Utah officials want to take a hard look at a proposal for Dugway Proving Ground to take over thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management land south of the installation.
Milo Barney, chairman of the state's Resource Development Coordinating Committee, told the group Tuesday that an environmental assessment on the proposal, with a map, is expected to be released in May or June.The move for the Army to control up to 60 additional square miles in the area of the Dugway Mountains was originally said to be based on the fact that unexploded bombs - some of them chemical weapons - are scattered on Bureau of Land Management property. The bombs were left there in the 1940s, '50s and '60s when it was used as a test area.
A Deseret News investigation showed that the Army has realized since at least 1979 that a 66-mile strip of BLM land may be contaminated, but took almost no steps to warn the public or keep people out.
Now the Army is considering a move to restrict access to the off-base areas of the Dugway Mountains that may be contaminated. Some state property may be involved, as well as BLM land.
This drew fire from Gold Standard Inc., a Salt Lake company with claims or leases on nearly 7,000 acres in the area.
"I think and the BLM thinks it's just another land grab," Gold Standard's exploration manager, H. Richard Klatt, told the Deseret News last week.
He said a Dugway official informed him the base wants the land withdrawn because of concerns about the public encountering buried bombs.
But on Tuesday, a staff member working with the Resource Development Coordinating Committee said she talked with Kathy Whitaker, public affairs officer at Dugway, and learned of another reason: after field exercises, Dugway could go into the area and clean up material, without getting special permits from the BLM.
BLM officials seem opposed to the withdrawal, Barney said. The state will want to take a close look and see if it should oppose it also, he added.
Barney said one issue to consider is the fact that Dugway is already a large base. "How much do they need out there?" he asked.