Possible bombing range expansion fires up residents

Possible bombing range expansion fires up residents

LONG CO., GA (WTOC) - Talk of the Townsend Bombing Range expanding brings a few words to the minds of residents.

"Unnecessary, unneeded, detrimental, and downright dangerous," said Roger Houston of Ludowici.

Houston, who's lived in Long County his entire life, is one of many residents not happy about the project.

The Townsend Bombing Range, which provides combat training for pilots from all military services, is currently a little more than 5,000 acres. The possible expansion calls for an addition of nearly 30,000 acres.

Houston said, "We support anything that they will do, but we don't feel that it is right for them to come in and take valuable, taxable land out of the county's digest."

"I think it's not going to be a good thing for Long County," said Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles.

Nobles says if the expansion project goes forward, the county could lose lots of money due to the loss of property. Nobles is also concerned for the safety of the community.

"Marine Corps has stated in their proposed plan to lower the flight floor to 100 feet and that is the working height that Air Evac helicopters have to use in responding to traffic accidents and people with serious injuries," said Nobles.

LTC Oscar Alvarez, Operations Officer for the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, says the team looked at seven possible locations: Fort Stewart, Townsend Bombing Range, Poinsett Range, Fort Jackson, Fort Gordon, Grand Bay Range, and Camp Blanding. After evaluating each location based upon proximity, adequate airspace, and it not hosting a conflicting military operation, Townsend Bombing Range was the only location to meet all of the criteria.

LTC Alvarez said, "In the case of Fort Stewart, the ability of keeping non-participating units off of the range and out of those areas where the GPS guided weapons will travel downrange made it incompatible."

But that reasoning is not sitting well with neighbors like Houston, who said, "I would like the Marines to come forward, number one, and give us the real reason why they want this, which I believe is they want their own playpen."

The public comment period on the possible expansion project has been extended to Thursday, Sept. 27. For more information, click here.

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