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Public to weigh in on Navy's plans to expand test and research activities at Dahlgren
Workers at Dahlgren take measurements after a successful test firing of the electromagnetic railgun.
JOHN F. WILLIAMS/U.S. NAVY
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By RUSTY DENNEN
The public soon can weigh in on plans to expand research and testing at the Dahlgren Navy base.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division is evaluating impacts of stepped-up activities in five program areas: surface ship combat systems, ordnance, chemical and biological defense, lasers and directed energy, and force level warfare, which aims to improve integration and interoperability of battle components.
Those are contained in a draft environmental impact statement, which will be the subject of public hearings over the next two weeks in King George County, Charles County, Md., and Westmoreland County.
NSWCDD is the largest tenant command of the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren.
"Not only do we plan to increase the number of activities annually in these key program areas, but we also need to conduct some of the tests under conditions in which we do not now normally run tests, such as at night and in bad weather," according to a fact sheet on the draft report.
A "no action" option and two alternatives are described.
Alternative one would include some modest increases. The second, and preferred, alternative would increase overall research and testing activities by about 15 percent over 15 years, according to the draft EIS.
For example, electromagnetic operations would increase from about 480 planned operations a year currently to 680 under alternative two.
Electromagnetic warfare is a growing program at Dahlgren. NSWCDD recently began testing a prototype launcher for an electromagnetic railgun that will use a massive pulse of electricity to fire a projectile over great distances.
Laser tests would increase from 60 events yearly at 100 kilowatts maximum power, to 145 at 500 kilowatts.
Chemical and biological sensor tests would rise significantly under alternative two, from 12 to 70 events. Among other programs, sensors are being developed for ships and other equipment.
Use of the Potomac River Test Range, which runs from Dahlgren to the mouth of the Potomac River, would increase from the current 750 hours to 1,000 hours under the preferred alternative. But the number of projectiles tested would remain at 4,700 per year.
Detonations at ordnance test areas would increase from 190 to 230. Up to 1,000 pounds of explosive are used in those tests.
Potential environmental impacts include noise, endangered species, Potomac River birds, human health and safety, hazardous materials, cultural resources, utilities, and air and water quality.
On the noise impacts, for example, the draft report says that though small-arms firing would increase by 400 percent and ordnance detonations by 21 percent, "there would be no significant overall increase in noise levels," and that ordnance tests would have "minor, long-term direct, negative impacts" and similar impacts with respect to vibration.
Another example: Electromagnetic programs, it says, would have a "negligible" effect on the electric power grid. Cumulative impacts, according to the draft report, would be negligible or minor.Read the draft report, navsea.navy.mil/nswc/dahlgren/EIS/EIS-to-Date/draft_EIS.aspx
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Public hearings on the draft environmental impact statement will be held from 6-8 p.m. on:SEPT. 11, Newburg Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department, Newburg, Md. SEPT. 12, A.T. Johnson Alumni Museum in Montross. SEPT. 13 at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus off U.S. 301 in King George.