WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

WESTFIELD — The U.S. Air Force is looking for public comments on its draft environmental study that analyzes the potential environmental consequences of deploying F-35A or F-15EX fighter jets to Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport.

Barnes Airport Manager Chris Willenborg said despite both jets being included, the military has already decided that the Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing will get the F-35A to replace its aging F-15C aircraft.

“Barnes has already been named as the preferred alternative for the F-35s by the secretary of the Air Force,” Willenborg said, adding that analyzing the impacts of the two different fighter jets at Barnes is required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The National Guard will host two public meetings to hear feedback. A virtual meeting is planned for 5:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6. To participate in the virtual meeting, visit www.ANGF-15EX-F35-EIS.com. The in-person public hearing is 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at Westfield Intermediate School, 350 Southampton Rd., Westfield.

According to a press release from the 104th Fighter Wing, both meetings will include an informational session to answer questions regarding the proposal, alternatives, and environmental resources that were evaluated, and a formal presentation. Comments will be taken in writing or during the public hearings. Individual comment are limited to three minutes or less.

According to the draft report, basing the F-35A at Barnes means 1,288 additional acres of off-airport property will be exposed to 65 decibels of the day-night average sound level. That additional acreage includes 267 homes and 779 additional people.

There would also be significant noise levels for another 1,314 households and 3,618 people in areas around the airport, including the flightpaths.

“Fighter jet-generated noise would continue to dominate sound levels in the training airspace,” the draft report said. It says average noise levels “would increase by up to 5 dB but remain in the 35-45 dB range, which is well below the 65 dB threshold considered for noise-sensitive land uses and would not be significant” in the airspace used for training flights, according to the draft.

The F-15EX would represent less of a change in noise impacts from the current F-15C. There would be 845 additional acres off the airport affected by the noise, with 3,120 people and 1,112 households impacted using the same decibel levels as for the F-35A, according to the draft.

New facilities would have to be built at Barnes to serve the new jets. Hosting the F-35A would require 136,000 square feet of new impervious surface at the airport, while the F-15EX would result in 148,000 square feet of new impervious surface, according to the draft.

“Impact on water resources would not be significant” for either jet, however, the report concluded.

Written comments on the draft report must be submitted by April 5 to be considered in the preparation of the final environmental impact statement. Comments received after the close of the public comment period will be reviewed but may not be specifically addressed in the final statement.

Written comments may be submitted in person at the public meetings, or to NGB.A4.A4A.NEPA.COMMENTS.org@us.af.mil, or by mail to William Strickland, EIS Project Manager, National Guard Bureau, NGB/A4AM, Shepperd Hall, 3501 Fetchet Ave., Joint Base Andrews, MD 20762-5157.

The draft environmental impact statement is available for reading at the Westfield Athenaeum, the mayor’s office at Westfield City Hall, the airport manager’s office at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport, and online at www.ANGF15EX-F35A-EIS.com.

cclark@thereminder.com | + posts