Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

6-18 Cannon Air Base revises flight plans

MON, 6-18-12

SANTA FE -- Here's the latest news on the training flights out of Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis. You will recall that Cannon's mission was changed a few years ago from piloting the latest in jet fighters to to flying all different sorts of support vehicles.
Back in the fall of 2010, the base conducted environmental impact hearings in communities over which it wanted to fly training missions for C-130 transports and CV-22 Ospreys.The public response was overwhemly negative, however the Air Force found there was no significant impact on the environment.
But now the Air Force needs to change the plan to include more types of aircraft and revised training requirements based on lessons learned in Afghanistan. A spokesperson for Cannon says the base hopes to come back in early 2013 to announce how the base will be moving forward.
Almost certainly, more hearings will be required in those communities where flyovers will be conducted. And almost certainly, no one will be turning out to say thanks for what you're doing to defend our country and we want to do our part.
Instead, nearly all the testimony will be that the flights will endanger our health, safety, air quality, property values, cultural and historic resources, physical and biological sciences and, wind farms. Yes, wind farms. I thought those folks were against wind farms too.
It's unfortunate transports and ospreys don't bomb or strafe. They could wipe out wind turbines as part of their training. But transports and ospreys are pretty harmless. It's not as though they break any sound barriers to jolt us awake. They just drone by.
The Cannon group reports that with all of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado to use for training flights, they won't be flying over the same areas that often. They will avoid populated areas, airports, noise sensitive areas and wilderness areas.
Nevertheless, the Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Taos county commissions, along with the Taos Town Council and the Las Vegas City Council already have passed resolutions opposing the flights.
And a group from Harding County showed up at one hearing to say its area is worried that with all these communities opposing the flyovers, they are going to be the only place left to fly over.
Another round of base closing hearings is expected to begin soon. Cannon already has been downgraded from flying jets. One of the items the Base Realignment and Closing Commission considers is public acceptance. Hostility toward the training flights won't help.
Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque likely will be hurt when the BRAC Commissions looks at the resolution introduced by four Democrats on the previous city council to move all the nuclear weapons stored there to Texas. And we aren't even supposed to know about those nukes in the hills.
Twenty years ago, the government held hearings in cities along the proposed route from Los Alamos to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. People turned out to tell how terrified they were of those trucks and to please let them know when one was coming through town so they could hide in their house or head for the hills.
Our house was about a block from the route until the bypass was finished. We survived quite nicely. It got me to thinking that ever since 1943, unmarked trucks had been coming through Santa Fe carrying nuclear material to and from Los Alamos. And we survived.
Imagine if we had to have a year or two of hearings on the Manhattan Project. Germany, Japan and the USSR would all have beaten us to the bomb. And where would we be now if that had happened?
There must be some sort of accomodation that can be made.Air traffic over Santa Fe is getting heavier, especially during forest fire season, but it doesn't seem bothersome. I don't hear dogs barking when it happens so it must not bother them. Wildlife have all manner of disturbances to bother them. If the Clovis dairy people can show their cows give less milk, that would be something to hang a hat on. But they aren't the ones I hear complaining.
It would be a staggering blow to Clovis to lose its base because the people of New Mexico don't support it. Perhaps we should be a little more tolerant.

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


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