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Study finds Fort Drum missile defense site brings jobs, hurts endangered bat

Missile Defense Agency
Interceptor missile at Ft. Greely, Alaska.


If you’ve ever wondered what happens at a place full of huge missiles, Nathaniel Gill with the Missile Defense Agency said on the outside it’s pretty quiet, but indoors computers pick up signals from everything being launched into the air all over the world. If a threat was on its way to the U.S., a ballistic missile kept underground will shoot into the air.

“And it pulverizes the potential threat in outer space before it has the chance to reach the continental United States and pose any threat or injury to our citizens to the United States," Gill said.

The United States already has two missile defense sites in Alaska and California that protect the nation from threats. But two years ago, Congress asked the Missile Defense Agency or MDA to consider a place on the east coast. Fort Drum made the list. Angela Holmes, with the MDA, said to be clear, there's no indication that a new site like this will ever be built here, or anywhere else.

Credit Julia Botero / WRVO News
People living around Fort Drum came to Carthage to learn more about the missile defense site.

“So it’s nothing that MDA has asked for.  It is essentially a mandate from Congress that we complete this environmental impact statement,” said Holmes.

The MDA has selected 100 acres of Fort Drum training ground as the potential site. Their environmental report finds that Road 3A -- that now cuts through the area -- would be removed. That means people on their way to and from work at Fort Drum would be rerouted through Carthage.

More than 20 acres of wetlands would be cleared. That means a loss of habitat for a range of animals including the endangered Northern Long-eared Bat and the Indiana Bat. Then, there’s the issue of jobs. Cole Hamilton was contracted by the MDA to perform the economic study.

“Not a lot of negatives. You see lots of positives and dollar signs,” said Hamilton.

As many as 600 construction jobs would be added while the site is built over five years. The surrounding area would see more than 1,000 new jobs as a result. Once the site is up, the region would see more than $27 million extra a year.

Julie Halperin, spokesperson with Fort Drum, said it’s important to understand that there's no sign anything like this will ever happen.

“I think it’s really important in this phase of the game to realize that the Department of Defense is not asking for this. The MDA is not asking for this. They have all been mandated to study this. This is just a study between three different locations to see environmentally which one would be the best location,” said Halperin.

The Missile Defense Agency is expected to determine the best location for an east coast missile defense sight by the end of September.

The public is encouraged to email the MDA with their thoughts on the study to: MDA.CIS.EIS@BC.com or mail them to Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp, ATTN: MDA CIS EIS, 6800 W. 115th Street, Suite 2200, Overland Park, KS 66211-2420