Today’s deadline for residents to sound off on Army plans to add a new Black Hawk helicopter company to the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base has been extended to May 5, and city officials are working to put together an open house on the topic before the new deadline.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, city leaders called for a workshop to give people a chance to learn more about the proposal and offer input. The proposal has many in the community torn between their desire to support the military and their frustration with helicopter noise. At the last council meeting, residents from Los Alamitos and Garden Grove expressed concern that residents didn’t get enough notice and time to evaluate the plan.
Following the complaints, the base’s commander, Brigadier General Keith Jones, sought an extension of the 30-day comment period on the proposal’s environmental assessment. With the noise of the helicopters being the main concern for the community, the proposal is likely to affect residents living in Garden Grove, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor and the College Park East neighborhood of Seal Beach. The general will present the plan to Seal Beach residents at next Monday’s council meeting.
“I think the general really does want to work with the community, so take the time to let them know how you feel,” said City Councilwoman Gerri Graham-Mejia, who lobbied the general for the extension.
The military is looking to relocate an eight-helicopter reserve unit from Victorville to Los Alamitos, and the move could mean up to 15 additional helicopter flights per week at the base. The proposed relocation would bring an 87-member Army Reserve Aviation Unit consisting of 29 full-time personnel and 58 part-time reserve soldiers and eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The move is expected to save the Army $83,000 a month and help increase recruitment of reserve pilots because they would no longer have to drive out to Victorville at the end of a normal workday to complete flight time requirements.
According the Army, the Black Hawk Company would perform light helicopter maintenance and conduct flight-training operations including departure and landing exercises. Generally, the helicopters fly about 700 feet off the ground, and they do tight turns along the perimeter of the base. Most noise complaints come from residents in the Rossmoor Highlands, Seal Beach’s College Park East and from Garden Grove. When the helicopters turn along the flight path, they tilt into the turn, effectively directing their propellers and the noise toward those neighborhoods.
At an open house on the base in March, most residents said they were opposed to the proposal because of the additional noise, dust and nighttime training exercises. However, since then, several residents have come out in support of the proposal at city meetings.
“We have already received two letters—both in support of the Black Hawks at the base,” said City Manager Jeff Stewart.
“You know that base was here before 99 percent of us,” said Los Alamitos resident Beth Piper. “It protects us, and we need to support that base as much as possible.”
The base has a noise hotline 562-795-2573 for residents to call with noise complaints. The proposal’s environmental assessment is available at the Rossmoor Library or at www.army-nepa.info.
The General’s Seal Beach presentation will be at 7 p.m. Monday at Seal Beach City Hall, 211 Eighth St.
The Los Alamitos workshop is not yet scheduled.