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Water Reclamation District Approves Planned Police Shooting Range

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A police gun and handcuffs.  [Generic] (credit: Steve Hardy/CBS Local)

A police gun and handcuffs. [Generic] (credit: Steve Hardy/CBS Local)

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UPDATED 01/05/12 1:58 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has narrowly approved a controversial lease for a new Chicago Police shooting range on environmentally sensitive land on the city’s Southeast Side.

But WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore says this won’t be the final word on the project.

The MWRD board voted 5-4 to approve a 39-year lease for the Police Department to build the new high-tech shooting range on district-owned land at 2025 E. 134th St., across the Calumet River from Hegewisch Marsh.

The marsh across the river is part of a federal, state and local effort to turn the area into a tourist attraction that would feature open space, wildlife habitats and outdoor recreation. Opponents have also said previously that the gunfire might scare migratory birds such as egrets and herons that stop nearby,

MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore was one of the no votes, envisioning sounds of gunfire wafting over a recreation area.

“I think it’s a worthy project; an important project, but in the wrong place,” she said.

But the deciding vote was cast by district board President Terrence O’Brien.

“My decision today is to offer our assistance to the Chicago Police Department so that they do receive the proper training that they need,” he said.

O’Brien says the matter will now go to the Chicago City Council and related agencies, and will be the subject of at least three more public hearings.

The MWRD actually voted 7 to 2 in 2010 to allow the Police Department to lease the firing range, but opponents called for another look at the effects it might have on wildlife, the newspaper reported.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently resurrected the plan for the shooting range, according to published reports.

If given final approval, the 40-person shooting range will be open to current and retired Chicago Police officers, and suburban departments, and will also be open to state and federal law enforcement officers.

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