August 20th, 2010 – Rapid City, SD – Senator John Thune today commented on the announcement that the Air Force has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) on its plans to expand the Powder River Training Complex airspace. The Draft EIS will now be open to public comment and the Air Force will host a series of public meetings this fall to better explain details of the proposed airspace expansion. The Draft EIS and supporting documents can be read at the links provided below, and printed copies are available in local public libraries. Because of the importance of public response and involvement, Senator Thune has also established a website providing more background and links to additional information for interested members of the public.
“After incorporating comments from the public, I commend the Air Force for issuing their proposal to expand and enhance the Powder River Training Complex,” said Thune. “An expanded training space that is closer to Ellsworth translates to better training at lower cost, especially since our nation’s military faces increased demand for realistic training opportunities. This training range plays an important role in keeping our military ready for combat, both in terms of on-going operations in Afghanistan and preparing for future threats.
“If approved, the expansion will allow B-1’s from Ellsworth and B-52’s from Minot, ND to train like they fight in an area that is close to home. I’m pleased to see the process move forward, and I encourage all members of the public to become familiar with the Air Force’s plan, attend the scheduled meetings in order to get their questions answered regarding this proposal, and voice any ideas and concerns they may have.”
Under the proposal that was published in the Federal Register, the Air Force plans to restructure and reconfigure the existing military training airspace, used primarily by Ellsworth Air Force Base B-1’s and Minot Air Force Base B-52’s to better prepare for combat missions. The proposed airspace improvements would provide pilots and crew members with a versatile, scalable complex that would enable more realistic and effective training by more closely replicating real-world combat conditions. Additionally, by decreasing the distance aircrews have to travel to the training airspace, the proposed changes have great potential to increase training efficiency by decreasing fuel costs and transit time. It is important to emphasize that no live-fire exercises are proposed in this initiative.
The Draft EIS outlines potential impacts to the environment after studying items such as noise, air quality, the use of land and the affect on both ground and air safety and is required by law under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NEPA process provides ample opportunities for the general public to provide input, the first of which occurred for this particular initiative in the summer of 2008. Now that the Draft EIS has been released, the public has another opportunity to review the proposal and voice any concerns.
The Air Force will host a series of meetings in communities underlying and/or adjacent to the proposed airspace expansion. The purpose of these meetings is to receive public input on the proposed action and alternatives, as well as gain a better understanding of the potential issues and concerns related to this proposal. Public response and involvement is critical to identifying, evaluating and mitigating impacts on local communities. All written comments received during the comment period will be made available to the public and considered during Final EIS preparation.
Links to Draft EIS and supporting documents:
To submit comments on the Draft EIS, contact:
Linda DeVine, Program Manager
129 Andrews St., Suite 337
Langley AFB, VA 23665-2701
Fax: (757) 764-1975
Meetings scheduled in South Dakota include:
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
505 N 5th Street
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
1111 National Street
Friday, September 17, 2010
Harding County Memorial
204 Hodge Street
Monday, September 20, 2010
Bison School Cafeteria
200 E Carr Street
To request additional information contact:
Captain Matthew Reese
28 BW/PA, Ellsworth AFB, SD
Phone: (605) 385-5056