Edwards lives on land across Farm-to-Market Road 1351 to the 1,136 acres the Navy seized from Goliad County after filing a condemnation suit in March 2011.
“Do they realize what this will do to my life?” Edwards said. “The north-south runway is directly across 1351 from my house. They almost touch my oak trees. You can’t talk on the phone or watch television or have a conversation when they’re flying.”
The Navy plans to begin touch-and-go training flights at the Airpark as soon as Oct. 1.
“We’ve had to change that target date a couple of times due to construction delays,” said Captain Dave Edgecomb of the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi. “It looks like we’re doing pretty good, but we’re still looking for some key pieces of gear to arrive this month that will enable us to wrap it up.”
The Navy and Goliad County are currently in litigation over the property. The Airpark was built by the Navy as a training facility for nearby Chase Field Naval Station in Beeville. After Chase Field closed in 1993, Goliad County purchased the property from the Navy for $1. The Navy sold the land under the condition the county would use it for a source of economic development.
Claiming the county had not met its end of the agreement, the Navy sought to reacquire the Airpark and is using eminent domain law to seize the property after Goliad County Commissioners refused to sell the land for $2.363 million, which the Navy claimed was the accurate appraised value of the property.
James Johnson, one of the organizers of the Goliad Airpark Coalition, said government regulations prevented the county from developing the land.
“When the Navy granted the land to Goliad, they put so many restrictions on land use that anybody who looked at it with the possibility of purchasing it would have run,” Johnson said. “They couldn’t use the property for housing of any type and couldn’t drill any water wells. It’s my personal opinion that they did this knowing they would want to acquire this piece of property in the future.”
After the Navy filed a condemnation suit against the county on Feb. 11, 2011 that would turn the land over to the U.S. government through eminent domain, Goliad County filed an objection on April 12, 2011. Navy spokesperson Bob Torres said last week that he cannot speak to the media about the current litigation.
Edwards was the Chairwoman of the Goliad Airpark Coalition that opposed the Navy’s acquisition of the land. She expressed disappointment with county officials and the U.S. government over the handling of the dispute.
“Goliad will get no economic boost from this,” Edwards said. “We’re going to get lower property values and the noise is going to be unconscionable. If there was an economic boost from this, then I’d be OK with it.”
Edgecomb said he didn’t know how many flights would be leaving and landing at the Airpark on a daily basis.
“We’ll have roughly 100 T-6’s there when it’s all done,” Edgecomb said. “Right now, there are only two T-6’s here at NAS Corpus Christi. In October, we’ll get roughly four a month and then we’ll ramp up to the full number.”
“We have to train our instructors as we go as they learn how to operate the T-6 here in Corpus. If we had all the aircraft at once, we wouldn’t be able to use them. It will start as a phase process and we’ll start with very few T-6’s and, after about two years, we’ll get up to full speed.”
Johnson and Edwards claim the environmental assessment report filed by the Navy says there will be up to 500 flights per day leaving and landing at the Airpark.
“It’s not so much the noise or air pollution, but the sheer quantity of flights they have planned,” Johnson said. “According to the environmental assessment report, they planned 185,000 flight operations per year. That’s more than 500 a day. I looked at the FAA statistics and that would put Berclair, Texas among the top 10 busiest North American airports.”
Johnson said he feels the Navy intentionally made information on its planned use of the Airpark as inaccessible as possible.
“They put their environmental assessment in the library with no notice to anyone,” Johnson said. “They printed a notice in the Victoria Advocate and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Several people told them that the Caller-Times hadn’t been delivered in Goliad since 2002. It’s hardly a paper of record for Goliad and neither is the Victoria Advocate.”
Edgecomb said the Airpark plans to conduct flight training from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. He said other aircraft than the T-6 may also be used at the facility.
“We have done a category exclusion so we can also operate the TC-12 and the T-44,” Edgecomb said. “I think, initially, we’ll see those aircraft because there will be so few T-6’s. Since the airfield will be manned with our firefighters, it only makes sense to make use of them.”
Edgecomb said the noise level of the T-6 is comparable to that of other planes that have frequently used the Airpark.
“I don’t have the sound profile for the aircraft,” Edgecomb said. “Folks around here tell me they are no louder than a T-34. I suspect that’s accurate. It is similar to a T-34 in that it’s a gas turbine aircraft, but it’s higher performance than a T-34.
“There have been T-12’s and T-44’s operating there when Goliad was a municipal airport. Those are dual-engine aircraft. I would expect that the T-6 is quieter than those dual-engine aircraft by virtue of the fact it;s only one engine and not two. I don’t think it will be any noisier than those aircraft were.”
The Navy filed an order on March 10, 2011 to transfer the title of the property to the government and was given the right to begin work at the Airpark the next day.
Edwards and Johnson claim the biggest losers once the Navy begins its training operations will be the county and nearby residents.
“I don’t know anybody who is satisfied with the way the Navy handled this from beginning to end,” Johnson said. “They never once had a public hearing. They did this with what I call a stealth campaign. Even when they held a formal gathering at the Berclair Mansion, they didn’t give anybody any notice of it. It was printed in the Victoria Advocate the day before.”
“They said we were being unpatriotic,” Edwards said of the coalition’s efforts. “My Grandpa fought in World War I, my Daddy in World War II, my husband was in the military. We just didn’t like the underhanded way negotiations started even before anyone in the county knew what was going on.
“The county will get this one-time injection of money and then we’ll be putting up with this noise for years,” Edwards said.