MADISON, Wis. — Interested community members, business leaders, and public officials had an opportunity to register public comments and learn more about the F-35 and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process at a public scoping meeting Thursday.
The meeting was the first step in the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)-mandated process to determine the environmental suitability of housing a squadron of F-35A’s at Truax Field in Madison.
The Air Force in December selected Truax Field and the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing as one of two preferred candidates to receive the F-35 mission along with Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama. The Air Force also evaluated Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, Idaho, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, and Jacksonville Air Guard Station in Florida and named those bases as reasonable alternatives.
Approximately 350 individuals attended the meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Madison’s east side, where members of the 115th Fighter Wing and subject-matter experts from the National Guard Bureau were on hand to answer questions from community members about the EIS, learn more about the F-35 and the 115th Fighter Wing’s mission.
The unit plays a critical role in the Wisconsin National Guard’s ability to fulfil its dual mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force and as the first military responder here in the United States in times of emergency.
“We’re grateful for the incredible turnout from the community at the public scoping meeting,” Col. Erik Peterson, the commander of the 115th Fighter Wing said. “The 115th Fighter Wing has been woven into the fabric of Madison’s east side since the 1940s, and we look forward to working with the city, our neighbors, the state and all of our stakeholders to continue our dialogue and ensure a fully transparent and deliberate review of the F-35’s environmental impact.”
While the 115th Fighter Wing provides security for the skies of the upper Midwest and conducts global security missions overseas, it also fulfills critical missions here at home including statewide explosive ordnance disposal, fire and EMS service for Dane County Regional Airport, a rapidly deployable mobile emergency room, and a fatality search and recovery team.
Last fall, the 115th Fighter Wing deployed elements of its mobile kitchen to Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes to help feed citizens and those involved in the response. The 115th also deployed its Joint Incident Site Communications Capability to re-establish communications for critical infrastructure like the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control center in San Juan.
Those that attended the scoping meeting had the opportunity to provide written comments on the proposal to base the F-35s in Madison. Citizens have until April 6 to submit comments that will be addressed in the draft environmental impact statement that will be published at a later date. Citizens can submit comments at http://angf35eis.com.
National Guard Bureau representatives answered questions about the EIS process. The EIS will evaluate approximately a dozen categories as they relate to construction at the base, operations at the airfield, and operations in the airspace including air quality, noise, environmental justice, natural resources, cultural resources, transportation, infrastructure, hazardous waste, water resources, socioeconomics, soil/geology, land use, safety, and airspace operations.
The EIS process follows federal law established by NEPA and Air Force guidance. Residents will have additional opportunities to make comments on the Truax proposal in both written and verbal format. There will specifically be an opportunity for verbal and written public comment when the draft EIS becomes available sometime next year. Citizens can additionally submit more written comments when the final EIS is published before any record of decision is signed.