Marines Settle Lawsuit Over Helicopters at Miramar, California

FEBRUARY 23, 1999

The Associated Press State & Local Wire reports the U.S. Marines announced Tuesday an agreement to conduct air pollution studies and pay legal fees to settle a California lawsuit over the transfer of hundreds military helicopters to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

According to the article, a lawsuit filed two years ago by the city of Del Mar and residents claimed the military ignored federal environmental laws when ordering the transfer and that the helicopters would create pollution, noise and safety problems. (For story, see Legislation and Suit Attempt to Stop Military Helicopters from Being Moved to California Air Base .) Miramar currently is the base for Marine F/A-18 Hornet jet planes. Seven Marine Corps helicopters were transferred to the base in September, and more than 250 aircraft will arrive by April; 165 are heavy- and medium-lift helicopters.

The article reports the settlement requires the Marines to conduct an air pollution study to determine the impacts of jets, helicopters and increased traffic at Miramar, located about 13 miles north of downtown San Diego. That study includes an air quality analysis and an air traffic control study by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Major General Robert Magnus, commanding general at Miramar, said the studies and a possible shift in flight patterns over less-populated areas east of the base show a commitment at reaching a compromise. "We are examining reasonable methods to further lessen our impact on our neighbors without jeopardizing our operational readiness and mission-essential training," he said.

Results of the study could potentially require the Marines to reduce the number of aircraft flying at Miramar. Marine officials say they have already raised and altered flight paths in hopes of reducing noise complaints from Del Mar, a coastal community west of the base.

The article states the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were the city of Del Mar; a group called The Move Against Relocating Choppers Here (MARCH) and its founder Jerry Hartgarten; and San Diego resident Richard Hertzberg, a former Energy Department and White House official during the Ford and Carter administrations. They will help monitor the pollution study and the implementation of any mitigation measures. Before filing the lawsuit, MARCH attempted to get the helicopters moved to the more remote March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County. But Marine officials argued that they could safely operate helicopters and jets at Miramar, which is closer to the San Diego-based fleet and fixed-wing aircraft. The Marines took control of the base in October 1997 from the Navy.