The F-15E Strike Eagle in Your Own Back Yard
Collections Manager, Cathy Butterfield, recommends your review of the environmental impact statement for Airspace Optimization for Readiness for Mountain Home Air Force Base.
Many kinds of books land on the donation table at The Community Library, from self-published to hyperpopular bestsellers, from true SETI science to cryptozoologic memoirs, from first edition James Bond novels to a manual on Practical Lock Picking. However, a triple-taped high priority box from a Colonel in the 366th Fighter Wing on Gunfighter Avenue in Mountain Home did raise our jaded eyebrow. When the Air Force sends us a study, they like us to pay attention. The library now has on display the final edition of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for Airspace Optimization for Readiness for Mountain Home Air Force Base. And Appendices. Find them here.
Note: We should pay attention: this is a key opportunity for informed residents to talk back to the government. The Air Force Base at Mountain Home launches training missions that cross a huge amount of wild terrain over much of southern Idaho, northern Nevada, and eastern Oregon. The aim of the Airspace Optimization proposal is to lower the altitude floor for training missions. The EIS is to report on the impacts of lowering flightpaths to as little as 100 feet above ground level for subsonic flights, and as low as 5,000 feet above ground level for supersonic flights. The EIS hardcopy and CD has been made available to libraries around the state of Idaho to inform the citizenry and provide an opportunity for public comment on the proposed changes to training exercises.
The Airspace EIS contains favored and alternate proposals, environmental studies, cultural impact studies, geologic studies, and more. It is governmentspeak, but certain passages can stand out, such as, “Damage to structures from sonic boom overpressures would be possible but unlikely.” The EIS includes studies of wilderness and recreational areas from the Owyhee canyonlands to Jarbidge to the Sawtooth National Forest south hills, including areas harboring bighorn sheep and sage grouse. “There would be potential startle effects from sonic booms.” The study does mention certain areas they will try to avoid to lower impacts, under various alternatives. They do state in the environmental justice resource that lower income residents in Humboldt County and the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation and school system will be directly impacted by lower overflights.
Despite the acronyms and occasionally leaden language, the EIS comparison charts are succinct and informative. I recommend reading the Executive Summary first to get an overview, then locating maps in the main study chapters. I now know that AGL means Above Ground Level, and BASH appropriately means Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard. If you have an interest in the overall environment of southern Idaho and the northern Great Basin/eastern Oregon plateau, it is worth coming in and paging through the documents, and even submitting comments. The 30-day review period started March 3 and runs through the close of business April 3, 2023. The Final EIS is available for download here.