An AP report from May 2 included a statement from the 28th Bomb Wing Commander, Col. Jeffery Taliaferro, says expanding the airspace is a complex process that involves working with the FAA, the region’s Native American tribes and the public through a detailed environmental review. Major Reece of Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, SD spoke with Northern Ag on May 12 and stated that the plans of the expansion are currently in the bureaucratic process; no specific deadline for a final agreement has been set at this time. Air Force officials do expect an environmental impact statement to be finalized by winter as the FAA is working on piecing together both environmental and aeronautical evaluations at this time. The comment period is over as of January 20, and the Air Force is still sifting through the massive responses generated during that time.
The U.S. Air Force’s proposal to quadruple the airspace in which it can conduct training exercises with B-1 and B-52 bombers in southeastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming and western North and South Dakota has been met with some skepticism in recent public meetings.
The expanded air space, called the Powder River Training Complex, would allow B-1 and B-52 bombers to fly low-altitude training missions.
In recently addressing a crowd in Gillette, Air Force Maj. Craig Winters explained the Powder River Training Complex will allow for more realistic training. Longer range exercises similar to missions flown today could be done and he says the similar geography to Afghanistan will help better train pilots for actual missions.
Concerns expressed at meetings have included worries about noise from the bombers spooking livestock and affecting their productivity when flying only 500 feet above the ground, sonic booms, and also fire danger from flares.
On October 26, 2010, the Air Force held its last public meeting in Billings, MT. The Northern Ag Network’s Russell Nemetz attended where concerns expressed by livestock and landowners included stress on livestock, use of flares and chaff and even loss in land values.
At the meeting, Russell Nemetz spoke with landowner Del Dinstel from Colstrip, MT.
To read the draft environmental impact statement, CLICK HERE. (NOTE: This is a large document and will take a while to load)
They will be taking public comment on that draft EIS through November 15. If you would like to submit your comments, you can do so by sending them to:
Ms. Linda DeVine
129 Andrews St, Room 337
Langley AFB, VA 23665-2769
More information from the Air Force on this proposal can be FOUND HERE.
© Northern Ag Network 2010
Haylie Shipp & Russell Nemetz