This is a GUARDIAN guest opinion
By Kevin E. Cahill, PhD
Is the Air Force being honest with Boise?
The United States Air Force is proposing Boise’s Gowen Field as a possible Pilot Training Center and base for F-35A fighter Jets. The Air Force has just released a draft Environmental Review (Environmental Impact Statement or EIS) which concluded the impact on Boise and the Treasure Valley would be minimal, affecting 3,000 to 10,000 residents only. The study even purports the F-35A program would result in 2,000+ jobs in our area. If this sounds ludicrous to you, that’s because it is.
Let’s start with the economy. The Air Force states the new F-35A fighter jet program will result in “between 2,188 and 2,635 direct, indirect, and induced jobs.” That may be true in the sense the Air Force will hire this many people to support the program itself, plus some residual effect. But the relevant number is the net impact on jobs. That is, the number of jobs created less the number of jobs lost. The Air Force “analysis” does not even consider this possibility. That’s how the Air Force claims 2,000+ jobs will be created.
But just think of one example – tourism. Only a fool would think that the outdoor experience here in Boise – our river, our foothills, and our mountains – will be unaffected by the noise from F-35A fighter jets. As economists would put it, the demand for outdoor activities around Boise would be reduced. That means fewer dollars for our area’s camping supply stores, our restaurants, and just about everything else. And that means fewer jobs. With our local unemployment rate still well above 8 percent, we can’t afford to lose jobs, especially private sector jobs. The deeper impact on our economy, though, comes from out of state. Folks choosing to come to southwestern Idaho for a visit will likely stop doing so. Why choose noisy Boise when you can have peace and quiet in Utah? Worse, why would you choose to live in noisy Boise if you can live in peaceful Arizona? Think of what that does to our housing values.
The next big impact is the widespread impact on children’s learning and on lost productivity. The cover story of the July/August Issue of Monitor on Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, was devoted to the impacts of noise pollution. As any parent knows, distractions are, well, distractions. Anything that breaks a child’s attention span makes learning harder. So, not surprisingly, the best psychologists in the country and internationally found airplane noise resulted in a statistically significant negative impact on children’s learning. It applies to adults, too. The Air Force has an absurd criterion for saying noise is problematic – – 65 decibel (dB) day-night average sound level (DNL). That, according to the Air Force, is the level that makes things unlivable. Some cutoff. Anything less, the Air Force doesn’t even consider. That’s how the Air Force gets such a low number for those who will be adversely impacted.
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.