Franklin Countys First News

Air National Guard responds to governor on low-flight proposal

AUGUSTA - The Air National Guard has responded to a letter written by Gov. John Baldacci regarding a study prepared by the ANG on a proposal to lower the minimum altitude for military training flights over much of western Maine.

The ANG is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to modify Condor 1 and Condor 2, military operation areas that have encompassed most of Franklin County for 30 years. Currently, ANG pilots must stay above 7,000 feet throughout the MOA, unless they're training in military training routes, or MTRs, where pilots can fly as low as 500 feet off the ground.

Gov. Baldacci wrote letters to the ANG on Aug. 28 and Nov. 13, regarding the draft version of the Environmental Impact Statement released in July 2009. The first letter asked a series of questions about the modification, which had been raised by state agencies and residents of Franklin County, also asked for a postponement of six to nine months.

“…These assessments strongly suggest that more work needs to be done to assure me and the people of the Western Maine that no significant impacts will result from the proposed changes to the Condor MOA,”

 Baldacci concluded in the Aug. 28 letter addressed to ANG Col. William Albro at the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

The ANG agreed to delay the hearing by two and a half months, saying that the governor's concerns have been addressed in the draft EIS. This was stated in a letter addressed to Baldacci on Sept. 10.

"The National Guard Bureau," ANG Director Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt wrote, "in conjunction with Major General Libby's office, has ensured all of your summary points are addressed in the current draft EIS for the modification of the Condor MOA...."

The governor's second letter, sent in November, stated that he was "deeply disappointed that no further consideration was given to the questions outlined in [his] letter." It went on to say that the governor believed that inadequate effort had been expended on the draft EIS.

“As such, I wish to register my opposition to this proposal," Baldacci wrote. "I do not believe that serious consideration has been given to the impacts on the people of Maine nor has the appropriate level of due diligence been conducted in this process and in the Draft EIS.”

The ANG has since responded, thanking Baldacci for his letter and issuing a series of replies to the concerns listed in the Aug. 28 letter.

"The Air National Guard considers community support as central to our ability to meet the demands of securing the homeland and defending our nation," Wyatt wrote, in a letter dated Dec. 1. "Alleviating any and all concerns regarding the affect of our operations on the quality of life in western Maine is fundamental to this effort."

The ANG began by stating that further postponements in the process were unlikely.

"We have exceeded federal laws and guidelines," the letter reads, going on to state that "after we received Gov. Baldacci's August 28, 2009 letter, requesting the public hearing be postponed six to nine months, we postponed the public hearing for two months. We also extended the comment review period for another four months totaling 147 days."

The ANG also attempted to address concerns raised by state Rep. Thomas Saviello (R - Wilton) and others about the completeness of the draft EIS. On the Maine Department of Transportation Web site, the draft EIS is now accompanied by a list of preparers. The ANG says in the letter that the EIS will meet all of the requirements set by the Council of Environmental Quality.

The letter also addresses a recommendation made by both the MDOT and some residents at the recent public hearing, which was for the EIS to include a review by a third-party noise engineer.

"All contractor noise work is reviewed by USAF specialists," the letter reads.

The ANG's response goes on to refute claims that the public hearing, held at the University of Maine at Farmington on Nov. 14, was improperly advertised, citing posts in several local newspapers.

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12 Responses »

  1. I have been active in trying to honestly assess this proposal from the onset with many others involved.

    However, the MASS ANG and especially their consultants have not come close to doing due diligence on investigating the probable or likely adverse impacts this proposal would have on our economy, affects to quality of place, nor the impacts on the environment and wildlife in our region. They simply just say it "won't impact anything" without any factual basis or support data behind their slanted opinion. They have shown an almost "on purpose" change of dates and location of planned public hearing events with threats of time limits and an arrogant air about the outcome not belonging to those most impacted by their proposal. There is no way that they have conducted the proper review of "ALL" of the concerns raised at any of the public hearing, let alone the last one held at UMF.

    I truly hope that the FAA clearly hears the people of western Maine saying a clear and LOUD "NO" to this proposal of expanded destruction of our quality of place and peace of mind.

  2. What noise? All day long, huge truck loads of logs go back and forth on our roads, and the noise is loud. Tractor trailers loaded with goods travel all day and night on our roads, making loud noise. Trucks and cars with bad mufflers make loud noise. None of these noises have impacted(ponytail word) the area. The skiers keep coming. The tourist will always come. The fact that so many people in Franklin County are so willing to sell their souls for profit is disgusting. If one military person should die because of thoughts of personal gain in Franklin County, then I say SHAME on all of you! It is obvious that this County is a ME ONLY GENERATION and are willing to follow make believe claims of the liberal side rather then take up the cause of protecting those who defend us!

    What will anyone lose in Franklin County? WHAT? This opposition is surely anti war. Those who oppose the war should crawl back into their holes and wait it out. It is obvious that you all have turned your arms into plowshares. So I say live with your misery and stop spreading false word because you fear the real World.

  3. Just a note,

    I watched some of the low flight hearing at UMF on Mt Blue TV and I heard all about the fuel waste.
    Now I would like to know how all the people from other towns arrived there. By car or truck? When you prove that you walk or bike or by horseback, to get to your food and other needs, then you will have my ear and respect. Also, let's see more of you using a handsaw to cut your firewood. While your at it, try turning off your electricity and your computers. If your windows rattle when a jet passes, then I say you are wasting heat because of poor insulation and windows. Just who is wasting fuel? The wasting of fuel to complain and deny others a safety issue is totally wrong. If anyone really believes in fuel preservation, let's see more of you out there walking in this cold Winter wonderland that your trying to save.

  4. To "a vet"

    As I've mentioned before - I too am a vet. I enlisted and served my country in the military and have served my community in a number of capacities since.

    A vet - you are entitled to your opinions, BUT your constant accusations that anyone who opposes anything the military proposes is unpatriotic is becoming absurd. You don't seem to understand that our country is built on the right to hold and express diverse opinions. My oath to the US when I joined was to support and defend the Constitution which includes free speech. It doesn't say anything about free speech as defined by "a vet." Just free speech.

    If you have an opinion - express it, but please stop attacking everyone not in lockstep with you.

  5. After almost 3 years of this discussion I can't resist asking those who support the plan for low level jet flights a simple two part question:

    Have you read the proposal?

    Do you understand it?

    The latest letter to the Governor is much less arrogant than the first. But, it is no more forthcoming with real answers. So, here comes a federal agaency to take what is yours and you are cheering them on. Time to wake up and realize what is happening to the deomocratic process.

  6. People who post anonymous insults are the real cowards. Labeling yourself a vet whether it's true or not doesn't entitle you or anyone else to question the motives of others.

    Bullying isn't an act of patriotism and it's certainly not democratic.

    What the Governor and the bi-partisan voice of the Congressional Delegation have insisted on is a real process. That's what democracies are all about. That's what patriots fight for. We haven't had that process yet and it's been deeply disappointing.

    Toni Seger
    Western Maine Matters

  7. I think the ANG is living in its constant state of ME ONLY. It isn't the generation. It is the military's M.O. It is the rich white hand that will never die in war sending our sons and daughters to "bring peace" by fattening a few people's pockets.

    Support the troops. Treat them as more than bodies trained to do the bidding of someone they will never meet, someone who will never know the truth of war.

  8. To the two Ts...I am shedding a tear as I type. I didn't go to the hearing, because I did not want to come home and have my two dogs spell the fear of liberals.

    I will have to agree a bit with Bill. I saw the enactment of the Xmas truce during WW1 and believe that if men on the lines had a say, there would be no wars. While the US didn't instigate any wars, it sure can strike back. I am sure everyone is patriotic, but you have not proven a low flying jet will cause harm. The sound barrier is broken at the speed of sound. These jets will be doing less then that speed. If you are anti war...say so. If you will be affected by the jet, tell us how! If you are anti war be brave enough to say so and not hide behind an impact study that proves nothing.

    If your a liberal...say it. If you are going to like waiting for up to a year to see your Doc or a two to three year wait for an MRI after the health care is passed...say so. But please do not tell me that an animal will have a miscarriage deep in some bog when a jet flies over or that your windows will crack.

    You all know the impact you speak of is false. What will happen, your tomatos will fall off their vine in fear of a jet airplane?

  9. But why delay and stall training that is mission critical? If there's a problem let's solve it.

  10. "A Vet" - I always include my full name with my opinions and very few would dare call me a liberal, nor am I trusting of our government to give us a decent health care or one that will reduce any deficit. I believe that it is a citizen's duty to always question what our government is doing, local, state, and federal.

    How can you say that we should trust our military to our air space without any threat of abuse but not trust our governement with our health care, both are our government?

    The point is that the MASS ANG has not shown that it would not abuse our air space nor have they indicated that they would be the only ones using that space. Recently we had the VT ANG break the sound barrier in our space, it was disruptive to many people in the area, but it wasn't MASS ANG problem, it was ours. These are the types of questions that have been asked to the MASS ANG without real answers being given back to the honest and cross sectional segment of western Maine's population.

    I trust that you are a vet, and I thank you for your service to our country. I encourage you to read the Environmental Assessment or the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and then ask wether your military is giving the people of Maine the real answers to their questions or the run around.

    MASS ANG has available training facilities already, there is no problem to solve, nor any mission critical, only their desire for fun new air space to play in at Western Maine's expense.

  11. a vet - I agree with you. If an *unbiased* group found that these changes to the flight zoning rules would not negatively affect anyone or anything, there are still going to be people opposing it on ideological grounds.

    Personally, I feel two things concerning this situation:

    -I think that the ANG chose this area because of the fact that it considered our home so rural and poor that there weren't the people or the resources to challenge their requests, and I think that is bullying, and it makes me feel like our military has no respect for the people of Maine. It sees us only as an obstacle to their desires, and presents to me the fact that in order for the military to bring peace and equality they have to go against a regions wishes and belittle its nations citizens because they are seen of no value to their effort.

    -Tourism is our number one industry. To keep our economy for falling to pieces, we need to preserve the things that ensure our ability to get by. Our revenue, aka visitors, will go to New Hampshire, Vermont, or Canada if they are trying to place a peaceful and relaxing vacation. They would just stay at an airport if they want to hear airplanes flying at low levels. Obviously these changes will affect us as residents too, but let's face it. If the changes happen, they happen, and we will still go to our jobs and to school and to the grocery store. But if visitors decide they don't want to come, because they have the freedom to choose to go somewhere more vacation-like, our strongest economy will melt away with the snow.

  12. I am just curious as to how many of the anti low flighters are in the tourist industry or make an income from it, in some way?

    I haven't heard anyone respond that they walked a great distance to the hearing either.

    Aren't the antis using electricity to write here? More fossil fuel wasted by the antis. That seems to be ok for them.

    And to Bill C. The Uni is gonna dump your health insurance so fast your head will spin. Ask yourself why NO one in Congress will go on public health. Your a smart person, but I will tell you why. Congress knows it is a BAD plan and they are making sure they are protected. Please don't fall for their BS!