Public comment period for F-16 flyovers near Elephant Butte extended after concerns

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Holloman Air Force Base will extend the deadline for open comment on the proposed F-16 flights near Elephant Butte.

The mayor of neighboring Truth or Consequences said the flights would be detrimental to the small town and the state’s economy.

“If we lose that dam, there goes the ballpark, folks,” Mayor Steven Green said. “I mean, there goes the economy of southern New Mexico. All the ranchers, all the farmers, some of the municipalities — we all have ownership of that water.”

The Air Force base has said it needs a bigger area to meet training requirements. According to Green, that means a lot of noise over one of the most popular tourist areas in the state.

“That lake, our population, our hospital, our assistant living and hospice care and nursing home are all within seconds — are literally within seconds — of the western boundary of this proposed action area,” he said.

Green fears sonic booms will be life-altering to the veterans living at the state veteran’s home, many of whom have PTSD. He’s also concerned about noise affecting wildlife at the Ted Turner Ranch, a place tourists pay to go, bringing in necessary revenue to the area.

The environmental assessment released in July shows the proposed flight area would be over public land trails, the lake and just west of the Spaceport.

White said the community feels like it’s being taken advantage of by the federal government because they only had one month’s notice for a comment period.

Green sent a letter of concern to the Air Force base and received a response Thursday saying the comment period has been extended one month.

Holloman spokesman Arlan Ponder said the base wants to make sure it’s getting the most accurate information out to combat misconceptions.

“We’re going to propose to go 20,000 feet above the ground which is  four miles high, and it’s six miles east of the town,” Ponder said.

Kim Skinner with the county tourism board said she’s most concerned about the overall impact on ecotourism. Still, plenty of lake-goers Thursday said they’re not concerned.

“I was in the Air Force, yes, and I’ve seen the F-16s fly over this lake and they just come so low and they’re so loud and so fast it’s just awesome and breathtaking,” said John Gallegosn of Albuquerque at the lake Thursday.

Holloman will hold three scoping meetings in September for the public to weigh in on the potential fly-overs:

Sept. 12 in Carlsbad
Sept. 13 in Truth or Consequences
Sept. 14 in Las Cruces

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