oversight

Federal Facilities: Alternative Land Uses Could Save Water at Fallon Naval Air Station, Nevada

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-12-10.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                       United States General Accounting Office

GAO                    Report to the Honorable
                       Harry Reid, U.S. Senate



December 1999
                       FEDERAL
                       FACILITIES

                       Alternative Land Uses
                       Could Save Water at
                       Fallon Naval Air
                       Station, Nevada




GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42
Contents



Letter                                                                                        3


Appendixes   Appendix I: Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
               and Two Commercial Airports                                                   16
             Appendix II:    Comments From the Department of Defense                         30
             Appendix III: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                33
             Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                              35


Tables       Table 1: Comparison of Land Use Strategies Considered in Detail
               for Fallon NAS                                                                10


Figures      Figure 1:   Fallon NAS' Runway Protection Zone and Greenbelt Area                7
             Figure 2:   Map of Lemoore Naval Air Station                                    17
             Figure 3:   Map of Yuma Marine Corps Air Station                                19
             Figure 4:   Map of China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station                         21
             Figure 5:   Map of Nellis Air Force Base                                        23
             Figure 6:   Map of Luke Air Force Base                                          25
             Figure 7:   Map of McCarran International Airport                               27
             Figure 8:   Map of Sky Harbor International Airport                             29




             Abbreviations

             DOD          Department of Defense
             FAA          Federal Aviation Administration
             NAS          Naval Air Station
             NOTS         Naval Ordnance Test Station




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United States General Accounting Office                                                     Resources, Community, and
Washington, D.C. 20548                                                                  Economic Development Division



                                    B-283968                                                                                        Leter




                                    December 10, 1999

                                    The Honorable Harry Reid
                                    United States Senate

                                    Dear Senator Reid:

                                    The U.S. Navy, which operates the Fallon Naval Air Station (NAS) in
                                    Nevada, pursues a strategy for managing land around its runways−the
                                    runway protection zone−that requires extensive water usage in an area
                                    where water is scarce. The Fallon area averages less than 5 inches of rain
                                    per year. Since the 1950s, the Navy has maintained a “greenbelt” at the air
                                    station that consists of acreage leased to local farmers who grow irrigated
                                    crops on the land. In the Navy's view, having a “greenbelt” serves to protect
                                    the operational capability of the facility by reducing the risk of fire,
                                    lowering the chance of bird strikes or other damage to aircraft from foreign
                                    objects, and controlling dust. Since 1990, the Navy, on average, has
                                    annually used approximately 1.6 billion gallons of surface water supplied
                                    by the local irrigation project to irrigate this land. According to Fallon NAS
                                    officials, the average annual water consumption for the balance of Fallon
                                    NAS has been 219 million gallons, which is drawn from wells. Other
                                    military facilities and commercial airports located in similar environments
                                    have opted for land use approaches that are less water intensive.

                                    At your request, we gathered information on (1) the aviation safety and
                                    operational requirements for the runway protection zone at Fallon NAS,
                                    (2) the alternative land use strategies Fallon NAS identified in response to
                                    congressional direction1 and how it evaluated them, and (3) the current




                                    1
                                     In 1990, the Congress passed P.L. 101-618, which requires the Secretary of the Navy to
                                    “undertake a study to develop land management plans and measures to achieve dust
                                    control, fire abatement and safety, and foreign object damage control on those lands owned
                                    by the United States within the Naval Air Station at Fallon, Nevada, in a manner that, to the
                                    maximum extent practicable, reduces direct surface deliveries of water.” Upon completion
                                    of the study, the Secretary of the Navy must “select and implement land management plans
                                    or measures developed by the study . . . upon determining that water savings can be made
                                    without impairing the safety of operations at Naval Air Station, Fallon.”




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                   land use strategies at five military facilities and two commercial airports
                   that operate in similar environments.2



Results in Brief   Fallon NAS must comply with the Department of Defense's (DOD) aviation
                   safety and operational requirements for runway protection zones. These
                   requirements specify the maximum safe heights for buildings, towers,
                   poles, and other possible obstructions to air navigation. Under these
                   requirements, where possible, areas immediately beyond the ends of
                   runways and along primary flight paths should be developed sparsely, if at
                   all, to limit the risk from a possible aircraft accident. At Fallon NAS, the
                   agricultural and other low-density land uses are compatible with air
                   operations. The land surrounding the airfield is owned by the Navy and
                   leased to farmers for agricultural use, which is permitted by DOD.

                   Fallon NAS gave detailed consideration to three land management
                   strategies in developing its current approach to managing land in the
                   runway protection zone in the early 1990s. Each of these strategies
                   involved irrigating the greenbelt. As many as 11 different land management
                   strategies were identified at the outset, but three of them were eliminated
                   before an initial screening because Fallon NAS officials believed they
                   would be environmentally or economically unacceptable or would cause
                   unacceptable operational or safety impairments. Fallon NAS officials
                   eliminated five of the remaining eight strategies prior to a detailed analysis
                   because they believed the strategies did not meet the Navy's evaluation
                   criteria, which were based on provisions of the law. The criteria Fallon NAS
                   used in evaluating these land management strategies were based on the
                   officials' assessment of whether the strategies would minimize dust, bird
                   strikes, fire and other hazards; would enhance air safety; and, to a lesser
                   extent, would reduce the amount of irrigation water used. After a detailed
                   analysis and the application of these criteria, Fallon NAS officials selected
                   the strategy that involves conventional farming combined with water
                   conservation practices because they believed it would have a very high
                   probability of satisfying the safety goals while providing moderate water
                   savings compared with the air station's historical usage.



                   2
                   These seven airports in desert locales were Lemoore Naval Air Station, Calif.; China Lake
                   Naval Air Weapons Station, Calif.; Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, Ariz.; Luke Air Force
                   Base, Ariz.; Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; Sky Harbor International Airport, Ariz.; and
                   McCarran International Airport, Nev.




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             At the seven other military facilities and commercial airports we visited,
             the land management strategies varied; two used strategies involving
             greenbelts, while five did not. The military facilities and commercial
             airports operating in desert-like conditions similar to Fallon NAS' have
             employed land management strategies that have resulted in water savings.
             For example, Sky Harbor International Airport, in Phoenix, Arizona,
             converted a significant amount of its surrounding area to desert
             landscaping that receives little or no watering. Airport officials also
             adopted other water conservation measures such as using rock to replace
             watered vegetation. These efforts helped save the airport about 70 million
             gallons of water in 1997. At Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the terrain
             around the runways has always been mostly “disturbed” desert (regrown
             native plants, thistle, or weeds) that is not watered. Because of the base's
             increased emphasis on desert landscaping, water consumption has
             dropped by almost half, from about 1.4 billion gallons in fiscal year 1996 to
             about 760 million gallons in fiscal year 1999. Fallon NAS officials said that
             they were aware of these other land management strategies but that, to
             date, they had not studied them in detail.



Background   Fallon NAS was constructed in the 1940s on land that previously had been
             farmed using water provided by the Bureau of Reclamation's Newlands
             Reclamation Project. Prior to the project, which was authorized in 1903,
             early settlers irrigated about 20,000 acres using simple diversions from the
             Truckee and Carson rivers. The Newlands project nearly quadrupled the
             amount of irrigated land to 78,000 acres, and the land surrounding the
             airfield has been irrigated farmland since. In the 1950s, the Navy obtained,
             as a buffer against encroachment, land surrounding the airfield that had
             been irrigated farmland. It has since leased the bulk of that land to farmers.
             Fallon NAS officials believe that continued use of the land for agriculture is
             of value to the local community as well as to the air station. They point out
             that the City of Fallon and Churchill County are concerned that any
             reduction in Fallon NAS' irrigation could have a negative impact on the
             recharging of the underlying aquifer, cause the manifestation of noxious
             weeds in fields, and have an impact on the economics of neighboring
             ranches and farms.

             The Navy currently holds water rights under the Newlands project for
             approximately 2,900 acres of the land at Fallon NAS. Of this acreage, the
             Navy has active water rights to about 1,900 acres of land. Water rights are
             attached to specific parcels of land, and Fallon NAS is entitled to 3.5 acre-
             feet of water per acre of water-righted land from the Newlands project. An



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acre-foot is the volume of water sufficient to cover an acre of land to the
depth of 1 foot, which is about 325,900 gallons. The water rights for the
remaining 1,000 acres are inactive.3 The active water rights, which would
equal about 2.2 billion gallons, are used to obtain irrigation water to
support the Navy's 3,595-acre greenbelt surrounding Fallon NAS' airstrip
areas. The greenbelt has consumed an average of 1.6 billion gallons of this
irrigation water each year since 1990. This figure includes drought years in
which less water than the normal allocation was available and other years
in which water over and above the acreage's entitlement was made
available.

As can be seen in figure 1, about a third of the greenbelt acreage lies inside
the runway protection zone.




3
 Fallon's acres with inactive water rights have been taken out of agricultural production and
used for concrete pads, housing areas, or other structures.




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Figure 1: Fallon NAS' Runway Protection Zone and Greenbelt Area




                                     MAIN GATE




                                                                                                         Fallon NAS

      Legend

               Greenbelt land
               Fallon NAS boundary
               Runway protection zone




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                       Under Public Law 101-618, enacted in 1990, officials at Fallon NAS were
                       required to develop an alternative land management plan that would
                       control dust, provide for fire abatement and safety, and control damage to
                       aircraft from foreign objects, while at the same time reducing the use of
                       irrigation water. The law also required Fallon NAS to select and implement
                       land management plans without impairing the safety of air operations.
                       Under this act, the Navy has discretion to determine what constitutes
                       operational air safety for Fallon NAS. In addition, the Secretary of the Navy
                       was required to consult with the Secretary of Agriculture and other
                       interested parties to fund and implement a demonstration project and test
                       site at Fallon NAS for the cultivation and development of grasses, shrubs,
                       and other native plant species. The project's goal was to help with the
                       restoration of previously irrigated farmland in the Newlands project area to
                       a stable and ecologically appropriate dryland condition.

                       In responding to the act's requirements, the Navy studied various land
                       management strategies, consulted with the Secretary of Agriculture and
                       interested parties, and selected a strategy for the greenbelt that combines
                       conventional farming with water conservation practices. Fallon NAS
                       officials have started to implement this strategy for the runway protection
                       zone. When fully implemented, the strategy would use approximately 1.4
                       billion gallons of water per year, somewhat of a decrease from the average
                       of 1.6 billion gallons used annually in recent years.



Aviation and Safety    Fallon NAS is governed by aviation safety and operational standards
                       established by DOD for runway protection zones.4 DOD's standards for
Requirements for the   military facilities and the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA)
Runway Protection      standards for commercial airports require runway protection zones to
                       protect lives and property. Under these standards, airports can obtain
Zone at Fallon NAS     sufficient authority to restrict the use of the land for the runway protection
                       zones in three primary ways. First, an airport can purchase the approach
                       areas outright. Second, an airport can seek zoning requirements to control
                       the way land owned by others is used. Third, an airport can purchase
                       easements proscribing the incompatible use of land owned by others.



                       4
                        We define “runway protection zone” as including clear zones and “accident potential”
                       zones. Thus, runway protection zones encompass those areas that are immediately adjacent
                       to and just off the end of runways and beyond, where the potential for accidents is
                       considered to be significant or measurable.




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                         Outright ownership is preferable because it gives an airport maximum
                         control.

                         It is DOD's and FAA's policy to oppose incompatible land uses that are
                         proposed for property within the runway protection zones. Incompatible
                         land uses include residences and places of public assembly such as
                         churches, schools, hospitals, office buildings, and shopping centers.
                         Compatible land uses within the runway protection zones are generally
                         uses such as agriculture or golf courses that do not involve concentrations
                         of people or the construction of buildings or other structures. DOD and
                         FAA also allow other land uses that do not attract wildlife and that do not
                         interfere with navigational aids. Neither policy requires the establishment
                         of a greenbelt.



Fallon NAS Limited Its   In arriving at the land management strategy for Fallon NAS, the Navy
                         considered three alternatives in detail. Each involved continued irrigation
Detailed Consideration   of land in Fallon NAS' greenbelt.
to Three Alternatives
                         As many as 11 different land management strategies were identified by
                         Fallon NAS officials at the outset. Three strategies were eliminated from
                         consideration before the initial screening was conducted. These three
                         included covering the greenbelt with asphalt, cement, or rocks, or allowing
                         the irrigated fields to go fallow. These strategies were eliminated because
                         the officials believed that they would be environmentally or economically
                         unacceptable or would cause unacceptable operational or safety
                         impairments. They also felt that the strategies would be expensive to
                         maintain and would not provide a “soft” landing for any aircraft accident.5

                         The remaining eight land management strategies were subjected to an
                         initial screening on the basis of how they would contribute to the Navy's
                         policy of zero accidental aircraft mishaps and at the same time fulfill the
                         requirements of P.L. 101-618. Four evaluation criteria were used to assess
                         the viability of the strategies:

                         • controlling dust and damage from foreign objects, including bird strikes;
                         • minimizing fire hazards;


                         5
                          Navy officials could provide us with no documentation of studies supporting the contention
                         that vegetation provides a safer landing than other surfaces.




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                                                • establishing a high probability of achieving safety objectives and
                                                  contributing to zero-mishap management; and
                                                • reducing the direct surface deliveries of irrigation water.

                                                Of the eight land management strategies, five were eliminated because
                                                Fallon NAS officials believed those strategies did not meet the evaluation
                                                criteria. These five strategies ranged from changing the plants allowed to
                                                be grown in the area to using drainwater for irrigation.

                                                The remaining three land use strategies were then subjected to detailed
                                                consideration. Table 1 presents a comparison of the features of the three
                                                strategies Fallon NAS officials considered in detail.



Table 1: Comparison of Land Use Strategies Considered in Detail for Fallon NAS
                                                                                                                                Water savings
                                                                              Irrigated land       Nonirrigated land      (millions of gallons
Land use strategy                   Crop planting pattern                            (acres)                 (acres)                 per year)
(1) Conventional farming with       Alfalfa hay, tall fescue/clover mix,               1,914                     1,681                    750.4
water conservation practices        barley, tall wheatgrass pasture,
                                    and improved irrigated pasture
(2) Alfalfa and pasture cropping    Alfalfa hay, improved irrigated                    1,914                     1,681                  1,039.2
pattern with water conservation     pasture, and barley
practices
(3) Conventional farming of fewer Alfalfa hay, tall fescue/clover mix,                 1,653                     1,942                    414.9
acres but with no water           and tall wheatgrass pasture
conservation practices


                                                Source: Environmental Assessment for the Management of the Greenbelt Area at Fallon Naval Air
                                                Station, 1994.

                                                The first and second strategies considered in detail included water
                                                conservation practices. The methods considered for saving water included
                                                lining canals, leveling fields for proper drainage, establishing windbreaks,
                                                and improving irrigation scheduling. The third strategy would not have
                                                required any changes to the way Fallon NAS officials had been managing
                                                the greenbelt land but would have reduced the use of water by irrigating
                                                fewer acres. Fallon NAS officials believed that, over time, this strategy
                                                would result in land degradation and that there was a low probability that it
                                                would control safety hazards such as dust, fire, and damage to aircraft from
                                                foreign objects and bird strikes.




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In considering these strategies, Fallon NAS officials made no distinction
between the greenbelt areas that lie within the runway protection zone and
the areas that lie outside the zone. Approximately 1,145 acres of the
greenbelt lie within the runway protection zone, while 2,450 acres are
outside of it. We found no analysis that had determined whether the 2,450
acres of the greenbelt outside the runway protection zone required the
same level of prevention of foreign objects, bird strikes, or dust as the 1,145
acres within the zone. Fallon NAS officials confirmed that no such
distinction had been made in conducting their analyses.

Fallon NAS officials selected the first strategy: conventional farming with
water conservation practices. At the time, these officials believed that the
advantages of this strategy were the very high probability that it would
satisfy the safety goals for the greenbelt for the long term and provide
moderate water savings. They believed that the disadvantage would be the
substantial capital, operations, and maintenance costs of the water
conservation methods.

When fully implemented, the chosen strategy would encompass 1,914
water-righted acres of land, using approximately 1.4 billion gallons of water
per year. Navy officials believed that the plan would be costly to implement
because it included lining irrigation canals with concrete, leveling fields for
proper drainage, and other measures. According to Navy officials, the total
cost to implement all these measures could be as much as $3.5 million.

Since selecting the strategy of conventional farming with water
conservation practices in 1995, Fallon NAS officials have undertaken
efforts to implement it. As of May 1999, Fallon NAS had lined 16,419 linear
feet of irrigation ditches and leveled 347 acres of fields at a cost of about
$655,000. This cost was in addition to an estimated $817,000 spent on
studies and pilot projects. According to the officials, the implementation of
this strategy has stalled because of excessive costs and a shortage of funds.
In 1998, Fallon NAS advertised a contract to line another 45,000 linear feet
of ditches with concrete and level another 800 acres of fields. Fallon NAS
originally estimated the cost of the additional work to be $1.4 million, but
the lowest bid it received for the work was $1.9 million. According to
Fallon NAS officials, because of the excessive costs, a shortage of funds,
and concern that the work would save what they believed would be a
relatively small amount of water, this contract was not awarded. Hence,
Fallon NAS' chosen land management strategy is not currently being fully
implemented.




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                          After the completion of our field work, Fallon NAS officials took action to
                          comply with the Fiscal Year 2000 National Defense Authorization Act,
                          which was enacted on October 5, 1999. The act included a provision
                          concerning water usage at Fallon NAS. To comply with their understanding
                          of the law, Fallon NAS officials informed us that they have decided to
                          reduce the irrigated land by about 700 acres. They will cease irrigation in
                          areas farthest from the airfield and the runway protection zone. Fallon NAS
                          officials expressed misgivings about this action but said that it would allow
                          them to comply with the new law. While they pointed out that the affected
                          land is not “technically within the runway protection zones,” they were
                          concerned that “improper management could impair operational safety and
                          create negative environmental impacts” and that Fallon NAS may incur
                          added costs “to properly manage the land for [foreign object damage], fire,
                          weed and dust control.” They also expressed concern about possible “long-
                          term degradation of the land.” On balance, however, they said that the
                          strategy meets the requirement of the new law, and they also pointed out
                          that the action will serve as “an excellent pilot study” of what happens
                          when irrigation ceases.



Land Management           The land management strategies varied at the seven other military facilities
                          and commercial airports we visited. All were located in environments
Strategies Varied at      similar to Fallon NAS'. Two military facilities used greenbelts, while the
Military Facilities and   other five did not. Officials at all seven facilities said their current land use
                          strategies provided a safe environment for their aircraft operations. The
Commercial Airports       strategies varied because of differences in land formation, history, access
Visited                   to established irrigation facilities, and ownership. For example, at the two
                          Navy and one Marine Corps facilities we visited, the government owned
                          outright the areas surrounding the airfields as it does at Fallon NAS.
                          According to Navy officials, it has been the Navy's practice to purchase
                          land surrounding airfields to reduce possible encroachment and, where
                          possible, to lease this land for agricultural purposes−an activity compatible
                          with aircraft operations. One of the two Navy facilities and the one Marine
                          Corps facility we visited had greenbelts that were being farmed. Like Fallon
                          NAS, Lemoore NAS in Lemoore, California, and Yuma Marine Corps Air
                          Station in Yuma, Arizona, were constructed on land that was originally used
                          for irrigated farming. These three facilities maintain agricultural outlease
                          programs through which the Navy or Marine Corps leases the land adjacent
                          to the airfields to farmers. The farmers maintain the land and grow the
                          irrigated crops specified by the leases. The third naval location we visited,
                          China Lake Naval Weapons Station in Ridgecrest, California, does not have
                          a greenbelt and does not plan to have one. The station was constructed in a



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desert area where crops are not grown and where the vast, sparsely
populated area is considered to be an ideal location for testing weapons
and conducting research and development.

Neither of the two Air Force bases nor the two commercial airports we
visited had an agricultural program like the Navy and Marine Corps
facilities', nor did they try to maintain green areas around their runways
and taxiways. None has returned substantial acreage of well-established
agricultural land to native conditions. Officials from these facilities told us
that their research had not uncovered any reports equating the safety of air
operations with vegetation at the end of runways. In addition, they said that
the cost to maintain and water green areas in the absence of available
irrigation facilities would be substantial. At present, their water usage for
the runway protection zones was minimal.

Officials at the facilities we visited expressed a strong desire to hold down
their water costs and believed that maintaining green areas around
runways was inconsistent with this objective. For example, Sky Harbor
International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, used rock to landscape areas
surrounding the airport that were once irrigated. Additionally, Sky Harbor
officials have converted a significant amount of the airport's surrounding
area to desert landscaping and have adopted other water conservation
measures such as using a computerized irrigation system. According to the
officials, these efforts helped the airport save about 70 million gallons of
water during 1997. Similarly, at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada,
the terrain around the runways is mostly disturbed desert (regrown native
plants, thistle, or weeds). Because of the base's increased emphasis on
desert landscaping, water consumption has dropped by almost half, from
about 1.4 billion gallons of water in fiscal year 1996 to about 760 million
gallons of water in fiscal year 1999.

The facilities we visited without green areas around their runways used
several techniques to maintain their land for safety purposes. These
techniques include (1) mowing their fields to maintain them as open space,
(2) covering specific areas within and surrounding the airstrip with asphalt
or cement, and (3) allowing their fields to go fallow and applying a soil
cement sealant in strategic locations to control dust and damage to aircraft
from foreign objects. Fallon NAS officials said that, while they are aware of
these other land management strategies, to date they have not studied them
in detail. More detailed information on the land use practices of the five
military facilities and two commercial airports we visited are included in
appendix I.



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Conclusions       The Navy chose a land management strategy for the runway protection
                  zone at Fallon NAS that is water intensive in an area where water is a
                  scarce resource. Other strategies used in similar environments use less
                  water while at the same time providing safety for air operations. Navy
                  officials at Fallon NAS are aware of many of these other land management
                  strategies but, to date, have not studied them in detail. Nor have they
                  considered adopting different strategies for specific areas within and
                  beyond the runway protection zone.



Recommendation    In light of the congressional concern over water consumption in this desert
                  area as expressed in statute and in light of the techniques used at other
                  desert air fields that are less water intensive, we recommend that the Navy
                  consider these techniques for Fallon NAS. Specifically, the Navy should
                  consider its earlier identified strategies and adopt specific actions that
                  would achieve safety and operational requirements while reducing water
                  use at the air station. It should consider adopting different strategies that
                  recognize the distinction between areas within the runway protection zone
                  and those beyond the zone. The results of the Navy's decision to stop
                  irrigating 700 acres of previously irrigated land should be closely monitored
                  to determine whether this strategy can be successfully applied to additional
                  land at Fallon NAS.



Agency Comments   We provided the Department of Defense with a draft of this report for its
                  review and comment. DOD's written comments are in appendix II. DOD
                  generally concurred with the draft report's recommendation. However,
                  DOD expressed concern that the report did not accurately provide detailed
                  information on the water usage conditions at Fallon NAS as compared with
                  other civilian and military installations and that the report did not fully
                  convey the specific actions taken by the Navy to comply with the
                  requirements of congressional direction. DOD also stated that the report
                  did not mention the value of the Navy's use of irrigation water to the local
                  community for agriculture and to enhancement of the safety of the Navy's
                  operations. We have provided additional information in the report to
                  address DOD's concerns. DOD also provided technical changes, which
                  were made as appropriate.




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We performed our review from May through December 1999 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards. Our scope and
methodology are discussed in appendix III.

We will provide copies of this report to the Honorable William Cohen,
Secretary of Defense; the Honorable Richard Danzig, Secretary of the Navy;
and to representatives of McCarran International Airport, Sky Harbor
International Airport, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. We will
also make copies available to others on request. If you or your staff have
any questions, please contact me at (202) 512-3841 or Brad Hathaway at
(202) 512-4329. Key contributors to this report are listed in appendix IV.

Sincerely yours,




Barry T. Hill
Associate Director, Energy,
Resources, and Science Issues




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Appendix I

Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities                                                            Appendx
                                                                                                                ies




and Two Commercial Airports                                                                                Appendx
                                                                                                                 Ii




Lemoore Naval Air
Station, California

Land History/Ownership   The decision to construct Lemoore Naval Air Station (NAS) was made in
                         October 1954 when it became clear that Moffett Field NAS near San
                         Francisco could not be expanded because of urban encroachment.
                         Lemoore was chosen because of its central location, good weather for
                         flying, relatively inexpensive land, and nearby accommodations. At the
                         time of this decision, the land chosen for the air station and the
                         surrounding area was agricultural, as it remains today. Lemoore still has
                         room to expand beyond its two parallel runways, and Navy officials told us
                         that, if necessary, they could add another runway and an additional 265
                         F/A-18 aircraft to the 252 now stationed there.


Land Use                 Reeves Field at Lemoore NAS has two parallel 13,500-foot runways that are
                         4,600 feet apart. (See fig. 2.) According to Navy officials, the runways are
                         offset, with hangars, fueling, fire stations, towers, and parking located
                         between them. The shoulders of the runways are paved. Outside of the
                         paved areas is a 10-foot-wide strip that is periodically sprayed with
                         herbicide to control vegetation. At the end of each of the two runways is a
                         1,000-foot paved overrun and an additional 1,000-by-3,000-foot mowed
                         grass overrun. The remainder of the areas around the airfield are described
                         as grassland that is kept mowed. Beyond the overruns and to either side of
                         the runways are cultivated fields. Approximately 11,000 acres of privately
                         owned farmland to the west of the station are under airspace easement.
                         The terrain throughout Lemoore NAS is best typified as flat or level.

                         Lemoore NAS has one of the largest agricultural outlease programs in the
                         Department of Defense (DOD). It currently leases nearly 14,000 acres of
                         agricultural land, which brings in between $1.5 million and $2.0 million
                         annually. These funds support conservation and natural resource activities
                         at Lemoore NAS and other Navy locations.

                         The water for Lemoore's domestic and agricultural uses is supplied by the
                         Westlands Water District via the California Aqueduct, which brings water
                         from Shasta Lake behind Shasta Dam in northern California. This water
                         supply is generally adequate in quantity and quality. Freshwater can also be
                         obtained from a well system on the base.



                         Page 16                 GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                                         Appendix I
                                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                                         and Two Commercial Airports




Figure 2: Map of Lemoore Naval Air Station




                                                                                                       Lemoore Naval
                                                                                                       Air Station




                                         Page 17                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                         Appendix I
                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                         and Two Commercial Airports




Yuma Marine Corps Air
Station, Arizona

Land History/Ownership   In 1928, the federal government leased land for a base from Yuma County,
                         Arizona. When the United States entered World War II, an air base was
                         erected. At the end of the war, all flight activity at Yuma ceased, and the
                         area was partially reclaimed by the desert. During the period of inactivity,
                         the base was controlled successively by the War Assets Administration, the
                         U.S. Corps of Engineers, and the Department of the Interior's Bureau of
                         Land Reclamation, which used it as a headquarters for its irrigation
                         projects. In 1951, the Air Force reactivated the base. The facility was signed
                         over to the Navy in 1959 and was designated a Marine Corps Auxiliary Air
                         Station. In 1962, the designation was changed to Marine Corps Air Station.


Land Use                 At the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, the Corps owns the land, which
                         encompasses four runways, and has granted permission to the City of
                         Yuma to operate a civilian international airport in conjunction with the air
                         activities of the military. (See fig. 3.) Land use documents for 1994 (the
                         latest available) indicate that military air operations were nearly two-thirds
                         (about 95,000) of the total of 149,485 takeoffs and landings at the facility.

                         The areas just adjacent and between the runways are maintained using
                         different methods. The land just adjacent to the runway is mowed. In
                         addition, there is some use of herbicide to destroy weeds. The land
                         between the two original 1943 runways is covered with a very light coat of
                         asphalt. The land between the newer runways built in 1962 is maintained
                         mainly by mowing and using herbicides. The air station is located on the
                         southern side of Yuma and is surrounded mainly by agricultural fields, with
                         smaller sections of open space (disturbed and undisturbed desert) and
                         business areas containing commercial and industrial facilities. Marine
                         Corps and city officials have agreed to use the surrounding land for
                         agricultural production or light industry because of the compatibility of
                         those uses with the operations of the air station. The Marine Corps leases
                         about 90 acres of this land to local farmers. Leases for this land provide
                         between $18,000 and $60,000 in revenues annually. The city and the air
                         station receive their water from the neighboring Colorado River.




                         Page 18                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                                         Appendix I
                                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                                         and Two Commercial Airports




Figure 3: Map of Yuma Marine Corps Air Station




                                                                                                      Yuma Marine Corps
                                                                                                      Air Station




                                         Page 19                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                         Appendix I
                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                         and Two Commercial Airports




China Lake Naval Air
Weapons Station,
California

Land History/Ownership   In 1943, adequate facilities were needed for the testing and evaluation of
                         rockets being developed for the Navy by the California Institute of
                         Technology. The Navy also needed a new proving ground for all aviation
                         ordnance. The Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) was established in
                         response to those needs in November 1943, forming the foundations of
                         China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station near Ridgecrest, California.

                         An auxiliary field was established near Inyokern, and the first facilities for
                         China Lake were established there while the main field was being
                         constructed. Weapons testing began at China Lake less than a month after
                         the station's formal establishment, and by mid-1945, NOTS' aviation assets
                         had been transferred to the new airfield, Armitage Field, located at China
                         Lake. The vast, sparsely populated desert around China Lake and Inyokern,
                         with near-perfect flying weather year-round and practically unlimited
                         visibility, was considered to be an ideal location for testing weapons and
                         for research and development purposes.


Land Use                 The China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station operates its airstrips in desert
                         terrain. At the end of each of China Lake's three runways is a 1,000-foot
                         clear zone. (See fig. 4.) The runways are approximately 9,100 feet long. The
                         land between the runways is paved. The clear zones are not paved but are
                         plowed. Beyond the clear zones and along the sides of the runways, the
                         land is disturbed desert (regrown native desert plants) with undisturbed
                         native desert beyond.

                         The land surrounding China Lake's airfield has always been desert and is
                         not watered. Navy officials at China Lake are satisfied with the type of
                         terrain that exists at the end of the runways and in the zones under the
                         flight paths. One of the advantages of this land is that the natural desert
                         vegetation controls dust and does not attract birds. Navy officials believe
                         the desert terrain allows personnel to respond more quickly to a crash site
                         than if the area had vegetation.




                         Page 20                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                                         Appendix I
                                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                                         and Two Commercial Airports




                                         All water used at China Lake comes from wells. The base's golf course is
                                         watered with treated effluent.



Figure 4: Map of China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station




                                                                                                           China Lake
                                                                                                           Naval Air
                                                                                                           Weapons
                                                                                                           Station




                                         Page 21                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                         Appendix I
                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                         and Two Commercial Airports




Nellis Air Force Base,
Nevada

Land History/Ownership   Nellis Air Force Base is located in the Great Basin area of southern Nevada,
                         about 10 miles northwest of Lake Mead and 8 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
                         In 1941, the property was signed over by the City of Las Vegas to the U.S.
                         Army Quartermaster Corps for the development of a gunnery school for the
                         Army Air Corps. Locating the school there had many advantages. Flying
                         weather was practically ideal year-round; more than 90 percent of the area
                         to the north was wasteland in the public domain and available at $1 per
                         acre; the strategic inland location was excellent; rocky hills approximately
                         6 miles from the base afforded a natural backdrop for cannon and machine
                         gun firing; and dry lake beds were available for emergency landings. In
                         1948, the base became Las Vegas Air Force Base and hosted a pilot training
                         wing. In 1950, the base was renamed Nellis Air Force Base.


Land Use                 Nellis Air Force Base has two parallel runways and 2.2 million square yards
                         of airfield pavement. (See fig. 5.) The land surrounding the base consists
                         mostly of disturbed and undisturbed native desert. The disturbed areas
                         have regrown native plants, thistle, and weeds. The undisturbed areas
                         consist of sagebrush. Some areas contain eroded natural flood channels.
                         Within the areas at the end of the runways are roads and parts of a golf
                         course. Soil cement is applied at aircraft turning points as a method of
                         controlling dust and damage to aircraft from foreign objects. Foreign
                         objects and dust on the runways and taxiways are controlled using
                         flightline vacuum sweepers and having personnel walk through the area to
                         find and pick up any lose objects. Vegetation is being removed from
                         between the runways, and soil cement will be applied in these areas. The
                         base has no plans for clearing vegetation from the runway protection
                         zones.

                         Water is provided by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the City of
                         North Las Vegas, and potable water wells on the base. Because of an
                         increased emphasis on using a desert environment rather than watered-
                         plant landscaping, water consumption dropped by almost half from about
                         1.4 billion gallons of water in fiscal year 1996 to about 760 million gallons in
                         fiscal year 1999.




                         Page 22                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                                         Appendix I
                                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                                         and Two Commercial Airports




Figure 5: Map of Nellis Air Force Base




                                                                                                            Nellis
                                                                                                            Air Force
                                                                                                            Base




                                         Page 23                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                         Appendix I
                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                         and Two Commercial Airports




Luke Air Force Base,
Arizona

Land History/Ownership   In 1940, the U.S. Army choose a site in Arizona for an Army Air Corps field
                         for advanced training in conventional aircraft. The City of Phoenix bought
                         1,440 acres of land and leased it to the government for $1 a year, and in
                         March 1941, construction began for what was then known as Litchfield
                         Park Air Base. The first class of 45 students arrived in June 1941 to begin
                         advanced flight training. During World War II, the field was the largest
                         fighter training base in the Air Corps. By 1946, the number of pilots being
                         trained had dropped significantly, and the base was deactivated. However,
                         after combat developed in Korea, the field was reactivated on February 1,
                         1951, as Luke Air Force Base.


Land Use                 Luke Air Force Base has two runways. Both runways are 150 feet wide; the
                         primary runway is 10,000 feet long, while the secondary runway is 9, 910
                         feet long. (See fig. 6.) Luke owns 2,200 acres outright and has another 2,000
                         acres in easement. The base is within the city of Glendale and in the
                         jurisdiction of Maricopa County. According to the base's land use
                         documents, there is little land available for expansion or development. The
                         land west of Luke is primarily agricultural, as is some of the land to the east
                         and southeast. Residential, industrial, and commercial areas are located
                         north, south, and east of the base. Approximately 190 F-16 aircraft are
                         housed at Luke.

                         The runways are surrounded by the base's infrastructure on the east and
                         part of the south and by roads, fences, golf courses (both civilian and
                         military), and agricultural land where flowers and vegetables are grown on
                         the north, west, and the remainder of the south. The vegetation growing
                         immediately around the runways is mostly weeds. The area between the
                         runways is a combination of old asphalt and disturbed desert. The unused
                         portions of the airfield have gone untreated, and as a result, weeds are
                         growing in the cracks. Air Force officials at Luke have a program to mow
                         the vegetation so that it does not exceed 14 inches in height. Sections of the
                         airstrip have been sprayed with a soil sealant that helps control dust and
                         foreign objects.




                         Page 24                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                                       Appendix I
                                       Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                                       and Two Commercial Airports




                                       The irrigation of the green areas maintained on the base for aesthetic
                                       purposes, such as recreation areas and at base housing, uses treated
                                       effluent from the base's wastewater treatment plant piped to automatic
                                       sprinkler systems. A new golf course will be irrigated using a similar
                                       system. Potable water for the base is supplied by seven groundwater wells
                                       on the base.



Figure 6: Map of Luke Air Force Base




                                                                                                       Luke
                                                                                                       Air Force Base




                                       Page 25                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                         Appendix I
                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                         and Two Commercial Airports




McCarran International
Airport, Nevada

Land History/Ownership   McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, is 51 years old. In
                         1948, Clark County purchased an existing airfield on Las Vegas Boulevard
                         and established the Clark County Public Airport. All commercial activities
                         were moved from an existing field to this new site, which was renamed
                         McCarran Field. Initially, the airport served four airlines−Bonanza,
                         Western, United, and TWA−and averaged 12 flights a day. Clark County,
                         through its Department of Aviation, now owns and operates five airports,
                         including McCarran.


Land Use                 McCarran has four runways; the surrounding area is desert habitat. On
                         average, the runways are 14,500 feet long and about 150 feet wide. (See fig.
                         7.) McCarran has both disturbed and undisturbed desert areas. Most of the
                         airport's terrain has been disturbed by grading, rolling, and watering.
                         Airport officials have attempted to control weed growth by spraying
                         herbicides. The undisturbed areas are native sage and cactus terrain. The
                         area between the runways is paved. The runway protection zones are
                         graded dirt. The surrounding land encompasses a golf driving range, a golf
                         course, a cemetery, vacant land, and industrial property.

                         McCarran officials have studied a number of methods of controlling airport
                         dust, including soil cement. A study on dust control, conducted by a
                         contractor for McCarran, highlighted measures that McCarran should
                         consider, among them mulches, rock, and native vegetation for non-traffic
                         areas and salts, coatings, and pavement for traffic areas. Watering in both
                         the non-traffic and traffic areas was also suggested for consideration.
                         McCarran receives its water through the City of Las Vegas from Lake Mead.




                         Page 26                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                                          Appendix I
                                          Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                                          and Two Commercial Airports




Figure 7: Map of McCarran International Airport




                                                                                                             McCarran
                                                                                                             International
                                                                                                             Airport




                                          Page 27                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                         Appendix I
                         Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                         and Two Commercial Airports




Sky Harbor
International Airport,
Arizona

Land History/Ownership   In 1935, the City of Phoenix purchased what became Sky Harbor
                         International Airport. At that time, Sky Harbor was 258 acres of isolated
                         and rural land. Today, the airport consists of 2,232 acres of land. The City of
                         Phoenix operates Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport through its
                         Aviation Department.


Land Use                 Sky Harbor International Airport has two runways, one 11,000 feet long and
                         the other 10,300 feet long. (See fig. 8.) Both runways are 150 feet wide. A
                         third runway being completed is to be about 7,800 feet long. Land use
                         surrounding the airport varies. On the west end of the airport is an
                         industrial park. Weeds are growing on some of the vacant lots near the
                         airport, and these weeds are mowed when needed. However, workers first
                         water and roll the area to keep down the dust. Workers also apply small
                         amounts of herbicide on these areas to kill weeds.

                         To conserve water, Sky Harbor used rocks to landscape areas surrounding
                         the airport that were once irrigated. Additionally, Sky Harbor officials have
                         converted a significant amount of the airport's surrounding area to desert
                         landscaping and have adopted other water conservation measures, such as
                         using a computerized irrigation system. According to airport officials, these
                         efforts helped save the airport about 70 million gallons of water during
                         1997.

                         Terminals and concrete can be found between the runways. To meet
                         Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency
                         regulations, Sky Harbor implemented a plan to control dust and to reduce
                         damage to aircraft from foreign objects. The substance that proved to be
                         the most environmentally safe and the most durable was a product called
                         “Soil Sement,” an acrylic polymer type of liquid sealer. This sealer was
                         applied using two separate methods−topical and soil stabilization. The
                         topical application process consisted of applying the sealer to the
                         undisturbed soil, while the stabilization application, which is more
                         concentrated, was plowed into the top 6 inches of the surface of the soil.




                         Page 28                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
                                           Appendix I
                                           Land Use Practices at Five Military Facilities
                                           and Two Commercial Airports




                                           Sky Harbor receives its water from the City of Phoenix Water Service
                                           Department.



Figure 8: Map of Sky Harbor International Airport




                                                                                                              Phoenix
                                                                                                              Sky Harbor




                                           Page 29                       GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
Appendix II

Comments From the Department of Defense                                          Appendx
                                                                                       iI




              Page 30   GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
Appendix II
Comments From the Department of Defense




Page 31                   GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
               Appendix II
               Comments From the Department of Defense




Now on p. 9.




               Page 32                   GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
Appendix III

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                                              Appendx
                                                                                                      Ii




               After receiving a letter from Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, we visited
               Fallon NAS for background briefings and information on the air station's
               actions in response to Public Law 101-618. After follow-up discussions with
               Navy officials and with Senator Reid's office, we undertook this review to
               provide information on (1) the aviation safety and operational
               requirements for the runway protection zone at Fallon NAS, (2) the
               alternative land use strategies Fallon NAS identified in response to
               congressional direction and how it evaluated them, and (3) the current land
               use strategies at five military facilities and two commercial airports that
               operate in similar environments.

               To determine aviation safety and operational requirements, we obtained
               the regulations on runway protection zones issued by the Federal Aviation
               Administration, the Department of Defense, and the military services. We
               also obtained other regulations on airport safety and land requirements at
               military and commercial airports. We obtained extracts of Fallon NAS' air
               installation compatible use plans on runway protection zones. We
               interviewed commercial airport, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps
               officials.

               To determine the land use strategies Fallon NAS identified and how it
               evaluated them in selecting the greenbelt approach, we obtained Fallon
               NAS' Natural Resources Management Plan, its Environmental Assessment
               for Management of the Greenbelt Area, and a study by the U.S. Department
               of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, “Plant Materials
               Trials on Revegetation of Abandoned Farmland.” We interviewed Fallon
               NAS and Conservation Service officials on the results of these studies. We
               analyzed the efforts of Fallon NAS officials in evaluating the land use
               strategies.

               To determine the current land use practices at military and commercial
               airports that operate in desert-like environments and the impacts these
               practices have on water usage, we visited seven airports−five military
               (Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) and two commercial facilities:

               •   Lemoore Naval Air Station, California;
               •   Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, Arizona;
               •   China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, California;
               •   Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada;
               •   Luke Air Force Base, Arizona;
               •   McCarran International Airport, Nevada; and
               •   Sky Harbor International Airport, Arizona.



               Page 33                 GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
Appendix III
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




We obtained land use documents at the seven locations and their
documents on water use and consumption. We also interviewed safety and
operations officials at the seven locations.




Page 34                     GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
Appendix IV

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                                                Appendx
                                                                                                           IV
                                                                                                            i




GAO Contact           Brad Hathaway, (202) 512-4329



Acknowledgments       In addition, Rudolfo G. Payan, Uldis Adamsons, Richard W. Meeks, Doreen
                      S. Feldman, and Kathleen A. Gilhooly made key contributions to this
                      report.




(141337)      Leter   Page 35               GAO/RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Water Use at Fallon Naval Air Station
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