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Assessment states why FASTC site dismissed

Senior Editor, American Farmer

RUTHSBURG, Md. — The long-anticipated draft environmental assessment of the plan to locate a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center on 2,000 acres in Queen Anne’s County confirms not only what opponents feared, but why it was abandoned by federal officials.

The precisely detailed assessment states that the facility would be noisy beyond acceptable standards, disruptive of the environment and of surrounding neighborhoods and residences, a dangerous nuisance on the roads leading to it, a threat to the Delmarva fox squirrel and a toxic imposition on activities at Tuckahoe State Park.

The assessment was released to the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association which had sought documents relating to the training center since January when it filed a Freedom of Information request.

When the Department of State and the General Services Administration, which were administering the project, failed to respond, QACA went to court in April, suing for the release of the documents.  The court held with QACA and ordered the documents submitted to the association in September, even as federal officials were reportedly looking at another tract in the coal mining area near Wilkes Barre, Pa. Among the documents, now in possession of QACA, is the draft assessment, which, as expected, had been heavily redacted.

Nonetheless, its recorded assessments confirm the significant impact which the facility would have imposed on a broad section of the county. Interestingly, the draft document appears to have been prepared at two different times. 
The early pages contain the folio line, “Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment May 28, 2010.”
Later pages contain the folio line: “Cancelled Draft Environmental Assessment July 2010.”

Also of note is that the assessment looks at two radically different locations for training areas within the center, the original, called “Alternative A,” and a second named “Alternative B.” 
Alternative B evolved, according to the assessment document “to respond to initial public scoping input.”

The assessment, in one broad section, focuses on the noise which the facility would have generated.

Noise levels, it is noted, are usually measured and expressed in decibels (dB) that are weighted to frequencies perceivable by the human ear, known as A-weighted sound levels and expressed as dBA.

For example, the standard dBA level for a residential area is 55dBA, for a commercial area, 64dBA and for an industrial area, 70 dBA.
A commercial jet taking off from 200 feet away has a dBA of between 108 and 115. 
Mock urban training — cars, guns, explosives, etc. — has a dBA of 110 and a one-pound submerged charge, a dBA level of 107. 
A three-pound submerged charge, the assessment document notes, carries a dBA level of 117.

Here are some excerpts taken directly and verbatim from the assessment report:

  • Worst-case noise levels in Ruthsburg from the firing ranges are predicted to be 70 dBA under either Alternative. Depending on the duration of training activities on the firing ranges, these noise levels would represent a moderate to major impact on the residents of Ruthsburg.
  • On training data provided by the Department of State, the following levels of activity were incorporated into the average training day noise model: Driving tracks: Assumes nearly continuous use over the course of a day.
  • Mock Urban Training: Periodic use over the course of a day. Average of eight flashbang explosions per day.
  • Explosives Ranges: Average of 12 explosives detonations per day.
  • Firing Ranges: Assumes nearly continuous use over the course of a day.
  • Cooling Towers: Continuous use.
  • Explosives detonation would have a major impact on Tuckahoe State Park…… (U)nder all scenarios, portions of the park would be exposed to peak noise levels at or in excess of 100 dBA in the park from detonation of the CTS flashbang and the 8-ounce cast booster ...”.
  • Major: The noise generated by the construction or operation of the project exceeds established regulatory guidelines for residential areas, greatly impacts users’ enjoyment of Tuckahoe State Park, or would result in substantial interference with outdoor or indoor activities for nearby residents.
  • The movement of heavy trucks transporting construction materials along area roadways could also result in adverse noise impacts to area residences.
  • Vehicle use by FASTC faculty, staff, and students would be the same for Build Alternative 1 and Build Alternative 2. A traffic impact study indicates that these users would add approximately 505 morning peak hour trips, 280 mid-day, and 467 PM peak hour trips when the FASTC initially opens in 2011, and approximately 687 morning peak hour trips, 380 mid-day, and 633 evening peak hour trips when the FASTC is completed in 2014. The traffic study also indicates that most of the faculty, staff, and students would use Route 304 west of Ruthsburg. If using Route 481 west of the FASTC, the traffic impact study projects that most of these travelers would turn onto Greenville Road, thus avoid crossing the southern end of the riparian stringer inhabited by the Delmarva fox squirrel.
In summary, based on an average training day scenario, noise impacts under either alternative could be considered moderate to major for those residences that are located within the 55dB average training day contour. In addition, under both Alternative 1 and Alternative 2, the majority of Tuckahoe State Park would be located within the 55dB contour and this would represent a moderate to major impact on the park, which could negatively impact user experience.

Personal comment from "Jack": The Federal Government has pulled the plug on the controversial FASTC Project proposed for Ruthsburg.  The message below speaks for itself.  Citizens standing up can make a difference.  Jack


The following announcement was released via email by Ms. Gina Gilliam of GSA ( on behalf of FASTC Project Team 


at 3:05 PM, Monday, June 28, 2010 

Subject: FASTC Project Announcement

After further analysis, the Department of State (DoS) and General Services Administration (GSA) have determined that the Hunt Ray/Crismer Farm in Queen Anne’s County will no longer be considered for the proposed DoS Foreign Affairs Security Training Center. DoS and GSA remain committed to a robust and transparent public engagement process and value the input from the citizens of Queen Anne’s County and the leadership of both Federal and local representatives on behalf of the community throughout this process.

As DoS increases its workforce and presence in unstable regions of the world, the need for a consolidated training center for DoS' Bureau of Diplomatic Security is even more important to ensure the safety and security of our civilian employees and partners. DoS and GSA are actively engaged in a site selection process and look forward to opening this essential national security facility and being good neighbors.

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