Critics oppose expanded military air space over NV |

Critics oppose expanded military air space over NV

The Associated Press

RENO ” Environmental groups are opposing an Air Force proposal to extend a supersonic operations area by 1.6 million acres in eastern Nevada.

Critics argue the move would increase the frequency of sonic booms and litter from training operations, harming residents and the environment.

The White Elk area north of Ely is adjacent to the current Utah supersonic operations area.

Opponents say operations would jump from about 400 flights per year to as many as 9,500.

An Air Force environmental study determined the increased military activity would have no significant impact.

But critics say the study is flawed, and want to reopen a public comment period that closed last month.

Grace Potorti, director of the Reno-based Rural Alliance for Military Accountability, said the Air Force will “carpet this area with sonic booms.”

Despite the increase, she said the environmental impact statement fails “to properly analyze noise impacts.”

“Peak noise levels would exceed 140 decibels, well beyond the threshold of discomfort and pain,” Potorti said.

The alliance is part of a coalition of environmentalists, military watchdogs, aircraft owners and tribal leaders that oppose the expansion. Members include the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Western Watershed Project, Citizens Education Project and the Bristlecone Alliance.

Potorti said the sonic booms would affect hundreds of square miles, including the communities of McGill, Cherry Creek, Lages Station and Currie in White Pine County. Other areas affected by overflights and sonic booms include 87,203 acres of wilderness and wilderness study areas, she said.

First Lt. Beth Woodward, public affairs officer for the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, said the additional training missions would allow pilots to remain prepared to respond to a crisis. She said the military jets will fly at high altitudes.

Woodward said when considering the expansion, officials reached the proposed altitude of 14,000 to 18,000 feet above mean sea level after discussions with the community in an effort to minimize the impact on planned local wind farms.

She added that fighter wings would schedule operations to avoid significant conflicts with glider pilots, and military flights would avoid airports and minimize interference with commercial and civil air traffic routes.

The environmental study, she said, “states there are no anticipated impacts to development projects in the region, and access to local airports would remain unchanged, allowing airport revenues and associated tourist expenditures to remain the same.”