Sometime in the mid-1950s the Navy went looking for a new site for a naval air station that would be free from encroachment, was centrally located, and had good flying weather. They settled on the area around Lemoore, Calif. The Navy bought or leased approximately 30,000 acres. Working with the planning commissions of King and Fresno counties, a greenbelt was established around the air station three miles wide to prevent future problems associated with aircraft noise and population buildup adjacent to the air station.
Farmers owning or leasing land may raise crops on land under the air easement area but can build no structures higher than 25 feet or any permanent living quarters. The Navy presently leases out approximately 13,000 acres, resulting in revenues to the federal government of $1.3 million per year.
It is time for Idaho to take a page from the Navy’s playbook and establish an air base at the Orchard Training Area to accommodate the arrival of the F-15 or F-35 aircraft. While the Airport Commission has bought up land adjacent to Gowen Field, it does not solve the problem of aircraft noise that affects residential areas to the east, north and west of the airport when aircraft with a high noise footprint are operating at Gowen Field.
Bill Connors, president of the Boise Chamber of Commerce, has made some claims in his op-ed in the Feb. 19 Statesman.
No. 1 is that the basing of the F-35 at Gowen Field will bring an economic boom to Boise like Ogden, Utah, experienced when the F-35 was based at Hill Air Force Base. Hill, in addition to being an operating base, is also the depot facility for the F-35. The economic expansion that he refers to generally happens at depot-level facilities to support the in-depth maintenance that is accomplished during an aircraft’s overhaul — and not at operating bases.
No. 2 is the tolerating of a few seconds of noise. This past summer, to some people the noise was debilitating; to others, noise was an irritant; and to others still, it was the sound of freedom or a reminder of the F-4s. In all cases the noise from the F-15s stopped conversation and drove people indoors. But, we knew it was temporary.
No. 3 is the claim of the closure of Gowen Field. The Idaho National Guard will remain in place, the headquarters for the Idaho Air National Guard will remain in place. The Boise Airport will still be here.
Building an operating base for the Idaho Air National Guard 31 miles south of Boise will give them a base free from population encroachment, development and shorter flying time to the ranges. It will give the Boise Airport more room for commercial and industrial expansion. And it will free the residents of the area from the tyranny of the noise and the threat to their property values.
Daniel Loughrey is president of the Hillcrest Neighborhood Association.