COUDERSPORT — The Potter County Board of Commissioners received a letter from the National Guard Bureau, Joint Base Andrews in Maryland regarding the proposal for low-level military training flights over a large portion of North Central Pennsylvania, including most of Potter County.

The letter states an environmental assessment that “considers the potential consequences to human health and the natural environment” will be prepared in relation to the low-level military training flight proposal.

Commissioner Paul Heimel said they spoke with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which would like the National Guard Bureau to prepare an environmental impact study, as opposed to an environmental assessment.

“An environmental impact study is much more detailed, and they would address some of the issues that are already being raised,” Heimel said.

The board of commissioners has not yet taken a stand on the proposal. The letter requests assistance from the commissioners, as well as several other “stakeholders” in identifying potential issues.

“Right now, I’m keeping my mind open, I think we all are. But I believe this is going to become pretty controversial,” Heimel said.

The Maryland National Guard is proposing to send low-level aerial training flights over a wide swath of the Pennsylvania Wilds. According to the proposal, the area lies below the existing Duke Military Operations Airspace, which does not allow low-altitude training missions. The proposed flights could be anywhere from 100 feet above ground to 7,999 feet above sea level.

Commissioner Barry Hayman said he hadn’t had time to do a lot of research, but noted that the aircraft could be flying very low.

“The Maryland Air National Guard … is requesting to fly as low as 100 feet. So that would be slightly more than two of the ‘Old Hickories’ on top of one another. And that’s pretty darn low,” Hayman said. “That’s almost low enough to see what color the eyes are of the pilot ... if he turns sideways and looks at us, smiles and winks. That’s a pretty distinct look at our tax dollars flying by.”

“And it’s my understanding that they do make a bit of noise,” Hayman said.

There could be up to two, one-hour flights a day, 170 days a year that involve up to six A-10 Warthog planes. Usage will routinely be Monday through Friday, with one drill weekend a month, which will mostly be a Saturday. The affected counties include Cameron, Clinton, Elk, McKean, Potter and Tioga.

There would be no ground-disturbing activities, no weapons firing and no ordnance deployment, according to the Maryland National Guard proposal.

“The Maryland ANG mission is to maintain a well-trained and well-equipped A-10C squadron available for prompt mobilization during war and also provide assistance to allies during emergencies,” the letter states. “The 175 WG (175th Wing) must have a reliable and realistic training environment in which to conduct upgrades and continuation training for aircrew.”

Also during the meeting, the board of commissioners:

  • Approved Sean Farrant’s resignation as corrections officer at the Potter County Jail, effective April 28,
  • Approved the hiring of Kiara Perkins as full-time mental health caseworker 1, effective April 19,
  • Approved applications for liquid fuel tax funds from Oswayo Township for $1,566.42 and Pike Township for $1,020.06,
  • Approved virtual trainings for Will Hunt and Charlie Tuttle to attend CCAP PA GIS Conference, and Debbie Lincoln and Amanda Morey to attend Using the LifeCourse Framework for Transition, and
  • Opened bids for the 12’ Brimar dump trailer and awarded it to Janet Riceman for $3,110. Bids were received through Municipal Bid.

The next commissioners meeting is set for 11 a.m. Thursday, May 6.

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