The Lemoore Planning Commission and City Council are currently considering a revision of the Lemoore General Plan.
A major component of the revision entails residential development west of state Highway 41, directly under an established flight path of Naval Air Station Lemoore. The impacts of such development are predictable. The city's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) projects that up to 23 percent of 7,000 new residents exposed to elevated noise will be "highly annoyed." The EIR characterizes future impacts as "significant and unavoidable."
These EIR warnings should be well regarded. There are many historical precedents in communities throughout the United States demonstrating the inevitability of conflict when residential areas are developed under flight paths.
The Navy greatly values the strong, positive relationship between the base and the local community. That relationship is a great strategic advantage. Naval Air Station Lemoore is a nationally critical asset with unique capabilities that cannot be duplicated elsewhere.
The Navy and local governments must work together to preserve that vital capability. The Lemoore professional planning staff has been receptive to our concerns and has recommended mitigations such as mandatory indoor sound attenuation measures.
While I applaud these initiatives, they are not sufficient to insulate either the city or the Navy from future conflict. The Navy and many other communities have learned a hard and expensive lesson: residential development under flight paths results in conflict, even in supportive communities.
Some have contended that the Navy is responding to this proposal at the last minute. Since its relocation to the Central Valley as a result of incompatible development in the Bay Area, the Navy has consistently articulated its requirement to operate the base in an environment free of encroachment.
The Navy has communicated openly about the strategic value of its operations at Lemoore for many years, with the full support of city, county, and state governments through several Congressional base realignment and closure studies.
Further, we have been integrally involved in the community dialogue specifically regarding the General Plan revision for more than a year.
This is an important decision for the Planning Commission and City Council and for the citizens of Lemoore, one with potential to permanently alter the landscape.
I believe our strong partnership can continue to preserve the enduring strategic value of Naval Air Station Lemoore for the nation while simultaneously enabling the city to manage its growth effectively.
I urge the commission and the council to consider land use alternatives other than residential development west of state Highway 41.
Capt. Townsend is commanding officer at NAS Lemoore.
(March 1, 2008)