ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Increased noise and difficulty in finding housing were among the chief concerns expressed by some Anchorage residents during a public hearing about a proposed move of a fighter squadron from Fairbanks to Alaska’s largest city.
About a dozen people attended the hearing Tuesday night in the city’s Mountain View neighborhood, KTUU reported.
The Air Force proposes moving the F-16 Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, and estimated it would save more than $200 million in salaries and benefits.
An Air Force Draft Environmental Impact statement was reviewed before public comments were presented.
The statement says between 831 and 1,079 people in the Mountain View area would hear increased noise levels if the jets are relocated.
Karen Thompson cares for her 83-year-old mother in Mountain View, and said her mother’s health already is affected by just the jets flying from JBER.
“It’s increased her heart rate, it’s increased her blood pressure, it’s higher than it was on a norm,” Thompson said. “I’ve kept track of that. As her caretaker I have to do care sheets that document that. It’s obvious that the noise level affects her health, which I’m highly concerned about which is why I wanted to go and testify.”
Housing is another concern since the transfer will shift about 1,200 military personnel and their families to Anchorage, which already has a tight housing market.
“It doesn’t seem like a big number until you take into account just how tight the market is,” Bill Popp, president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., said. “I mean you’re looking at an apartment vacancy rate of 3.3% that is the 25th most expensive market in the United States for rentals.”
The project manager for the environmental statement, Allen Richmond, said the population increase would have minimal effects on traffic in Anchorage, but admitted housing might be an issue.
“They are expecting a normal increase in population in Anchorage over time,” says Richmond. “This is going to be a small increase in numbers over a fairly short period of time.”
“It’s going to cause some issues as far as housing that we’ve identified and we’ll just have to see what they say up at higher levels on how much of a concern that is,” Richmond said.
The document recommends the Air Force keep Eielson as a temporary base for the aircraft several times a year for training.
Additional meetings are scheduled for Wednesday evening in Fairbanks and Thursday in North Pole.
Written comments will be accepted until Aug. 2.