Airing concernsU.S. Air Force officials say expanding their flight practice area should have minimal impact on residents, but some question how minimal the impact will be.
U.S. Air Force officials say expanding their flight practice area should have minimal impact on residents, but some question how minimal the impact will be.
Military aircraft from South Dakota and Minot will be flying over parts of Southwest North Dakota, if approved.
“This isn’t about flying more flights up in that area, it’s about using more space to get more realistic training,” said Col. Jeff Taliaferro, the Senior Officer at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. “The impact of our not having it is that our airman would be less prepared for combat.”
Public hearings regarding a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed expansion of the Powder River Training Complex are being held to gather local input.
If passed, the proposal would grow the Air Force’s training space from about 9,000 square miles to 35,000 square miles, covering several counties in southwest North Dakota, Taliaferro said.
Matthew Remynse, Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport manager, has concerns over how the proposal could affect the airport.
“What is that going to do for our traffic?” he said. “Are we going to see a decrease in traffic?”
He also worries about impact on emergency service flights. Lyn James, Bowman mayor, has similar concerns.
“In general, folks that are currently using the airspace will be allowed to continue to use it, but we will all have to follow the Federal Aviation regulations to share it,” Taliaferro said.
He added it shouldn’t change anyone’s lifestyle, but James is not convinced.
“They say that’s not an issue, but do we really know that?” she said. “It’s the fear of the unknown, I guess.”
Six to 10 flights will take place a day over the area and aircraft will be flying from 500 to 60,000 feet off the ground, Taliaferro said. James wonders how disruptive the noise from those flights will be.
“You could get some vibration and some noise,” Talliaferro said.
Major Matthew Reese, 28th Bomb Wing chief of public affairs, said sonic booms could be expected occasionally.
Safety of civilians shouldn’t be a concern, Talliaferro added.
“We’ve just got a perfect safety record over the last 25 years,” he said.
James would like a trial period to be implemented so those who will be impacted could experience it before any decisions are made.
“I think that we as the general public don’t really understand the impact that it could have,” she said. “I understand that they need training space, but it’s one of those things where you wonder if there’s a better place for it.”
If the proposal is approved, military craft could be utilizing the space in 2012, Talliaferro said.
The next public hearing will be held in Bismarck at Wachter Middle School from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
The comment period for the draft environmental impact study ends Nov. 13, Reese said.
Written comments can be sent to Ms. Linda DeVine HQ ACC/A7PS 129 Andrews St., Room 337, Langley AFB, Va. 23665-2769.
For more information on the proposed expansion, visit http://www.ellsworth.af.mil/prtc.asp.