By Janine Zúñiga, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 4:01 a.m.
CORONADO — After hearing from concerned residents and local city officials, the Navy is extending the public comment period on its proposal to vastly increase activity at the Silver Strand Training Complex between Coronado and Imperial Beach. The deadline is now March 30. The original deadline was Tuesday. At two public hearings last month, several residents told Navy officials they were just hearing about the plans and hadn’t had time to read an 800-page Environmental Impact Statement the service conducted that outlines the potential impacts on their communities. Coronado and Imperial Beach each formally requested an extension, arguing that those interested in commenting on the large document, which took 10 years to complete, needed more than the allotted 45 days. “That’s good news,” Imperial Beach City Manager Gary Brown said Friday upon learning of the extension. “It’s just such a massive document.” The Navy said it wanted to “give local communities, citizens and organizations additional time to review the entire document and submit comments.” Navy officials say they need to improve the availability and quality of training at its complex, and to prepare for future requirements. The Navy plans to increase use of the 540-acre complex where land, beach and offshore training has been conducted for more than 60 years. The Navy proposes an increase in activities along the Silver Strand to 5,343 from 3,926 annually. The number of helicopter sorties would increase to 2,200 from 778 a year and firearm discharges would rise to 1,400 from 150. Coronado and Imperial Beach both submitted initial concerns about traffic, noise and beach access, and each said it would take another look at the environmental study and possibly submit additional comments.