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Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Introduction of the Atlantic Fleet F/A-18 E/F Aircraft on the East Coast of the United States and To Announce Public Scoping Meetings

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AGENCY:

Department of the Navy, DOD.

SUMMARY:

Pursuant to section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as implemented by the Council on Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), the Department of the Navy (Navy) announces its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the potential environmental consequences of the introduction of the Atlantic Fleet F/A-18 E/F aircraft on the East Coast of the United States.

DATES AND ADDRESSES:

Public scoping open houses will be held to receive oral and/or written comments on environmental concerns that should be addressed in the EIS. Public scoping open houses will be held from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the following dates and locations: July 12, 2000 in the Best Inn, State Highway 57, Exit 58 on I-95, Townsend, Georgia; July 13, 2000 in the Robert Smalls Middle School, 43 W.K. Austin Drive, Beaufort, South Carolina; July 18, 2000 in the Havelock Middle School, 102 High School Drive, Havelock, North Carolina; July 19, 2000 in the Pamlico County Primary School, 323 Neals Creek Road, Bayboro, North Carolina; July 25, 2000 in the Strawbridge Elementary School, 2553 Strawbridge Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia; July 26, 2000 in the Butts Road Intermediate School, 1571 Mt. Pleasant Road, Chesapeake, Virginia; and July 27, 2000 in the Comfort Inn, 8031 Oregon Inlet Road, Nags Head, North Carolina.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mr. Dan Cecchini (Code 2032), Atlantic Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, 1510 Gilbert Street, Norfolk, Virginia 23511; telephone (757) 322-4887, fax (757) 322-4984.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to section 102(2)(c) of the NEPA of 1969, as implemented by the Council on Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), the Navy announces its intent to prepare an EIS to evaluate the potential environmental consequences of the introduction of the Atlantic Fleet F/A-18 E/F aircraft on the East Coast of the United States.

The Navy has decided to purchase F/A-18 E/F aircraft because of its improved capabilities over earlier aircraft models. It is designed to fly farther and carry a heavier payload, which will make it a more effective tool for national defense. An EIS and Record of Decision (ROD) were completed in 1998 for the introduction of F/A-18 E/F aircraft on the West Coast. In 1999, the Navy began a phase-in of the F/A-18 E/F aircraft to NAS Lemoore, California. Introduction of the F/A-18 E/F aircraft in the Atlantic fleet area of responsibility will begin in 2004 and be completed by 2008.

The EIS will address the environmental impacts associated with basing and operation of the Atlantic fleet F/A-18 E/F aircraft on the East Coast, retirement of existing F-14 aircraft and earlier F/A-18 models, and new construction and/or renovation of buildings and other support facilities. In addition, the EIS will assess impacts on each local community and economy associated with relocation of military personnel to the area to support the operation and maintenance of the E/F squadrons.

The Navy is currently evaluating East Coast installations to develop reasonable F/A-18 E/F siting alternatives. To date, four Navy and Marine Corps air stations have been identified as potential receiving sites: Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, South Carolina; MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina; Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana, Virginia; and NAS Meridian, Mississippi. Other siting alternatives are still being considered. The Navy's preferred alternative is to site all the Atlantic fleet F/A-18 E/F squadrons at one location; however, splitting the squadrons between two bases is not precluded.

The Navy intends to analyze the potential environmental impacts of the Start Printed Page 39374introduction of the Atlantic Fleet F/A-18 E/F aircraft on the environment. This includes, but is not limited to air quality, plant and animal habitats, and water resources, such as streams. It will also evaluate potential effects on the surrounding communities, including land use patterns, transportation, housing, and the regional economy. Further, the Navy will examine potential effects on existing airspace, training range use, and on aircraft noise exposure levels in and around the bases.

The Navy is initiating a scoping process to identify community concerns and local issues that will be addressed in the EIS. Federal, state, and local agencies, and interested persons are encouraged to provide oral and/or written comments to the Navy to identify environmental concerns that should be addressed in the EIS. To be most helpful, scoping comments should clearly describe the specific issues or topics that the EIS should address.

Written comments must be postmarked by September 8, 2000, and should be mailed to: Commander, Atlantic Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, 1510 Gilbert Street, Norfolk, Virginia 23511, Attn: Code 2032 (Mr. Dan Cecchini), telephone (757) 322-4887, fax (757) 322-4984.

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Dated: June 21, 2000.

C.G. Carlson,

Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Alternate Federal Register Liaison Officer.

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[FR Doc. 00-16116 Filed 6-23-00; 8:45 am]

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