FAIRBANKS — The U.S. Air Force has delayed hearings until mid-July on the proposed relocation of Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16 squadron to Anchorage.
The rescheduled meetings will be held July 15-18 in the same communities as those in the original plan, according to Matthew Felling, spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Previously, the meetings to take comment on the Air Force’s draft environmental impact statement were set for June 19 and 20 in Fairbanks and North Pole. Other meetings were planned for the Anchorage area.
The detailed information on the new hearings had not been arranged as of Monday afternoon, but they’ll be in the same communities, Felling said.
The draft impact statement recommends pursuing the transfer of the fighter jet squadron at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. It also recommends keeping Eielson as a temporary base for the aircraft several times a year for training.
The delayed hearing schedule was requested by the three members of Alaska’s congressional delegation after the Air Force issued the draft report in late May, Felling said. The delegation’s message was this: “You’re giving us 10 business days in the middle of the summer for Alaskans to come together to put together the most solid, robust arguments against the draft EIS?” Felling said.
The Air Force worked well with the delegation to set a more reasonable time frame for comments, he said.
Jim Dodson, CEO of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp., said he was encouraged by the delay. “It gives us time to do our work,” he said.
His organization and others gave the Air Force numerous questions about the proposal, he said. Reviewers need to look at the draft report and determine whether those questions have been answered.
“It just takes time to do that,” he said.