Navy wants to expand Oregon bombing range

Navy wants to expand Oregon bombing range

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — The Navy wants to expand military training activities at the Boardman Bombing Range in northeastern Oregon, a facility that has gained value recently for drone use.

An environmental analysis weighs possible effects of adding mortar pads, live firing ranges or a demolition training area, the East Oregonian reported Wednesday.

The proposal includes extending low-flying airspace over the Umatilla Chemical Depot, where destruction of toxic weapons has been completed.

The bombing range southwest of Boardman along the Columbia River is used by planes from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station for low-altitude training — as low as 200 feet.

"This is a joint training range ... and it's at a premium right now," said Capt. Jay Johnston, commander at Whidbey Island. "We don't really have the ability to build new airspace."

Johnston said the Boardman range has restricted airspace that's scarce in the Pacific Northwest and is important for low-altitude electronic attack training.

Oregon National Guard members told the paper this spring that because of the lack of restricted air space, Boardman is the only place for drone training in Oregon.

The Navy has held public meetings and is taking comments until Nov. 6 on the environmental analysis. It identifies potential wildfire, noise and wildlife impacts.

The plan contemplates two levels of expansion beyond current activities.

It includes an increase in training activities, as well as new aircraft, ranges for machine gun and convoy fire, a maintenance building for drone systems and a landing strip.

Beyond that, the plans call for three mortar pads, a second convoy firing range and a control center.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press