November 15, 2001, day the Navy withdrew its jet fighter bomber training proposal for Stony Valley (Ft. Hunter Liggett) in the Santa Lucias of Big Sur. This is the San Francisco Chronicle story the following morning.

 

Navy shelves bomb training plan
Environmentalists fought against Fort Hunter Liggett proposal

Eric Brazil, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, November 16, 2001
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

 

Facing stiff opposition from environmentalists and Monterey County residents who cherish peace and quiet, the U.S. Navy has shelved plans for stepping up its aerial bombardment training program at Fort Hunter Liggett.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Duncan Holliday made the announcement yesterday in Washington, D.C., ending a debate that has raged since February.

Seldom-used Fort Hunter Liggett, 23 miles southwest of King City and 45 miles northwest of Paso Robles, is 162,000 acres of savannah and chaparral next to the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Ventana Wilderness Area.

The Navy had proposed an enormous expansion of practice bombing runs at the sparingly used post, from a handful of flights to a dozen sorties a day, five days a week, by a dozen jets, each making 12 low-level passes to drop dummy bombs on a 500-foot bulls-eye.

Current Navy bombing practice is carried on at ranges in Nevada, Arizona and in the California desert. The Navy eyed Hunter Liggett as a cost-saving move.

Navy spokeswoman Lt. Pauline Storurm said that a re-examination of the proposal by Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, commander of the Navy's Pacific Fleet, found that "there is no present need to expand our current use of Hunter Liggett. . . What we have in place meets our operational needs."

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, whose district includes Hunter Liggett, hailed the Navy's decision.

"This is making government work the way it should work," Farr said. "The Navy made a proposal, the community responded and generated statewide concern. . . . The public decided that it preferred the silence to the noise."

The Navy was bombarded by thousands of protest letters and, following a public hearing, took a step back from its proposal and decided to do an environmental impact statement on it.

The report was never completed.

Opponents of the plan contended that it was an inappropriate use for an area adjacent to wilderness and the scenic Big Sur coast, which contained sacred Indian sites.

E-mail Eric Brazil at ebrazil@sfchronicle.com.
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

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