Impact study based on three proposals

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

The Cannon Air Force Base Environmental Impact Statement is based on a three-prong proposal by Air Force Special Operations Command. The EIS studies the effect of those proposals on the surrounding environment, scrutinizing everything from air, noise and water impact to potential socioeconomic outcomes.

Two of the proposals offer variations of restructuring scenarios for utilization and expansion at Cannon Air Force Base.

One provides for expansion and renovation along the western, already developed side of the flightline at Cannon, and the other for development on both sides of the flightline, including currently undeveloped areas.

Under both proposals, population, employment, housing and education needs would be about the same in the end, the summary said, though increased construction with the second proposal could mean increased direct and secondary employment during the short term as construction takes place.

Under the proposals, the 16th Special Operations Wing would be located at the base, a mission that would include 108 aircraft and more than 5,000 military personnel, civilians and contractors by the year 2010.

The 16th SOW is scheduled to take over the base in October, according to a Pentagon proposal that was a compromise in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process.

The third proposal provides for the scenario of no action taken, describing the outcome of Cannon being converted to an AFSOC command facility without the movement of assets.

According to an AFSOC spokesperson, the no-action element must legally be included in the study to illustrate what the effect would be if AFSOC did not move assets to Cannon.

The no-action proposal would mean a decline of Cannon personnel to approximately 150 to maintain and operate properties with continued use of airspace and the Melrose Bombing Range, the summary said.

AFSOC public affairs reported all three options are being considered equally in the environmental impact evaluation process. However, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., expressed Thursday the inclusion of construction funds for Cannon in the 2008 fiscal budget is, to him, “a clear indication of the Air Force’s intent” to carry out a new mission at the base.

“I’m excited about the Special Ops transition at Cannon, and I have only received assurances that the transition will move forward,” Domenici said. “In fact, I’m excited about the draft EIS finding that the 60 F-16s at Cannon will be replaced by as many as 108 AFSOC aircraft, many of which involve multiple personnel which could mean big growth for the base.”

The proposals could be adjusted based on input during the review period. The purpose of the draft is to provide the public and agencies an opportunity to review the Air Force’s estimate of the impact of its proposals, according to AFSOC.

Public and agency inputs are included in the final EIS as well as descriptions of any changes made, they said.

To download a version of the Draft EIS on the Web, go to: www2.afsoc.af.mil/fonsi