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Associated Press January 28, 2006

Nevada officials oppose Air Force request for more airspace

ELY, Nev. (AP) - Local officials are opposing an Air Force request for more airspace over eastern Nevada, saying it could scuttle plans for two power plants and a wind farm.

Hill Air Force Base in Utah is seeking approval from the Federal Aviation to add a 2,400-square-mile training zone for F-16 fighter jets over White Pine and Elko counties.

The FAA has twice rejected the base's requests for new military operations areas in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. Nevada's airspace now is being targeted because it is underutilized, Hill officials said.

But officials in financially strapped White Pine County fear the new training area might jeopardize plans for the power plants and a wind farm by limiting the height of structures.

"The county would like to see that proposal dropped," said White Pine economic development director Karen Rajala. "We're very concerned about the possible impact on those (power projects)."

Ely Airport Manager Dan Callaghan also came out against the proposal, saying it would interfere with airport operations and increasing glider activity.

"To the general aviation pilot, the (restricted military area) looks like a no trespassing sign," Callaghan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Jerry Angus, airspace manager at Hill, said the Air Force could accommodate the power projects by adjusting the airspace restrictions.

He claimed that air traffic would be minimally impacted and glider activity would not be impaired.

"The military would be using this infrequently," Angus said, adding restrictions would be in effect each year for eight weeklong periods, or 56 days.

Exercises over Nevada would be scheduled when pilots' usual practice site at the Utah Test and Training Range is being used for cruise missile tests, Angus added.

Staffers for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., plan to meet with the military this week to discuss the proposal, said his spokeswoman, Sharyn Stein.

Reid plans to "make sure this does not create a problem for the people in Ely," Stein told the Review-Journal.

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., "definitely has concerns given the potential impact" on the power projects, said his spokeswoman, Melissa Subbotin.

If approved, the plan would enlarge the military's grasp of Nevada skies. Experts estimate as much as half its airspace already is controlled by the military.

"It's a lot compared to other states," said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a defense research group.

LS Power Associates plans to build a 1,600-megawatt coal-fired plant near Ely. The plant would distribute energy to Nevada Power Co. of Las Vegas and Sierra Pacific Power Co. of Reno.

Sierra Pacific Resources, parent company of the two utilities, also has announced plans for its own $3 billion plant near Ely.

Another company has announced plans for a wind farm on the Egan Range north of Ely.

Copyright 2006, Associated Press