Rep. Sam Farr Applauds Navy Decision To Do Environmental Impact Statement

Navy officials agree: thorough review of bombing proposal is needed

Congressman Sam Farr ( D-Carmel) was pleased to earn Thursday that the Navy intends to do a full environmental review of its proposal to establish a practice bombing range at Fort Hunter Liggett.

"I applaud the Navy's decision to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement," Rep. Farr said. "I have always said that a full environmental review is in the best interests of everyone on the Central Coast."

Since the Navy announced its proposal in January, Rep. Farr has complained repeatedly that Navy officials were not doing a good enough job of informing the public. Farr demanded that a public meeting be held in King City last month. Instead, the Navy held an "open house," at which there was no dialogue allowed between the public and Navy officials. Since then, Farr has maintained pressure on the Navy to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement, rather than the more cursory Environmental Assessment.

The Navy proposal involves launching approximately 1,000 bombing runs a year between the naval air station at Lemoore and Fort Hunter Liggett. The sorties would drop inert ammunition on the periphery of what is known as the "Army High Explosive Target Area."

The Navy currently uses this target area - which sits roughly in the center of the 165,000-acre Fort Hunter Liggett - about twice a month, and conducts more extensive practice bombing runs over the Sierra Nevada.

Navy officials said that by changing their bombing practice to Fort Hunter Liggett, they can save $3 million a year in fuel.

"The Fort Hunter Liggett bombing range proposal poses some serious environmental risks, and an Environmental Impact Statement is a very thorough way of making those risks known," he added. "I believe that once these risks are fully revealed, it will become clear that Fort Hunter Liggett is not the right place for loud, low-flying fighter jets."

Rep. Farr pointed out that Fort Hunter Liggett is adjacent to the nationally renowned Big Sur, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Los Padres National Forest. The base and the surrounding area is also home to many threatened and endangered species, he said.

"This proposal calls for three to four fighter plane missions per day from the naval air station at Lemoore to drop inert ammunition on a target at Fort Hunter Liggett," Rep. Farr said. "Each mission has three planes. Each plane does 12 passes while dropping the ammunition. That means if you are anywhere nearby, you'll be hearing fighter jets climbing out of the area as many as 144 times a day!

"This area is known as a place where rare California condors are nurtured and released into the wild, where endangered bald eagles fly and where sea otters have bounded back from the brink of extinction," Rep. Farr said. "I understand that the Navy needs to train its jet fighter pilots, but this is simply not the place for it. This is a place where people come to find tranquility and beauty."

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