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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 5:50am

Ft. Benning Targets County For Expansion

Fort Benning officials are targeting a tract of land for expansion of its military base in west Georgia. Now, a more specific review of more than 82,000 acres in Stewart County gets underway.

Fort Benning needs the additional land, about a 45 percent increase, for training of its soldiers. This fall, its military population will increase by another 7,500 as the U.S. Armor School moves in from Fort Knox, Ky.

Army officials considered land options in five Georgia counties and one in Alabama. Fort Benning’s Monica Manganaro says an area in west-central Stewart County would best fit the needs of the base.

“Land that’s low in population density, land that’s close in proximity to Fort Benning that is environmentally compatible, and most importantly that it meets the training needs.”

Manganaro says officials will now do a more detailed study of the acreage to account for environmental and economic impacts. Four public hearings will also be held in early June.

If all goes to plan, a land buy could happen by next spring.