Northside News | 15 April 2020 | Oona Mackesey-Green
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson announced Wednesday morning that the U.S. Air Force had selected Truax Field in Madison as the site for squadron of F-35 fighter jets.
The announcement follows months of local opposition to the F-35s from residents who live near Truax Field and are concerned about the impacts of noise and environmental contamination on their health and the local economy.
Tehmina Islam works as a midwife out of her home in Eken Park neighborhood near the base and helped organize a neighborhood group, Eken Park Resistance, to oppose the F-35s. Islam said that despite the Air Force’s announcement, “Local neighborhoods and communities will continue to gather, organize, and resist this decision made by the Air Force. The collective of our voices will always be our greatest strength.”
Johnson said in a tweet that the decision was “Great news for Wisconsin,” and would ensure that “Wisconsin’s 115th Fighter Wing will now receive a critical upgrade with the F-35 replacing the aging F-16 fighter jets currently in service.” Supporters of the F-35 mission have argued that they will bring additional jobs and economic opportunities to the area.
According to a statement released by the Wisconsin National Guard the first F-35s are estimated to arrive at Truax Field in 2023.
Opposition to the F-35s surged last fall after the Air Force released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that showed that if the fighter jets were based at Truax Field, increased noise exposure from the jets would disproportionately impact low income communities, communities of color and children.
Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin Coalition formed to oppose the F-35s. Safe Skies organizer Tom Boswell said that the group is considering legal options to keep the F-35s out of Madison.
“The Air Force’s decision is not unexpected, although we were hoping for something better from them. But we know they have no regard for our community,” said Boswell.
Safe Skies has raised concerns about environmental contamination from the base in addition to noise exposure. In a written statement, Boswell said “They have been contaminating our water for half a century (and doing the same to hundreds of other communities across the country). Now they want to expose our community – people who can afford it least — to more noise and air pollution and the unimaginable risk of harboring nuclear assault weapons in our backyard.
“But this is not over. We have just begun to fight. We have retained a law firm and will be considering all our legal options. We will continue to mobilize and continue to resist until we are triumphant.”
Northside Alders Syed Abbas and Rebecca Kemble helped write a resolution opposing the F-35s that was passed by the Common Council in March. Abbas and Kemble, along with two east side alders, released a statement this afternoon. The statement emphasized overwhelming opposition from residents of their districts and said that adverse impacts anticipated in the final EIS “undermine multiple long-term goals of City policy makers.”
“We are saddened by this decision, but will continue stand with our neighbors in opposition to this action. Members of our community have already retained legal representation and will likely be pursuing legal action.”
The Northside News is a publication of the nonprofit Northside Planning Council. The Northside Planning Council issued a statement opposing the F-35s in September of 2019.