weighs in on bombing
(Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service - March 8,
MONTEREY, Calif. -- The California Coastal Commission,
which kept the
Marines from landing in Monterey two years ago, has
warned the Navy
that allowing jets to bomb Fort Hunter Liggett could
harm marine resources
along the coast.
The commission's staff has written a letter to Navy
are exploring the plan, asking them to consider
ordering a full-blown
environmental impact study that would include analyses
sites for the proposed bombing practice.
In particular, the commission said it is concerned
about condors and
eagles that forage in the area; sea otters and other
along the nearby shoreline; brown pelicans and sea
use of the coastal trails in the adjacent mountains;
and the serenity
that people value on Big Sur beaches and in
Because the bombing runs at Fort Hunter Liggett, which
is on the eastern
side of the Santa Lucia coastal range, would impact
the coastal zone,
the Navy needs to see if they would be consistent
with the state'
s coastal management program, said the letter signed
by Mark Delaplaine,
the Coastal Commission's federal consistency
The commission's concerns will at least force the Navy
with state officials, Delaplaine said Tuesday.
But the Navy is free to disagree with the Coastal
he said. If that turns out to be the case, the state
is then free
to sue the Navy.
Coastal Commission concerns about what hovercraft
might do to whales
and marine mammals in Monterey Bay and to snowy plover
nests on the
beach kept the Marines from making a planned landing
in Monterey in
March 1999. Instead, the military used helicopters to
fly troops from
ships anchored at sea to the Monterey Peninsula
Troops then rode buses to the Naval Postgraduate
School and the Presidio
of Monterey for the war games.
Concerns about the bombing runs have surfaced in a
of opposition that has included the Monterey Bay
National Marine Sanctuary
manager urging the Navy to abandon plans to fly some
of the bombers
from aircraft carriers; Sen. Dianne Feinstein warning
of defense that the bombing runs "could cause
irreparable harm to
the wilderness areas and would undermine previous
efforts to preserve
this scenic area"; and Sen. Barbara Boxer asking the
Navy for a full
Actor Robert Redford, a frequent visitor to Big Sur,
has also announced
opposition to the bombing plan, as has Rep. Sam Farr,
had arranged for the National Park Service to explore
the former military testing ranges at Fort Hunter
The Navy has proposed making 2,820 bombing runs a year
to the base,
flying Hornet fighter jets from Naval Air Station
Lemoore near Fresno.
In addition, 135 other runs would come from aircraft
Those jets now fly to China Lake in the California
desert or to the
bombing ranges at Fallon Naval Air Station in Nevada
The Navy says the shorter trips to Fort Hunter Liggett
an estimated $3 million a year in fuel costs.
The planes, many of them flying as low as 500 feet,
would drop nonexploding
bombs on a practice range.
The 165,000-acre base in South County hasn't been used
aerial target practice since World War II. In more
recent years it'
s become a central range for American bald eagles and
that are being reintroduced to the wild.