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Camp Merrill debate alive in US House
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U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville argued Wednesday before the House Armed Service Committee for control of Camp Frank D. Merrill near Dahlonega to be transferred from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Department of Defense.

Camp Merrill, which occupies nearly 300 acres in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, is the home of a U.S. Army Ranger School. Since 1951, the Army has operated the facility, which houses 200 active-duty soldiers, under the supervision of the U.S. Forestry Service.

According to Collins, who represents the 9th District, this partnership has resulted in a duplication of procedures and rules that have become too costly to support any longer.

For example, Collins said in a statement that because of the two-level approval process for structural and environmental changes required at Camp Merrill, it took two years and double the cost to trim trees to create a helicopter landing zone.

“While this may appear a minuscule amount of money, remember a redundant approval process can be traced back for over 50 years,” Collins said.

The Forest Service has said the change isn’t needed, and the Army has said Georgians would likely notice little change with regard to operations if the land swap occurred.

“My legislation reverses decades of redundant oversight and enacts a land exchange” between the Department of Defense and the Forestry Service, Collins said. “This exchange will allow the Army to gain administrative control of Camp Merrill and (the) Forestry Service gets new lake property on Lake Lanier.”

Collins urged the committee to include his bill in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual appropriation for the Department of Defense.