The U.S. Air Force has finally released documents sought for months by critics of a proposed electronic combat range - but they contain little new information.
The Air Force gave Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, a copy of an application it filed with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to use some of its land in the West Desert for the new range.The watchdog group Downwinders - which has criticized the range - and the Deseret News had previously filed separate Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the same documents.
After months of waiting for action on its request, Downwinders recently called a press conference to attack the Air Force for what it said was intentionally withholding information.
Paul Warenski, an aide to Owens, said the Air Force soon thereafter provided the documents to Owens, who had also requested them weeks earlier. "They apologized for not providing them sooner," he said. The Air Force still has not formally responded to FOIA requests by Downwinders or the Deseret News.
But the two-page application and three pages of accompanying maps given to Owens seem to contain little information that had not already been publicly released by the Air Force.
The documents say the combat range would be built in phases over 10 years. The Air Force said it would initially like to build 10 sites, costing $2.5 million.
Downwinders spokesman Steve Erickson said the application still concerns him because applying for use of BLM land before the environmental impact statement is done may show the Air Force has made up its mind to proceed no matter what problems may be discovered.
But Roy Edwards, with the BLM office in Richfield, said the timing is not unusual, and is in fact required by the BLM. But he said the BLM will not issue any permits and will take little further action on the request from the Air Force until its environmental impact statement is complete.