Comment period begins for the Navy’s Fallon range expansion | NevadaAppeal.com

Comment period begins for the Navy’s Fallon range expansion

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

Map: Proposed Navy training range expansion.

A 60-day period for public comments has begun for the Navy's draft proposal to triple its Fallon Range Training Complex that covers a five-county area.

The Navy has filed a draft environmental impact statement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate impact of modernization training complex.

According to the Navy, training activities will be redistributed across the expanded ranges. Seven public meetings — including one in Fallon — are scheduled throughout central Nevada beginning Dec. 10 to inform the public and receive oral and written comments on the draft EIS.

Comments may also be provided by mail or through the project website at http://www.FRTCModernization.com. Comments must be postmarked or received online by Jan. 15. Background information on the range modernization may also be found at this website.

Since the Navy announced the range modernization plan in 2016, meetings were conducted to accept comments from stakeholders who will be affected by the expansion. The EIS includes ranges B-16 southwest of Fallon; B-17, the Dixie Valley Training Area, north and south of U.S. Highway 50; and B-20, northeast of Fallon and north of B-17. No plans are proposed for B-19, which is 30 miles south of Fallon and east of U.S. Highway 95. Additional information on the range modernization and expansion may be found at https://frtcmodernization.com

The Navy conducted public scoping meetings to explain the proposal. The assistant secretary of the Navy will make a decision in 2020, and if he approves the plan, it will advance to Congress for action. The collected comments helped the Navy construct a draft impact statement, which covers such factors as air quality and climate, airborne noise, grazing, land use and recreation, minerals and mining, soils and water resources.

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Capt. David Halloran, commander of Naval Air Station Fallon, said all carrier air wings train at Fallon, and all carrier tactical training is performed over the desert east of Fallon. Additionally, he said the ranges have not been modernized in 20-30 years. The proposed expansion combined with the existing training land will cover more than 800,000 acres.

The Navy stated, "the purpose of the proposed action is to provide sustainable and modernized airspace, range, maneuver areas, training facilities and range infrastructure and resources that would support acceptably realistic air warfare training activities as well as special operations ground training activities in order to meet emergent and future threats.

"Increasing the size of the range would allow the Navy to realistically train with precision-guided munitions, which require greater safety buffer zones because they are launched from aircraft at higher altitudes and longer distances from targets. It would also allow ground forces to realistically conduct tactical ground mobility training."

The Navy proposes to renew existing public land withdrawal of 202,859 acres expiring in November 2021. Withdrawn public land for renewal includes 27,359 acres for Bravo-16, 53,547 acres for Bravo-17, 29,012 acres for Bravo-19, 21,576 acres for Bravo-20, 68,804 acres for Dixie Valley Training Area and 2,561 acres for Shoal Site, withdraw and reserve for military use approximately 604,789 acres of additional public land, and acquire about 65,160 acres of non-federal land.

The Navy said lands withdrawn in 1953 through Public Land Order 898 are permanently withdrawn and do not expire in November 2021.

Based on local input during the scoping period, however, Churchill County officials have concerns regarding impact on future economic development, customs and culture, public access and multiple uses of public lands based on the proposed action. The county also said the Navy's proposed action also conflicts with the county's adopted Master Plan of 2015. County commissioners expressed in late 2016 a need for the county and Navy to work together to determine the anticipated elevated impact that best aligns itself with the Master Plan.

The Navy also reported one environmental group, the Center for Biological Diversity, is opposed to the expansion.

The seven planned meets include the following:

Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Hawthorne Convention Center, 932 E St.

Dec. 10 from 5-8 p.m., Gabbs School Gymnasium.

Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 1p.m., Austin Town Hall.

Dec. 11 from 5-8 p.m., Eureka Opera House, Grand Hall.

Dec. 12 from 5-8 p.m., Fallon Convention Center.

Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., C Punch Inn and Casino, Kumiva Room, Lovelock.

Dec. 13 from 5-8 p.m., West 2nd Events Center, 600 West 2nd Street, Reno.

The Navy said public meetings will include an open house session with informational poster stations staffed by Navy representatives, followed by a brief presentation and a public oral comment session. Equal weight will be given to oral and written statements. The Navy added federal, state, and local agencies and officials, Native American tribes and interested organizations and individuals are encouraged to provide comments in person at the public meetings or in writing during the public review period.