Senators Snowe, Collins respond: House asks Maine Congressional Delegation to oppose low-flight modification
AUGUSTA - A resolution petitioning Maine's Congressional Delegation to oppose proposed modifications to the military operation area that encompasses Franklin County and much of western Maine overwhelmingly passed a House vote Tuesday morning.
The Senate is expected to consider the resolution, presented by Rep. Tom Saviello (R - Wilton), on Thursday, according to an aid in the legislative information office. The House passed the bill by a vote of 116 in favor to 20 opposed, with 15 abstentions. Saviello said today that his issues are with an Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Air National Guard on the proposed modification which he has said is incomplete at best.
"I am very proud of the House for their vote," Saviello said. "My remarks made it clear that we want the best training possible for our pilots and soldiers. However, we want the Massachusetts Air National Guard to do the environmental impact statement completely."
U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) said of the resolution petition today: ”I have closely monitored this issue over the past decade and continue to have serious concerns regarding the comprehensive review that I requested in my letter to the Federal Aviation Administration last fall. We must judiciously balance the need to provide our brave men and women of the Armed Forces with the equipment and training necessary for them to protect the nation here and abroad with the need to safeguard the public interest and ensure that those Mainers living in the proposed CONDOR area are safe and free to conduct their business and live without undue interference. I appreciate the sentiment behind the Resolution passed by the Maine State House and have carefully reviewed the document. I will continue to closely monitor this issue and work with my fellow representatives from Maine, the Governor and his staff, and the Air National Guard to ensure the greatest weight is given to the concerns of residents in the affected areas.”
Communications director, Kevin Kelley, released this statement for U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): “Senator Collins is concerned about the potential effects that lowering the flight level could have on the environment, the economy, and the quality of life of those who live in Western Maine. She contacted the National Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration to convey her concerns, and to ensure that the concerns of residents and businesses are being carefully considered before any changes in flight restrictions are made. In response, the ANG and FAA indicated that a decision to approve the airspace change would not be made until appropriate environmental and community impact reviews are completed. The Senator’s office continues to be in close contact with the National Guard and the FAA on this issue.”
Cosponsoring the bill are Sen. Walter Gooley (R- Farmington), Rep. Paul Gilbert (D - Jay), Rep. Lance Harvell (R - Farmington), Rep. Jarrod Crockett (D - Bethel), Rep. Matthew Peterson (D - Rumford) and Rep. Wayne Mitchell, representing the Penobscot Nation.
Harvell said he was pleased with the overwhelming support of the resolution.
"Tom (Saviello) did his homework on this. He made his case very well," Harvell said.
The resolution asks the Maine Congressional Delegation to request the Federal Aviation Administration delay any decision on a proposal by the Air National Guard to modify Condor 1 and Condor 2, military operation areas that have encompassed most of Franklin County for 30 years.
Currently, in Condor 1 and Condor 2, ANG pilots must stay above 7,000 feet throughout the MOA, unless they're training in military training routes, or MTRs. The ANG wants to lower the minimum altitude to 500 feet throughout most of the MOA.
A copy of the resolution can be found here.