Navy Helicopter Activity Could Increase 30 Percent in IB, Open House Thursday, Public Comments Until March 28

The U.S. Navy wants to increase its helicopter training at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) and the Naval Outlying Landing Field in Imperial Beach.

Today, approximately 300,000 helicopter flights take off from the Outlying Field every year. If approved, flights would increase by 30 percent by 2016.

An environmental assessment has been put together by the Navy to determine the impact of increased flights to the environment and surrounding areas.

Officially known as a helicopter wings realignment, the Navy wants to add 52 more helicopters, four additional helicopter squadrons, new MH-60 R/S helicopters to replace H-60 helicopters, construction of a new hangar and supporting facilities and the addition of 800 personnel at NASNI.

A 30-day public comment period is being held between Feb. 25 and March 28. A public information open house will be held Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Coronado Community Center in Coronado.

Public comments can be submitted at tonight’s open house or through the mail by filling out the form attached to this article. Copies of the environmental assessment are available at the Imperial Beach and Coronado libraries or online.

Gene Hillger came to a March 2 City Council meeting to voice his opinion on more helicopter flights and the environmental assessment.

Hillger grew up within a mile of Ream Field and today still lives in the Seaside Point neighborhood bordering the Outlying Field.

“I bought this house 25 years ago knowing the operations and excepting that. I find it difficult to believe that a 30 percent will not impact our lives though,” he said.

“It is showing that there is no environmental impact to IB. In their impact on residential areas, the Navy looked at South Seacoast, the Coronado Cays and Coronado city homes.”

“One place they didn’t look at was Seaside Point, which is where I live.”

“The fact that Seaside Point was not evaluated makes the EIR flawed and inadequate.”

“The touch and go operations are right at the end of our street. I think that we have the most impact of all of any neighborhood in Coronado or IB. I cannot understand why the report didn’t involve our neighborhood, our property value and quality of life as well.”

The captain met with the city manager and myself and it is an environmental assessment. “They have different rules. Our staff will review the report and suggest appropriate comments,” said Mayor Jim Janney.

“I urge you as individuals, and your neighbors to putĀ  your comments in. They have a 30-day window for that comment period. The more comments, the better. I am sure there will be comments from the city staff on this once they review it. But the more the merrier on any type of proposal such as this.”

“I did inform the captain at that time that beyond that report that I was going to be sending a letter from the city to the two wing commanders [of the Navy Southwest Region] to more or less reinforce the rules of the road that they have agreed to for many years, to stay within those rules. City staff will bring recommendations to the council once they have reviewed that,” Janney said.