Incumbent Boise City Council candidate Elaine Clegg issued a press release today in which she favors a third runway for Boise’s airport at a cost of $100,000,000 to resolve jet noise concerns of homeowners living near the airport.
From the CLEGG CAMPAIGN
Boise City Council member Elaine Clegg responds to Bench neighborhood jet-noise concerns
I would like to respond to concerns about jet noise that have been raised by citizens living in the Bench neighborhood near Gowen Field. First of all, I care very much about the quality of life for people living in this neighborhood. Residents here (as elsewhere in Boise) deserve to have their quality of life protected.
The current Idaho Air National Guard mission is combat-support training on the A-10. The A-10 is a relatively low-noise military aircraft. Prior to the A-10 mission, Gowen hosted F-4s, which are noisier than the F-15s. In other words, residents of the neighborhood have been exposed to the noise being predicted if the mission were to change. Here is the situation as I see it:
The Air National Guard missions require minimal flights per day (most often 12 total, in two rounds of six). The F-15s in Boise this summer were preparing to deploy and, therefore, were flying constantly while here. That is not what would happen with a new mission; it would be the same as today’s mission in number of flights, just with a different aircraft.
Some time ago, the Air Force (in D.C.) decided the A-10 would be retired in 2018. Boise City therefore voluntarily initiated a noise study. We wanted to understand what we might be facing if that plane were retired. We also wanted to become eligible for mitigation grants, if needed. Not doing a study to prepare for a potential replacement would be irresponsible.
Congress subsequently stepped in, postponed the A-10 retirement plans, and asked the Air Force to provide evidence that it had another aircraft that could fill the role of the A-10. That’s going to take some time, since no other aircraft seems viable in that role. The current draft study still assumes the A-10 will be gone by 2020, which is no longer accurate. We know that now, but the draft under review was completed before that was clear. The once-likely scenario of a new aircraft arriving in Boise before 2020 is now unlikely, and I will advocate that the final study reflect that probability.
In the meantime, if and when the A-10s are retired (now some years off), the Air Force is the entity that will choose or not choose to give Gowen Field a new mission and, if so, what aircraft will be assigned. (Many believe there should be a new mission, for a variety of reasons; others are concerned about the change.) At that point an environmental assessment would be triggered, which would require much public input in order to be completed.
Moving the Air National Guard to Mountain Home is not a good option, since the Air National Guard probably could not fill their pilot seats in Mountain Home. Pilots choose Boise due to the same quality-of-life issues that the Bench neighborhood cites.
Finally, the solution to all of this is to build a third airport runway one mile south. That would put all of the noise contours out of range of the neighborhood. At an estimated cost of $100 million, however, the city can’t begin this project until we are eligible for federal grants, unless we bond all of our airport revenue capacity to the project—not a very good business practice.
So there we are: The longer this mission question takes to resolve, the more likely we can build the third runway. In the meantime, the airport has been responsible in trying to learn the potential impacts of a changed Air National Guard mission.
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