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F-35s will likely be based in Madison after decision from Air Force Secretary

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U.S. Air Force officials say Madison is an ideal location for an F-35 fighter jets base despite some concerns from the community about health and environmental impact.

Madison’s Traux Field has remained a top pick by the Air Force among other locations including Jacksonville, Florida, Boise, Idaho and Montgomery, Alabama. 

In a final Environmental Impact Study released Wednesday, the Air Force maintained that if an F-35 squadron came to Madison, 1,019 households would be impacted by daily noise levels averaging above 65 decibels, a level considered “incompatible” with residential use.

The proposed airfield operations would amount to 6,122 F-35A arrivals and departures, with each dispatchment lasting 1.47 hours on a 4,500 flying hour program. It is anticipated each F-35 unit would complete no more than 3,061 flights annually. 

The study also specifies the time frame in which flight operations would be completed is not limited as F-35 pilots need to train after dark since combat can occur 24 hours a day. However, the Air Force affirms most of these training hours can be completed before 10 p.m.

The noise created by the F-35s would also disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized residents. 

“It is particularly appalling that of the five locations the Air Force is considering, they have maintained their preference for Madison and Montgomery, Alabama, despite noting in the Final EIS that these are the only two locations that will have disproportionate impacts on low-income people and communities of color,” State Rep. Chris Taylor of the 76th District stated. 

Taylor believes that due to this lapse in judgment, Montgomery and Madison should be excluded from the Air Force’s final decision altogether. 

Taylor also expressed concern that while the Final Environmental Impact Study details the potential environmental impact of an F-35 base, it may also be purposefully minimizing the possible effects of hazardous waste and materials associated with the planes. 

“The Air National Guard has yet to follow through on the full site investigation mandated by the Department of Natural Resources, so the extent of the polyfluoroalkyl substance contamination is actually unknown,” said Taylor. “For the sake of our community’s access to clean water alone, this proposal should be stopped.”

Taylor joins a long list of local community leaders and government officials oppose the F-35 base at Traux field, including Ald. Rebecca Kemble of District 18, Brian Benford of the City of Madison Equal Opportunities Commission, Max Prestiagicomo of District 8 and Dr. Beth Neary of the Wisconsin Environmental Health Network. 

The Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett will have 30 days to make the final basing decision. If Traux Field is chosen, the first F-35s could be delivered as early as 2023 and the last is scheduled to be completed by 2024. 

The 1,475-page Environmental Impact Study can be found on the Air Force’s website. 

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