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‘Boise is no place for urban war’: Dozens weigh in on F-35 fighter jets at Gowen Field, ID

F-35A Lightning II's from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, land at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 15, 2017. The aircraft arrival marks the first F-35A fighter training deployment to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Boiseans overwhelmingly told Air Force officials Thursday night that they are not interested in a fleet of of F-35As coming to their town.

More than 120 people showed up to a comment session on a draft environmental impact statement put out by the Air Force on the potential impacts of stationing the 18 fighter jets at Gowen Field in Boise.

The draft statement, which came out in August, found that bringing the jets would cause “significant” noise in the surrounding area, which could potentially make hundreds of homes in the area unlivable.

In Boise, 272 households with about 665 people would regularly be subjected to noise as loud as a vacuum cleaner three feet away. Those homes are located on 446 acres stretching from Victory Road to South Federal Way and from West Overland Road to land south of the Boise Airport, which adjoins Gowen. Most of the households are between South Orchard and South Owyhee streets.

People living in the area, including parents, veterans, teachers and elected officials, testified to several Air Force officials that they were against bringing the jets to the area. Most cited the noise as their primary concern, particularly as it would impact children and the elderly.

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Some people suggested that the installation might be better placed at the Mountain Home Air Force Base, which is about an hour away from the city. Others were worried about what a military installation like that would look like in an urban area.

“Boise is no place for the F-35s, and Boise is no place for urban war,” Boise resident Katie Fite said.

A few people spoke in favor of the installation, saying that fighter wings were important to have.

One man, who told the audience he lived in Star, said people didn’t know what noise was like until they hear an Apollo Saturn V, which was the kind of rocket used to take people to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, take off. He told the audience that people should welcome the jets because it “we have a mission to protect this country.”

“Boise needs this fighter here,” he said, while gesturing to a map and telling the audience it would improve national defense on the western side of the country. “You want the fighters for what’s coming in the near future.”

He did not specify what he meant about “what’s coming,” but said he supported the F-35As and would do anything he can to help the Air Force.

F-35A fighter jets may never be stationed in the city, as the Air Force decided in 2017 that it prefers Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison, Wisconsin, and Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Alabama. Gowen Field is one of three “reasonable alternatives,” however, so the Air Force held the session to collect public comment as it will in other locations.

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Boise leaders have shared their desire to keep flying missions in the Treasure Valley in the past. After the Air Force announced Boise was not one of its first choices, Boise Mayor David Bieter said the city could still be in the running for a future round of F-35s.

An F-35A mission in Boise would have no significant effect on air quality or safety, the draft environmental impact statement said. Stationing the jets here could bring up to 85 military personnel but would have no significant socioeconomic impacts on the area, the statement said. It is also not believed to impact the housing market.

Comments submitted by the public will be considered during the development of the final environmental impact statement. Comments can be directed to Ramon Ortiz at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, reachable by phone at 240-612-7042 or by email at [email protected]

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© 2019 The Idaho Statesman