2009-07-29 / Front Page

Low flight proposal hearing delayed, again

By David Hart Irregular Staff

FARMINGTON -- The hearing for the Air National Guard proposal to lower the flight floor for military jets to as low as 500 feet has been delayed again. The proposed change in flight pattern affects a large portion of the western Maine mountains.

The ANG intends to present an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed changes in the military operations areas known as Condor 1 and Condor 2 for the 104th Fighter Wing, based at Barnes ANG Base in Westfield, Mass.

The Military Operations Area includes portions of Piscataquis, Somerset, Franklin and Oxford counties and a portion of Coos County in New Hampshire.

A similar proposal drew much local concern during several scoping meetings in the past including a letter from Governor John E. Balcacci who asked for an EIS to be conducted. An EIS is far more detailed than an Environmental Assessment which was completed in 2007.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Aug. 13 then moved to Aug. 27 at the University of Maine in Farmington. It has just recently been further delayed because of provisions found in the process where the Department of Defense and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must review the EIS before it becomes public.

"Everything is tentative right now… Everything is at headquarters," said Major Stephen R. Lippert of the ANG. "I have no idea on the timeline," he said on Monday, July 27.

Lippert said that once the DOD reviews the EIS it will be sent to the EPA for its review before the EIS then becomes public.

Lippert suggested that General Libby of the Maine Air National Guard may have better answers on the timeline at this point. Other questions asked earlier in the week via email were sent to the ANG's public affairs office. Lippert said that when and if a meeting date is scheduled, the public will be notified.

The EIS will be available for public inspection at several public libraries and on the Maine Department of Transportation's Web site: http://www.maine.gov/mdot/angcondor/index.htm.

Major Lippert can be reached for questions at (301) 836-8167 or emailed at stephen.lippert@ang.af.mil.

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