Report from Kodiak BMDO meeting

31 August 2001

from : Stacey Fritz
No Nukes North

Here is the guest opinion I have submitted to Alaska newspapers about the public meeting with the BMDO in Kodiak last week. It was incredible, I didn't have the space to describe it well or do the people who commented at it justice but we filmed it and will have that edited down. There were still folks lined up to comment and ask questions after four hours.

The most hopeful thing going on here is that even the Fairbanks paper, which is normally 150% behind any and every kind of development, has been on the fence or perhaps even critical on NMD -- ran the long article on Ted Postol on Sunday's front page, two about the lawsuit yesterday and this one (copied below) as well as another very critical one ("Expert: Missile shield a modern Maginot Line" by George Gedda, AP) on the front page today.

I have attached a picture of the Kodiak Target T-shirt -- opposition there was and still may be the minority but as soon as people heard "silos" many of them became quite agitated, it seems.  Also attached is a photo of Pat Ladner, the Executive Director of the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation (and ex-SDI program chief) looking annoyed with questions from a well-informed Kodiak resident.  When I questioned him he snorted derisively about "you people" and "your conspiracy theories."

Stacey Fritz
Coordinator, No Nukes North
PO Box 84997
Fairbanks, AK 99708
(907) 457 - 5230

Missile Defense promoters face growing opposition on Kodiak Island

Brochures put out by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce usually feature a glossy cover picture of a Kodiak Brown bear, salmon-packed streams, or whales passing in front of the ‘Emerald Isle’ and its fishing fleet.

The most recent brochure from Kodiak, however, depicts a rocket blasting off into space from the increasingly controversial Kodiak Launch Complex. The Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation’s rocket launch facility, despite its original promises to host commercial satellite launches and diversify Kodiak’s economy, was recently selected by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) to launch mock-ICBMs in hit-to-kill missile defense tests.

Before that news had been digested, the BMDO announced its fast-paced “test bed” proposal last month and Kodiak residents learned they are slated to host silos and launches for ground-based interceptor missiles.

Three military representatives came to Kodiak on August 20 for a public meeting that concerned citizens demanded through the Chamber of Commerce.

A growing number of islanders, many of whom originally supported the launch complex, are worried about the effects missile defense tests will have on tourism and the fishing industry.

Protest signs welcoming people to the meeting read: “Presenting now: Story time by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization ~ sure to be a real fairy tale, bring the kids!”

One resident wore a t-shirt depicting a green map of Kodiak Island half-covered with a large red target in response to a statement made by Chris Nelson, Alaska coordinator for national missile defense: “You’ve always been a target. How can you possibly be a bigger target than you already are?”

Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, spokesman for the BMDO, had help from David Hasley and Eric Sorrels of the US Army Space and Strategic Defense Command as the trio fielded questions, comments, pleas and insults from the approximately 250 residents who attended the question-and-answer session in the local high school auditorium.

The session started with a brief presentation outlining the BMDO’s plans for the launch facility at Narrow Cape and was broadcast over local radio.

A total of two residents called in to thank the officials for their role in defending the country, providing the only positive feedback the military representatives received during the four-hour long meeting.

Residents focused most questions on the shortfalls they found in the previous environmental assessments that had been done for the complex and its launches.

They are worried about the environmental effects of the chemicals involved in the Kodiak launches on sensitive fisheries and about the “special exclusion zones” of the missile defense rockets’ trajectories, which include the villages of Akhiok and Old Harbor.

Kodiak Natives in attendance spoke forcefully of their mistrust of the military’s activities, a sentiment exacerbated by the recent developments.

When the new launch trajectories were announced earlier this year, members of the Kodiak Rocket Launch Information Group questioned the BMDO officials and were told that underground shelters would be constructed for villagers to use during launches in the new flight-path.

The military officials explained their lack of responsibility regarding numerous concerns by reminding islanders that the BMDO will simply be a paying customer at the Kodiak Launch Complex.

Residents didn’t fail to point out the irony of this situation to the federal representatives, since they would be paying customers at a “private, commercial” facility that had largely been paid for with federal money.

The financial history of the island’s spaceport also inspired its popular local moniker – ‘Space Pork Kodiak.’

Lt. Col. Lehner reassured the audience at the meeting that the BMDO would adhere to all the guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Two days later, residents learned that Lehner’s bosses back at the Pentagon appear to have a completely different plan.

Worldcatch News Network, a fisheries related news reporting service, circulated an article on August 22 entitled “Military may seek exemption from Endangered Species Act {and} fisheries laws.”

While local fishermen are bound by the dictates of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, the military would prefer to ignore these laws.  If the Pentagon has its way, missile silo construction and launches at the Kodiak Launch Complex (and all military activity everywhere in the country) would be exempt from the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.  The ultimate irony for Alaska is that Senator Ted Stevens' promotion of missile defense in the state may result in a total disregard for the Fisheries Act he co-wrote in order to sustain and enhance the state’s commercial fishing industry.

Apparently unconvinced by the BMDO’s promises, the Kodiak group has joined other Alaskan and national organizations in a lawsuit opposing the Department of Defense’s missile defense “test bed” proposal.

Stacey Fritz is a graduate student at UAF and the coordinator of a local group promoting educated opposition to missile defense in Alaska.

Links to the Worldcatch article mentioned above and more information on the group and related activities are available at

August 29, 2001
Fairbanks group fights missile defense system
Staff and wire reports

A Fairbanks-based group is among a coalition of environmental and public
interest groups that has sued the Defense Department in federal court
Tuesday to require a fresh round of environmental studies.

The groups worry about the potential hazards of missile defense testing on the West Coast.

They contend in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.,
that the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act requires the Pentagon to
conduct new studies of the effects that the proposed Star Wars test range
would have on the Pacific Ocean region between Alaska, Hawaii, California
and the Marshall Islands.

"I think it is illegal for them to try and construct this test bed in the Pacific,
including Alaska, using that old (Environmental Impact Study) which is for
something completely different," said Stacey Fritz, founder of No Nukes
North, the plaintiff based in Fairbanks.

A new supplemental environmental impact study on the Pentagon's missile
defense program and a second, more specific study on how the program
would affect localities are required, the groups say. That is because the testing
would have a significant environmental impact and the studies in 1994 and
2000 were for old programs that the Bush administration replaced with a new
proposal and testing schedule, they say.

The administration proposal includes plans for an emergency anti-missile
system with five missile silos operating from Fort Greely near Delta Junction by 2004.

"By its own admission, the Bush administration has radically revised the
missile defense program," said David Adelman, a senior attorney for the
Natural Resources Defense Council, in Washington, D.C. "It can't do that
without reassessing the potential environmental damage and providing for
public comment. Otherwise, it's breaking the law."

Steve Cleary of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group said at an
Anchorage news conference Tuesday that the new plans include involving
Fort Greely in the National Missile Defense System test bed, plus sea-based
interceptors and airborne lasers that were not mentioned in the first two
environmental impact statements.

"They're putting the cart of missiles before the horse and they're endangering
Alaska and the ecosystems that we all depend on," Cleary said.

The Pentagon has been planning to start construction early next year. If the
Defense Department does not agree to a new study, the Natural Resources
Defense Council plans to ask the federal judge for an injunction to require the
study in advance of any construction, said NRDC senior researcher
Christopher Paine.

The new study could take from six to 18 months and could affect the
administration's plans to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, he said.

Along with the NRDC and AkPIRG, groups filing suit were Physicians for
Social Responsibility, Greenpeace USA, Alaska Action Center, Alaska
Community Action on Toxics, Kodiak Rocket Launch Information Group,
and No Nukes North: Alaskan and Circumpolar Coalition Against Missile Defense.

Melanie Duchin, an Anchorage activist with Greenpeace, said the proposed
testing is immoral as well as illegal.

"Alaskans or anybody else who cares about the planet and the threat of a
new nuclear arms race are not going to sit by while this administration
threatens Alaska's environment with a program that endangers the entire

Fritz, of the Fairbanks-based group No Nukes North, said that Alaska is
being into made the heart of a dangerous Star Wars program.

"Star Wars threatens to ignite a new nuclear arms race as well as directly
jeopardizing the people of Alaska, which is why Alaskan groups have joined
to take the lead in stopping this dangerous and unnecessary weapons
programs," she said.

The suit lists environmental impacts associated with the expanded missile
defense program: construction of new facilities and testing programs in Alaska
and other places; disruption of pristine ecosystems from laying cable and from
test launches; space debris from planned interception tests in low earth orbit;
deposits in the atmosphere of large quantities of ozone-depleting chemicals
from rocket launches.

Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, spokesman for the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense
Organization, said the previous environmental studies are adequate. A study
completed last year analyzed how missile defenses would affect parts of
Alaska and North Dakota, based on a Clinton administration plan to base
100 missile interceptors at Fort Greely.

"We spent the past three years doing an environmental impact statement for
Alaska and North Dakota, and it's an extremely comprehensive document
and it covers operations at Fort Greely," Lehner said. "Now, we're not looking to do 100 interceptors, just five silos."

Lehner said the groups are using the environment as subterfuge to try to halt
the missile defense program and keep the United States in the ABM pact,
which the administration has argued would conflict with its testing schedule in the Pacific range.

"Their obvious, true agenda is to try to cancel missile defense, for political
reasons and not for environmental concerns," he said. "NEPA was not
envisioned as a means of political opposition."

The Pentagon plans to do a study, however, for Alaska's Kodiak Island since
the military proposes to use a state-operated missile launch site there. The
state has been trying to attract businesses hoping to launch commercial
satellites, and the military also would use commercial boosters there, Lehner said.

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