Friends of the Everglades is asking Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to pull this topic from tomorrow’s County Commission agenda to provide more time for input on a proposal that could lead to commercial flights out of Homestead Air Reserve Base.
The following letter was submitted to Mayor Gimenez and the Miami-Dade County Commission on behalf of Friends of the Everglades by attorney Paul J. Schwiep.
October 5, 2020
Via Electronic Mail
Carlos A. Gimenez
Stephen P. Clark Center
111 Northwest 1st Street, 29th Floor
Miami, Florida 33128
Re: Homestead Air Reserve Base: Agenda Item No. 11(A)(13)
Dear Mayor Gimenez:
I write on behalf of the Friends of the Everglades (“Friends”) to request that the Board of County Commissioners defer consideration of Agenda Item No. 11(A)(13) pertaining to the negotiation of a joint use agreement with the United States for the creation of a fixed-base operator development adjacent to the Homestead Air Reserve Base. Friends of the Everglades was founded in 1969 by renowned journalist, author, and environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Friends is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving America’s Everglades and its interconnected ecosystems.
Friends was intimately involved in opposing Miami-Dade County’s efforts in the late 1990s and early 2000s to convert portions of the former Homestead Air Force Base, now the Homestead Air Reserve Base (the “Air Base”), for use for private aviation operations. The concern at the time, which remains as true as ever today, is that the Air Base is situated directly between Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park. The use of the Air Base for nonmilitary activities would likely unacceptable and unnecessary adverse impacts on nearby environmental resources, the Parks, and on visitors’ experience of them.
In 2001, the Department of Defense issued its Second Supplemental Record of Decision regarding the Air Base and found that the Air Force would retain the runway and all airfield areas at the Air Base for military use. The Air Force declined to surplus any portion of the Air Base or its runway for private uses. The decision was based on the need to “protect environmental values in two nearby national parks.” 66 Fed. Reg. 12930 (March 1, 2001). In addition, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, ruled in 1998 that use of the Air Base for nonmilitary activities could impact resources and facilities of regional and statewide significance. Sierra Club v. State Administration Commission, 721 So. 2d 829 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998).
The same concerns that drove the successful opposition to use of the Air Base for private purposes in the late 1990s and early 2000s apply with equal, if not greater, force today. Particularly in light of the direct threats imperiling Biscayne Bay, as well as continued efforts at Everglades restoration within and outside of the confines of Everglades National Park, conversion of any portion of the Air Base for private commercial use should proceed cautiously and transparently.
The proposed resolution raises more questions than it answers. The open and unaddressed issues include:
- What due diligence has occurred “to identify a viable site appropriate for development and use by a fixed base operator at” the Air Base and to whom has this information been provided?
- Who will be the proposed fixed base operator?
- What specific operations will be permitted?
- What is the number of nonmilitary flights that will be conducted by the fixed base operator, and are limits imposed?
- What specific kind of aircraft will use the facility and what noise, air and other impacts will that particular aircraft cause?
- What is the proposed flightpath for nonmilitary operations from the Air Base?
- What specific communities will be affected by noise, air, and other adverse impacts created a nonmilitary operations?
- What studies have occurred to identify impacts on wildlife, including without limitation birds, as a consequence of the proposed nonmilitary operations?
- Has any study been conducted of the bird airstrike hazards (BASH) that would exist in connection with nonmilitary use of the Air Base?
- Why does the County suddenly deem it necessary “to expeditiously complete the due diligence” and finalize a joint use agreement at this time? Why the rush?
- If due diligence has not been completed, why is this resolution moving forward now?
Use of the Air Base for nonmilitary purposes of any sort would likely impact dramatically the unique and irreplaceable attributes of Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park. This is self-evident. While some impact to these resources might be deemed necessary in connection with the national security interests protected by the U.S. Air Force, impacts for purely private, nonmilitary reasons are not appropriate or, likely, legal in this area.
Accordingly, we respectfully request that this item be deferred to allow concerned and interested parties more time to study and consider the proposal.
Very truly yours,
s/Paul J. Schwiep
Paul J. Schwiep
cc: County Commissioners:
District 1 – Barbara J. Jordan (District1@miamidade.gov)
District 2 – Jean Monestime (firstname.lastname@example.org)
District 3 – Audry M. Edmonson (email@example.com )
District 4 – Sally A. Heyman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
District 5 – Eileen Higgins (email@example.com)
District 6 – Rebecca Sosa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
District 7 – Xavier L. Suarez (District7@miamidade.gov)
District 8 – Daniella Levine Cava (District8@miamidade.gov)
District 9 – Dennis C. Moss (DennisMoss@miamidade.gov)
District 10 – Javier D. Souto (email@example.com)
District 11 – Joe A. Martinez (firstname.lastname@example.org)
District 12 – Jose “Pepe” Diaz (email@example.com)
District 13 – Esteban L. Bovo, Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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