By Dorothy Chomicz firstname.lastname@example.org
FAIRBANKS — The Air Force will hold three public scoping meetings in the Interior next week as part of the decision-making process involving the placement of F-35s at Eielson Air Force Base.
The meetings will be held in Fairbanks, North Pole and Delta Junction and are intended to inform the public as well as to identify any concerns or issues community members may have about the likely basing of 48 F-35 fighter jets at Eielson.
Public testimony will not be taken at the meetings, but interested persons can submit written comments.
The Air Force previously had considered eight other locations for the first Pacific squadron of F-35s until naming Eielson as the preferred site in August.
The Pentagon has yet to confirm definitively that the jets will be housed there, but actions such as the inclusion of $37 million in the proposed federal budget to build an F-35 flight simulator facility at Eielson are seen as strongly indicative they will be.
Nadine Winters, executive director of the North Pole Economic Development Corporation, is part of team of local business leaders dedicated to getting the F-35s to Eielson.
“If this happens, were going to get 48 planes out there, and that means 3,000 new jobs, and that’s just associated with those two squadrons. It’s going to be a huge economic boon to the community. Huge,” Winters said.
Though the meeting is mainly informational and public testimony will not be taken, it’s still important that people attend, according to Winters.
I think by showing up, you’re showing your support for this, because it’s something we’ve been advocating for a long time,” Winters said. “It’s an opportunity for the public to go listen to what the Air Force has to say about this proposal.”
The F-35 is meant to replace a series of aircraft in the military inventory, including the Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcons, which are now stationed at Eielson, the A-10 Warthog, the Navy’s F-18 Hornet and the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier II “jump jet.”
• North Pole: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, North Pole Worship Center, 3340 Badger Road, North Pole
• Fairbanks: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Westmark Hotel and Conference Center, 813 Noble Street, Fairbanks
• Delta Junction: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Alaskan Steakhouse & Motel, 265 Richardson Highway, Delta Junction
Comments on the proposal can be submitted at the scoping meetings, by mail or via the project website at: www.PACAF-F35Aeis.com. Written comments can be mailed to:
354 Broadway Avenue, Suite 15A
Eielson AFB, AK 99702
Although comments can be submitted to the Air Force at any time during the EIS process, scoping comments are requested by Friday, April 17, 2015, to ensure full consideration in the draft EIS.