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F-35 Noise: 'Uninhabitable' homes or 'not compatible' for Boise neighbors?

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The Central Bench tree lined streets, flowers budding and chirping birds. But the peace and quiet could change if F-35’s are stationed at Gowen Field.

The F-35 some call it the “sound of freedom,” others say it’s the sound of hearing damage and plummeting property values.

If the F-35’s come to Boise, official data shows hundreds of homes could be classified as uninhabitable with the juts taking off and landing nearby.

"We know for sure because it's been identified, 105 homes (could be uninhabitable), 419 are out there on the chart as being very probable (uninhabitable), some numbers I've seen are closer to 900," said Dan Marler of Citizens For a Livable Boise.

"My main concern about the F-35's coming to Boise is the hearing of children," said Boise Bench neighbor Robert McAndrew.

McAndrew has lived on the Bench for years.

"Often times see the A-10's take off, they make a big loop around and then they land again and those are practice runs," McAndrew said.

McAndrew said the A-10 is loud enough to rattle his windows and the F-35 would be worse. He’s not just concerned for himself, but for the safety of others.

"I need assurances from Governor Otter and Mayor Bieter that the ears of children on the bench will not be damaged by the jets. Owyhee grade school is just about as close to the airport as you can get," McAndrew said.

Citizens For a Livable Boise believes there are solutions.

"It cannot be in the format we have now, it's either gotta be on a third runway or we're going to have to consider moving it to Mountain Home," Marler said.

The city disagrees with the group about the severity of the effects of the noise.

Sean Briggs, Boise Airport marketing director, says the city disagrees with the notion that hundreds of homes would be uninhabitable after the arrival of F-35s.

"The homes that fall in DNL (day, night sound level) DB 65 contour are considered 'not compatible' for residential use -- that's different than uninhabitable," Briggs said. "Uninhabitable would be a home sliding off a mountain. 'Not compatible' means things can be done to reduce the noise in those homes it could be noise insulation it could be better windows something of those sorts."

There's data that says 419 homes could be considered not compatible for residential use. However, the city says the data was forecasted using F-15s, a different plane.

"Currently there are 89 homes that fall within the DNL DB 65 contour," he said. "We do forecasts of what it could look like in 2020 with an F-15 mission that could be 419 homes. With an F-35 mission we have data that shows that it could be 270 homes -- now these noise contours have expanded and contracted over time. In (1994) there were over a thousand homes that fell within the 65 DB noise contour and again today there's only 89."

Some residents say it would make sense to simply move the Idaho Air National Guard and its mission to Mountain Home Air Force Base.

But officials say it's not an option.

"The United States Air Force is not looking to consolidate the Idaho Air National Guard into Mountain Home Air Force Base," said Maj. Christopher Borders, spokesman for the Idaho Air National Guard. "The United States Air Force is looking for a guard base for the latest F-35 aircraft coming out of assembly."

“When considerations are underway for that sort of consolidation, that's national strategy level discussions,” Major Borders added. “It's not something that typically takes place at the community level.

Another suggestion is to build a third runway south of the airport that would be farther away from homes. There is actually already a short runway there that is used for training, but it would need to be made wider, longer and connected to the airport. The city estimates that would cost about $80 million.

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