U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has received written confirmation from the U.S. Air Force that reopening Navarre Pass in Santa Rosa County would directly interfere with its ability to conduct future testing and training missions at Eglin Air Force Base.
“Reopening Navarre Pass … would interfere with current and future Air Force and DOD missions,” Gen. David Goldfein, the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, wrote in a Sept. 27 letter to Nelson.
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 letter indicates that Goldstein sent Nelson the latest mission impact analysis on opening the pass. The analysis was last updated in April 2017, according to the letter.