The Wisconsin Examiner | Oct 28, 2019 | Ruth Conniff
Residents compare notes on planes’ impact on communities
“A group of community leaders led by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) flew to Burlington, Vermont, last week to see firsthand how a community that has recently begun hosting F-35 fighter jets is responding to the jets’ arrival. Madison Ald. Rebecca Kemble and community activist Brandi Grayson also joined the tour.
The Air Force has chosen Madison’s Truax Field as a potential site for F-35s, and Taylor and others are concerned about adverse effects mentioned in the Air Force’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that suggest the noise from the jets might render neighborhoods around the airport unfit for residential land use and interfere with learning at local schools.
The draft EIS states that an additional 1,019 households near the airport will be exposed to a 65-decibel noise level, and 132 houses where 292 people live will be exposed to even greater noise levels “incompatible with residential land use.” (Prolonged exposure to 85-decibel-level noise is associated with hearing loss.)
“We don’t have complete information and the information we do have is super scary,” said Taylor.
“We wanted to go now, while the public comment period is still open,” she added. (The Air Force is accepting public questions and comments on its draft environmental impact statement until Nov. 1.)
Both Taylor and Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth), whose district includes Madison, have asked for a test run of the F-35 at Truax, so area residents could compare the noise to the F-16s that currently take off and land there. But the Air Force has turned down those requests.
The Madison delegation hoped to hear the F-35s take off and land in Burlington, but the Air Force informed them that they would not be flying during the delegation’s visit.
“They really do not want us to hear these planes,” said Taylor.
“They’re bringing the planes in two at a time and they’ve only flown a handful of times here,” said retired Air Force Col. Rosanne Greco, who has led community opposition to the F-35 in Burlington.
Greco took the Madison delegation to a neighborhood where 200 homes were razed because they were within a high-decibel area after the F-16 fighter jets began using afterburners, which make takeoffs louder. The homes were removed under a Federal Aviation Administration grant program.
“We’ve already lost 200 homes that were taken down because of the noise of the F-16,” Greco said. “So we know how bad it can be.”
“It’s very clear in our environmental impact statement, based on the noise modeling that the Air Force has done, that the F-35 is going to be four times louder than the F-16,” Greco added.
The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) shows an increase in maximum takeoff sound during a “military power takeoff” from 94 to 115 decibels, and explains that each additional 10 decibels represents a doubling of sound.
A typical outdoor rock concert reaches about 100 decibels.
Greco was the chair of the South Burlington city council when the F-35 environmental impact statement came out, and community members began raising concerns about the planes.
“I came to the same conclusion that other people did, that this was a bad place for it and so, probably, is Madison,” Greco said. “You don’t put a fighter bomber like this in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”
While the Madison delegation was in Vermont, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce released a statement disputing F-35 opponents’ claims about excessive noise from the planes. The Chamber noted that there were four unscheduled F-35 arrivals and departures from the Dane County Regional Airport over the summer, which it labeled “further evidence that the actual noise impact of an F-35 is not much different than the existing F-16s.”
The Chamber has pushed to locate the planes in Madison, citing the Truax base’s $100 million in annual economic impact, the emergency response services it provides for Dane County Regional Airport, and the tuition assistance paid to our colleges and universities for area students who serve in the National Guard.