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Navy to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Air Training in Area

The Navy is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the potential impacts on the community and environment from conducting ongoing and new research, development, acquisition, testing, and evaluation and training activities in the Patuxent River Complex, which includes the airspace over Northumberland County and middle Chesapeake Bay. It held several recent public meetings, including one on March 4, 2019 at the Light of Christ Anglican Church in Heathsville, VA.

Residents of Northumberland County occasionally hear the roar of jets overhead for brief periods, and even a sonic boom from time to time. The study categories include aircraft noise and effects on Bay area wildlife.

According to Lee Allain, past-president of NAPS, the meeting format was unusual but efficient. "Attendees simply visited a circle of posters where usually two people from the base were present to discuss their area of expertise and answer questions." Navy personnel told Allain that the last update was in 1998 and they did not expect much change or significant new intrusions in our county. "I am told that the current document is about an inch and a half thick, so the update is not expected to be complete until 2022," said Allain.

"The Open House format allowed me the opportunity to talk face to face with several Navy personnel," said NAPS member Alice Stieve. "They were all friendly and well informed about what the EIS would encompass. My focus was to understand the complex activities, the boundaries of the study area, the noise exposure and the impact on wildlife resources. They state in their literature that the EIS will use the best available science. They have been collecting and analyzing data from published scientific studies and their own studies since the 1998 EIS.

"I spoke with the Navy person who has been involved with various wildlife evaluation studies for the PRC for the past 38 years. This new information will be included in the EIS analysis of potential environmental impacts from their activities. The 1998 EIS was about 1000 pages and the new one will likely be larger; therefore, I will provide them with a comment to please format the draft EIS so that citizens can do word searches so that I can quickly go to what I am most interested in," said Stieve.

The PRC activities are essentially airborne: "They test aircraft and weapons systems for Sailors and Marines to achieve mission. They have 2 airstrips on the ground, in MD, and they have boats out on the water during testing for the safety of citizen watercraft and their personnel. The Navy said that there will not be much change in the level and frequency of their testing and therefore that aspect of the EIS will not change much. However, they will be modifying or updating their noise exposure level model for the study area and they will add an assessment of impact on the sturgeon and the Red Knot (shore bird) because these are species that have been recently listed to the federal endangered species list," noted Stieve.

"I will provide a comment to please provide a few pages up front in the draft EIS to highlight or otherwise point out what is new to this EIS as compared to the 1998 EIS. They are sensitive about the noise that impacts those of us on the ground. There are ongoing programs now for noise abatement and they will establish a real estate disclosure clause to notify prospective buyers of potential impacts from nearby military installations. Their noise exposure level model will play a part in this. This implies a noise exposure level assessment for Northumberland County. We should look at the results of this when published in the draft EIS. They have and will maintain a Noise Disturbance Hotline to report noise disturbances.

"Of particular interest to us in the Northern Neck is the land preservation program. There are land preservation initiatives underway in Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the Northern Neck of Virginia. They state that these initiatives and partnerships will expand as opportunities arise," said Stieve, adding that NAPS should remain involved in these initiatives and partnerships.

Click the links to review the Public Meeting Booklet and the informational posters:

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