The Maryland Air National Guard is considering a proposal to establish airspace where military planes would fly as low as 100 feet over the Pennsylvania Wilds as part of combat training missions.
Environmentalists worry about the impact on wildlife and community residents. If approved, the Maryland National Guard 175th Wing would control airspace in six northern Pennsylvania counties to fly A-10 Warthog aircraft within 100 to 8,000 feet above ground.
The guard released a draft Finding of No Significant Impact report in October.
Nicole Faraguna, director of the Office of Planning and Policy at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), countered the noise from the aircraft could have a big impact on wildlife and people.
"It's about intensity. It's about frequency, and it's about suddenness," Faraguna outlined. "Those are characteristics of a noise that can cause a lot of health issues, not just in animals but in people. It's an environmental issue, it's an economic issue, it's a quality-of-life issue, it's a health issue."
The Pennsylvania Wilds is home to 2.1 million acres of public land. The guard also published its draft environmental impact assessment and accepted public comments on the proposal through Dec. 31.
Faraguna pointed out DCNR, lawmakers, and conservation groups are calling for a complete environmental impact assessment as part of the National Environmental Policy Act process, which should include public meetings in affected communities that may not know about the proposal.
"For example, there is a growing population of Amish," Faraguna observed. "The plain sect community certainly doesn't have access to the website. And so that's why it was so important to really emphasize the need for public meetings, to bring them here to the Pennsylvania Wilds and really explain and answer questions."
The Maryland Air National Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Faraguna noted the guard will go through the public comments it received and decide whether to submit a final Finding of No Significant Impact report or to do a full environmental impact assessment.
Source: Keystone State News Connection