In a letter to Senator Bill Nelson, Gen. David Goldfein, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff writes in part, “Reopening Navarre Pass in a way that goes through the Santa Rosa Island Controlled Firing Area would interfere with current and future Air Force and DOD missions. Consequently, the Air Force opposes reopening that pass.”
He continues, “The analysis was last updated in April 2017 and shows that an increase in boat and civilian traffic into the area will hinder the performance of hazardous military operations on Santa Rosa Island. The Eglin Santa Rosa Island Test Areas are strategically important for both military test and training needs and must be maintained for the DoD mission.”
Nelson, who has always opposed reopening Navarre Pass, says legislation he sponsored earlier this year with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) doesn’t go far enough to prevent future cutting of the pass, which was opened only a few months before Hurricane Betsy closed it in 1965.
Nelson says he sponsored the bill with Rubio to give those holding a 99-year lease on Santa Rosa Island full ownership rights of the property, while also preserving the current land conservation areas and public access to the beach.
He says while Escambia County has agreed to keep the current conservation areas in place, the current legislation, as written, doesn’t go far enough to prevent Santa Rosa County from developing the conservation areas or reopening the pass.
“The Air Force has made it clear that reopening Navarre Pass would interfere with its testing and training missions,” Nelson said. “The legislation filed earlier this year doesn’t go far enough to prevent future cutting of the pass and needs to be changed in order to protect our national security interests.”