Texas senator: Army should drop Colo training plan

May 28, 2009

EL PASO, Texas - Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says she's talking to military leaders about "throwing in the towel" on expanding a Colorado training site and conducting more exercises at Fort Bliss instead.

The Army's plan to expand its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeast Colorado has encountered stiff opposition from nearby residents and elected officials.

Hutchison told KVIA-TV in El Paso this week that it's not worth fighting for the Colorado site when Fort Bliss, in far West Texas, and other posts have room.

Hutchison is the ranking Republican on a Senate subcommittee on military construction.

Some southeast Colorado ranchers say expanding Pinon Canyon would take too much land out of agricultural production. They also argue the Army hasn't made a convincing case that it needs more space.

Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey, both Colorado Democrats, have said they want to introduce legislation to bar the expansion.

Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, has called that a "deal-killer" because it would force the Army to look elsewhere for big training exercises.

Coffman has warned that if opponents succeed in blocking the Pinon Canyon expansion, the Army could scale back its plans to add troops to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo., which uses the Pinon Canyon site.

That would hurt the regional economy, he said.

The Colorado Legislature his year passed a bill barring the sale of state land for the site. Gov. Bill Ritter plans to sign it sometime next week, said his spokesman, Evan Dreyer.


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