Yesterday, the United States Air Force posted its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the fifth beddown operation of F-35 fighter jets. The final statement says Madison’s 115th Fighter Wing, located at Truax Field on Madison’s northeast side, remains “the preferred alternative” for the next beddown.
In a press release yesterday, the Madison-based Badger Air Community Council, a nonprofit organization committed to supporting the 115th Fighter Wing, praised the report, arguing that it addresses concerns the jets could be nuclear-capable.
But opponents to the proposal say the Air Force didn’t adequately address other concerns.
Ed Blume is a volunteer with Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin, a coalition of organizations and individuals that oppose the proposal to station F-35s at Truax.
Blume says the final impact statement “doesn’t change a thing” from the previous draft.
“The statement itself makes a few tweaks here and there in the draft, but it doesn’t really change anything substantive,” Blume says.
“The Air Force will still not address the discriminating impacts on low-income people and people of color, the noise mitigation they just want to blow off, and, the poisoning from the PFAS will continue [because] the Air Force isn’t going to clean them up.”
The Air Force found that replacing the F-16s jets currently stationed at Truax with F-35s would increase the number of households within a 64-decibel noise contour by over 1,000 and would expose more than 2,200 people to this level. That’s just under what the Federal Aviation Administration describes as “incompatible with residential communities.”
Homes within the 65-decibel area may be eligible for soundproofing mitigation, but Blume says the jets will affect communities beyond those that qualify for the assistance.
“Noise doesn’t end at a line on a map, [so those] low-income families and people of color are going to get socked pretty hard by the noise,” Blume says.
According to Blume, Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin’s next step is to demonstrate “visible and peaceful opposition” to the F-35s at Truax Field on Saturday, February 29th.
Alder Syed Abbas represents part of the near-east and north sides of Madison near Truax Field.
He says he’s disappointed the Air Force identified Madison as the preferred alternative for the jets despite acknowledging the negative impact to the city’s minority population and children.
“The population is growing in Madison at a rapid pace and there’s not so much opportunity to grow land-wise. [This operation will bring] more noise pollution, more adverse environmental impact on communities which really need our help and representation,” Abbas says.
Abbas also says he and other city council members may consider a resolution opposing the beddown mission.
The Air Force will officially publish the statement in the Federal Register in a little over a week. At that time, a 30-day waiting period before a final basing decision can be made will begin. A final decision is expected in March.
If the beddown is approved, the earliest the F-35s could come to Madison would be 2023.