Tucson tackles noise issue from D-M

Published: Jun. 20, 2013 at 2:47 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 20, 2013 at 8:38 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson has many problems going forward and one of the biggest, if you listen to the community, is what to do about the possibility of noisy jets coming to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

If the Air Force stations the F-35 at D-M, as it already has at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, the noise level will rise significantly.

The F-35 is said to be four to eight times louder than the A-10 now stationed at D-M.

The Air Force doesn't make the A-10 anymore and it will be replaced by the F-35. It's thought that will happen in the next decade or so.

The A-10 is fairly quiet as jets go and Tucson has been accustomed to seeing them and hearing them over the skies.

But the F-35 is something different.

Every time there's a change in mission, there's a call for concern according to Forward Tucson, a group that is fighting ahead of the Air Force decision.

Forward Tucson members will acknowledge that D-M is "valuable to our economic future," says board member Robin Gomez. "But we need to be concerned whether the neighborhoods can survive too."

Gomez suggests a different mission for DM maybe one more centered around drone warfare.

"They're a lot quieter and more about what's happening in the future," he says.

In a study released last year, DM estimated its net worth to Tucson at $1.6 billion and 4,800 jobs.

That's of great value to the city of Tucson which is trying to reach a happy medium in its General Plan, which will be out for voter approval this fall.

It it's too controversial, the voters could reject it. But by the same token, if it doesn't go far enough, it could fail too.

The Tucson Chamber of Commerce recently chided the city saying it was not taking the noise issue seriously enough in its General Plan.

"We're trying to acknowledge the economic impacts which are positive, like job creation, but also acknowledge the environmental impacts associated with military flight operations," says Albert Elias, an assistant Tucson city manager.

As far as what factors the city is concerning itself with when it comes to noise mitigation, Elias says "that's not being addressed right now."

What the city is trying to do is come up with a forward looking policy statement which will acknowledge the issues without naming solutions.

"But it's something we will be talking about in the future," he says. "We are trying to balance both sides."

"They know they're going to have to do something with the neighborhoods," says Gomez. "They're not going to be able to ignore the neighborhoods and say suck it up like they have in the past."

Bud Foster can be followed on Twitter at @BudFoster.

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