Two public hearings on F-35A environmental impacts in Madison this week

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- Two public hearings on Wednesday and Thursday will be discussing the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed F-35A jets at Truax Field.

Photo: mashleymorgan / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 / MGN

On Wednesday, Sept. 11, several alders hosted a meeting for the neighbors to ask questions and share public comment at Sherman Middle School.

A large number of residents turned up for the meeting. In fact, the meeting was moved from the cafeteria into the gym to accommodate all those in attendance.

Alder of District 15 Grant Foster says it's important to share with residents how the decision process will work.

"So this is a decision that isn’t going to be made by the common council but rather at a national level," Foster said.

Foster added he's spent time researching the the environmental impact statement and looking to listen to differing opinions.

"It's an area where we have a lot of affordable housing, people of color, lower income residents, and a lot of children who live in these areas," Foster said. "For us to say 'Tough luck, it's just part of the deal', I'm certainly not going to support that."

Another hearing, hosted by the Air Force, is being held at the Alliant Energy Center - Exhibition Hall on Thursday, Sept. 12. It will begin with an open house from 5-6:30 p.m. and conclude with a formal presentation scheduled from 6:30-8 p.m.

If people are planning to testify at the hearing, each speaker will be given three minutes and will not be asked to take any questions. The deadline for public comments is Sept. 27.

Madison's Truax Field is one of five locations for 18 F-35 jets. Officials said the delivery of the first F-35As to one of those locations could be as early as 2023, and the last is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

The jets would replace the F-16's and fly more than 6,220 operations a year.

A draft of the environmental impact study (EIS) was recently released, and shows that more 1,000 people will be impacted. To read a summary of the EIS, click here. According to the EIS, roughly 200 acres of residential land near the airport would be exposed to sound above the 65-decibel threshold, which is considered unsuitable for residential use.

A city staff report released Sept. 10 states: "This is not a City of Madison decision, staff is not providing a recommendation for or against the proposed location of F35s at Truax." Members of the Planning Division, Community Development Division, Housing Authority, Engineering Division and Public Health of Madison and Dane County contributed to the report. It analyzes the EIS pertaining to Truax field.

Residents near Truax Field expressed concerns about the impact on waterways and wildlife, to noise pollution and changes of property values.

On Aug. 22, officials at Truax Field said they care about the community and what residents have to say.

According to Zach Brandon, President of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, if Truax Field was selected, it would support 1,264 permanent jobs, 400 construction jobs, and generate $100 million in annual economic impact.