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Final F-35 Study Expected Oct. 4

Capt. Brad Matherne conducts preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II before a training mission April 4 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Senior Airman Brett Clashman
U.S. Air Force

The Vermont National Guard announced Tuesday evening that the basing decision for the F-35 fighter jet is about to enter its final stage.

In a press release, Major General Steven Cray said the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the jet's impact on the Burlington area is expected next week.

"Barring any unforeseen issues, to the best of my knowledge, the Final EIS Notice of Availability will be released on October 4th," Cray said in a statement.

Captain Chris Gookin, a spokesman for the Vermont National Guard, said that as soon as the final EIS comes out, the clock starts on a 30-day public comment period.

"The final EIS is just the environmental portion of the process. It's followed by a 30-day public comment period," he said. "After that, the Secretary of the Air Force…can render his decision any time after that point."

The soonest Vermonters will learn whether or not the F-35 will be based in Burlington International Airport is Sunday, Nov. 3. However, the 30-day comment period is a minimum, Gookin said. The acting Secretary of the Air Force, Eric Fanning, may take longer to issue a decision.

Gookin said the EIS for Burlington International Airport will be entered alongside similar documents for the other potential locations in Utah, Florida, Idaho, and South Carolina 

The final version of the EIS comes after a draft version of the document was released in May. That version was over 1,000 pages long.

The final stages of the basing process come after a years-long debate about the merits of basing the F-35 fighter jet at the Burlington airport. Proponents, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont's congressional delegation say the jet will bring jobs to Vermont and modernize the Air National Guard, which currently uses the older F-16 fighter.

Critics of the plan say it could harm children's health, make homes near the airport unlivable because of noise, and increase the risk of a crash near the airport.

When the final EIS is released, it will be immediately available to the public.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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