USAF: Boise will not be getting F-35 mission

BOISE, ID - The city of Boise has lost its contentious bid to be the future home of F-35 stealth fighter jets.

"We left nothing on the playing field that we did everything we could," said Boise Mayor Dave Beiter. "I feel so good about the overall effort and I wanted to be able to say that and I really believe that we can. It wasn't that long ago whereby 2014 we wouldn't have a flying mission at all at Gowen Field and we've come an awful longs ways."

Boise City leaders had long supported the move; citizens -– especially those living near Gowen Field where the F-35 mission would be based -– had voiced concerns over noise they contend the aircrafts would generate.

The Air Force chose both the Truax Field National Guard Base in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Alabama as the two preferred sites.  Officials said the jets would start arriving at those two bases in about six years.

According to a statement provided by the Air Force, Boise's Gowen Field and Air Guard facilities in Florida and Michigan were “reasonable alternatives.” but ultimately not selected as preferred options.

The decision ends an ongoing battle among Boise resident split on the benefits of an F-35 base. Supporters, including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and other state lawmakers, said the base would help stimulate Idaho's economy and help secure the future of Gowen Field. Critics countered that the loud jets would ruin property values and possibly damage the health of those neighboring the base.

A U.S. Air Force news release states, “The Air Force also evaluated Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, Idaho, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan and Jacksonville Air Guard Station, Florida in this round of decisions. Those bases were reasonable alternatives, but not preferred.”

The decision ends an ongoing battle among Boise resident split on the benefits of an F-35 base. Supporters, including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and other state lawmakers, said the base would help stimulate Idaho's economy and help secure the future of Gowen Field. Critics countered that the loud jets would ruin property values and possibly damage the health of those neighboring the base.

Admitting that Gowen Field is not among the top two contenders for the aircraft, Otter, Boise Mayor David Bieter and Brigadier General Michael J. Garshak –- Idaho’s adjutant general –- said they were pleased that Gowen Field would remain “under consideration to receive an F-35 mission.”   
“Although we are disappointed that Gowen Field will not receive primary consideration as a site for the F-35 mission, as a reasonable alternative we will undergo the same evaluations as the four other primary and alternative locations,” Otter said in a news release.  “We are confident that through this process, Gowen Field will be recognized as a logical choice to receive these state-of-the-art aircraft.”

The release added all five sites will undergo an Environmental Impact Statement process, which involves gathering and analyzing environmental-related data. The federal process governed by National Environmental Policy Act is exhaustive, transparent, and includes public input. 

The Air Force and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will work together, through an impartial third party, to conduct the environmental study, which includes public scoping meetings.

These meetings provide opportunities for the community to take part in the process by expressing support for or concerns about an F-35 mission at Gowen Field. 

So far no dates have been established for public scoping meetings.  

“Gowen Field is a world-class facility that deserves a world-class flying mission,” said Mayor Bieter. “I’m certain that through the process to come it will become clear that the Idaho Air National Guard deserves a mission that will guarantee their place in our community far into the future, just as they have been for over 70 years.”

“We are especially appreciative of the support we have received from the community over the last year,” said Garshak, who commands the Idaho National Guard. “From our neighbors to local business owners, from our local elected officials to the Governor’s office and our federal delegation, we thank our community for helping make Gowen Field a consideration to receive the F-35.”

Shortly after the decision was announced Friday morning, Dan Marler -– whose group Citizens for a Livable Boise had long opposed the F-35s being based at Gowen Field -– stated in an e-mail, “… we need to push for better, more environmentally friendly mission choices, such as cargo planes, transport planes, drones, etc., which are so much more environmentally friendly than present-day fighter jets that we’ve been told EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) studies are not done. Another possible option is Cybersecurity, which the Air Force would like to see more of and could provide valley wide business and educational growth potential.  The thing is: Good things can come out of being passed over for the F-35, and Citizens for a Livable Boise (CLB) will be there along with community involvement to make it happen. 

Stay with Idaho On Your Side for more on this developing story.

(Associated Press contributed to this story)

 
 

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