Public hearing on bringing F-35 jets to Hill held

May 2 2012 - 9:42pm

OGDEN -- If last night's public hearing was any indication, Weber County residents don't seem too opposed to the F-35 coming to Hill Air Force Base.

On Wednesday, Air Force officials held the second of three public hearings for the environmental impact statement on basing for the F-35 fighter jet at Hill, one of six bases being considered as the first base to receive the new fighter.

A public meeting was held Tuesday night at Northridge High School in Layton, and another is scheduled for today at the West Wendover Branch Library, 590 Camper Road, in Wendover, Nev.

Fewer than 25 members of the public attended the Wednesday hearing at Ogden High School, and during the public comment period, none of the residents came out against the plane being based at Hill.

The draft EIS shows that the F-35 is 21 to 25 decibels louder than the F-16 during takeoff.

The F-35s would employ takeoff and landing procedures similar to those currently used by the F-16s at Hill.

Most of the speakers at the hearing said they wouldn't mind the noise, and several said the jet engines represent the "sound of freedom."

Only two residents mentioned concerns about the noise.

"There has been quite a cheering section here tonight, but there is a group of people who will be adversely affected who aren't here tonight," said Royce Stewart, of Ogden. "I hope the Air Force will think of them."

Verlume Dye, of Uintah, also expressed concern over the noise, but both residents said they support the F-35 coming to Hill.

Col. Scott Long, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill, said the noise levels won't be that much different from what is already seen at the base.

"In terms of noise, it's comparable to the F-22, which already flies in and out of the base," he said.

Hill performs regular depot-level maintenance on the F-22.

The draft EIS also states that a number of construction and renovation projects, which could cost as much as $41 million, would have to be completed on base to accommodate the jets.

In July 2010, Hill was chosen as one of the preferred alternatives for the location of the first two operational squadrons of the advanced F-35 stealth fighter.

The completion of the EIS is the only hurdle to clear before Hill can activate the squadrons by 2013.

Should F-35s be based at Hill, they would be operated by the 388th and the 419th fighter wings.

To view the draft EIS and submit public comment on it, visit Hill will also likely obtain a third operational squadron in 2019, assuming the F-35 program remains funded and on course.

A record of decision on the EIS is expected in November.

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