public notice was posted per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires that all executive federal agencies review a proposed action, and alternatives to the proposed action, with a basic Environmental Assessment (EA). If the assessment shows “significant impact” on the environment, the agency must follow up with a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). FEMA reviewed two options in its Environmental Assessment – a no-alternative option (leave things as is), and moving forward with the project – and found that, per NEPA standards the project would have “no significant impact” on the environment, which frees it from the requirements of a formal EIS.
Homeland Security’s EA and no significant impact findings are on file at the Berryville Library and the Purcellville Library.
FEMA will finalize its “no significant impact” findings and have authority to proceed with the project without an Environmental Impact Statement “if no substantive comments to the contrary” are received by February 22, 2017. Comments sent by email should be directed to: Comments437EA@fema.dhs.gov, and by mail to: MWEOC, ATTN: K. Ellis, P.O. Box 129, Mt. Weather, VA 22611.