Friday, November 8, 2002
Environmental review of Hanscom found late and wanting
Towns affected by Hanscom development have had an ongoing interchange with Massport (MP), the authority responsible for Hanscom oversight. Some of their exchanges have been conducted through HATS, the group formed to represent the particular concerns of the four towns abutting Hanscom field, Lexington, Lincoln, Concord and Bedford.
HATS and MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group for Interlocal Coordination), which includes the four abutting towns, have been hopeful that Massport's Environmental Status and Planning Report (ESPR), would provide data to shape their ongoing discussion about Hanscom development (see Mosquito article, October 15, 2002). The ESPR is required of Massport every five years and the requirement entails public hearings on the report. Nine workshop meetings were held, almost all of them in September. A preliminary draft report was then distributed for a second round of review and comments. The hearing on the report was scheduled at Bedford Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. on November 7, a situation that has given scant time for interested individuals or towns to prepare comments.
In October, MAGIC decided to hold a special meeting to review and prepare comments on the 2000 ESPR, under its DRI (Developments of Regional Impact) process. Criteria for designating a project as a DRI are met if a project affects towns outside of the project's boundaries, and Hanscom's impact certainly qualifies it for a DRI. Further, Massport had funds for consultant help, and the HATS group secured a consultant, Lisa Baci, to review and comment on the draft ESPR. Baci prepared the main presentation for MAGIC's special DRI meeting on October 29.
Scope of ESPR report
The ESPR has three purposes: to look at the current level of impact, to look at future impact scenarios, and to ask if there are potential adverse impacts. If so, the ESPR needs to state how it proposes to deal with the adverse impacts.
Massport's current ESPR takes 2000 as a base year and considers both a moderate and a rapid growth scenario. It looks at noise, pollution, traffic, water quality and so on. It considers how proposed changes to the infrastructure will affect these same categories. The new infrastructure, for example, will include 100,000 square feet for a new aviation hangar, as well as three new access roads, off Hartwell and South Roads in Bedford and Hartwell Avenue in Lexington, for cargo service. Baci stated that many things in the report were already in the planning and development stages.
Noise a problem for area
Noise impacts have increased since the 1995 ESPR, to the extent that the noise levels are already off the original chart. Baci said the traffic and air quality figures are even higher. The report projects 30,000 operations a year by 2015, but in fact that level will be achieved this year. Air cargo is expected to increase and, absent the ability to require quieter planes, the cargo plane noise will increase too. At least half of MAGIC towns state they are bothered by noise. The data collected by Massport averages noise levels for a 24-hour period and does not consider peak noise hours, e.g., maintenance runs in the middle of the night. The work group made a number of recommendations about noise, but with only a week between the report and the hearing, there was little time to prepare comment, so it is uncertain whether their recommendations will be on the table. The increase of noise through increased cargo operations was not considered in the report. Baci felt Massport needed to define the scope of acceptable noise and define what would happen if noise exceeds the level of 55 decibels or more.
Air quality concerns are consistently raised by adjoining towns. One specific pollutant, Nox, increased 60% between '95 and 2000. It is known that jets produce more pollutants, and increased jet traffic may be expected to increase pollution. Massport's report does not address this, and does not adapt specific measures for pollution mitigation.
A HATS representative says "HATS believes that significant environmental damage would occur under the Massport scenario in every environmental category," including air pollution, pollution of recharge areas and noise.
Richard Canale, Lexington selectman and co-chairman of HATs, spoke about the discontinuity between the Massport ESPR and ongoing local plans and studies. A six-state regional plan looks at regular transportation in New England, but Massport's ESPR doesn't mention it, and in fact the activity level projected by the ESPR is inconsistent with the regional scenario. The U.S. Air Force, stationed at Hanscom, has a management plan which the ESPR ignores. Nor does the ESPR state how various community master plans are consistent or inconsistent with the report.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito