Widen public role at ordnance works
In an invitation from Arleen K. Kreusch, outreach program specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, she requested that we let her know the concerns [of the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Residents Advisory Board], how we want to be involved "in the decision-making process for the site," how often we want to hear from the Army Corps, and what mechanism we would like the corps to use to provide us with information.
We are glad the corps is now allowing a more open, acknowledged need to balance the engineering demands of the project with the need to support public involvement. In particular, we are glad to hear that this plan will detail the public involvement activities to be funded and supported by the corps in the 2009-10 time frame. Funding has been a historical limitation.
Our issues remain the same: To be clear about the stakeholder support for our positions, we contacted all stakeholders represented on the existing Department of Defense created LOOW RAB (Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Residents Advisory Board). The stakeholders listed below support the following summary statement:
1. There is an existing DOD RAB which we recognize and support.
2. We support the RAB's request for a facilitator to resolve open issues.
3. We support continued access to information, dialogue and input with project technical staff for corps activities at the LOOW.
The LOOW RAB position described above has been endorsed by: the state Department of Environmental Conservation; the State Department of Health; a unanimous Niagara County Legislature resolution; County Legislature Chair William Ross; County Legislature Vice Chair Clyde Burmaster; the Tuscarora Nation Environment Office; the County Health Department; the supervisors of the towns of Porter and Lewiston; the Village of Youngstown mayor; the Lewiston-Porter Central School District; and Modern Corp.
These point resources represent well over the required 50 people that are interested, as well as a local Indian tribe/nation.
What I find missing in the corps current "Community Relations Plan" is any opportunity for the residents to actively have the community's locally and publicly assigned representation (identified as being the LOOW RAB, and its membership) to interactively work with the corps to mutually develop plans, protocols, objectives, interpret data, and influence decisions. The communications have been really one way in resulting direction -- the corps telling the public and not wanting to be impacted by public input. The result is a series of decisions without real course changing representation from the citizens of this community. This is inconsistent with the intentions of the Department of Defense and the regulations on RABs.
The corps has barred this group from funding that should be used for "independent" technical and legal assistance.
The local residents are edgy and very distrustful of the corps. That goes hand and hand with not being integrated, or represented, into the decision making process. People generally do not like to have their personal welfare (personal health and property value) being determined by people they do not know and trust. In this regard, the LOOW RAB could have been a friend and ally.
Because of the position taken by the corps on the RAB, this has only reinforced the image that decisions are made in closed rooms, without the welfare of the local citizens being protected nor being a major consideration. Apparently, the only major consideration is the scope of the mission.
Thus, we request: That the corps honor its prior position in the creation of this particular RAB; a facilitator, funded by the corps and independent to the direction of command from the corps, to help repair the damage recently caused by the corps denying the existence of the RAB and for that facilitator to help reconstruct the RAB; monthly meetings with the RAB's community representation; corps representation on the RAB Outreach Committee; joint access to all technical documentation; and enough financial resources for complete independent technical and legal review of the developments, data, plans, and decisions.
Walt Garrow, LOOW RAB Steering Committee vice chairman