By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
The Tampa Tribune described the airport plan as "insidious.
"Certain interests are making a determined effort to convert the decommissioned Homestead Air Force Base into a huge commercial airport, which would have more than 600 flights a day," the paper stated. "The massive facility would be far more intrusive than the base, which had only a handful of flights a day. It is hard to imagine a worse location for the complex -- between Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park and only ten miles from the Florida Keys.
"The thundering noise of so many jets over Biscayne and the Everglades would unquestionably diminish, not to say ruin, the recreational experience of visitors to those wildernesses. According to an environmental review, the sound of jets at Biscayne National Park Visitors Center would be the equivalent of the station-rattling roar of a New York subway train.
"Moreover the airport would result in air and water pollution from both runoff and aircraft emissions. Environmentalists estimate the airport and related development would emit about seven tons of pollutants into the air daily. Much of this, including lead, would inevitably wash into nearby waters.
"Perhaps most damaging, the commercial airport would ignite development in the mostly agricultural area, causing construction to sprawl onto the edge of Everglades National Park, destroying more habitat and resulting in even more threats to the River of Grass. Already transportation officials are discussing building a major highway through the area should the commercial airport be built.
"This project simply makes no sense," the Tampa Tribune concluded, "which is the reason the Interior Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and every major conservation group oppose it. The Monroe County Commission, recognizing how the project could harm the Florida Keys, also is against it. There are other, less damaging sites for an airport.
"An air force assessment minimized the airport's environmental threat, saying it could be made compatible with nearby parks. That is an incredible assertion. But the analysis also noted the strong advantages of converting the base into the low-impact business-tourist center.
"The decision over the base's future ultimately will be made by the White House. President Clinton took a historic step toward saving the Everglades by signing the restoration legislation. He could make sure that his good work on behalf of the Everglades is not reversed by rejecting this plan to build a commercial airport in South Florida's environmental heart."
What do you think? Let President Clinton know how you feel about the air base and whether it should be turned into a commercial airport. You can contact the White House by calling 800-663-9566 or 202-456-1414. Follow the prompts to a White House comments-line operator, who will register your opinion.
If you wish to send a letter, the fax number is 202-456-2461. Or send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week: Debunking the big myth that Homestead Air Force Base, for economic reasons, urgently needs to be developed as a commercial airport.