The United States Air Force (USAF) proposes to temporarily beddown multiple aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Okaloosa County, Florida, from Tyndall AFB in nearby Bay County, Florida, due to the extensive destruction of infrastructure at Tyndall AFB caused by Hurricane Michael.

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael displaced the Air Force’s only F-22 Formal Training Unit (FTU), which consists of the F-22 aircraft in the 43rd Fighter Squadron and its associated T-38 Talon aircraft, a two-seat twinjet supersonic jet trainer in the 2d Fighter Training Squadron, from its home at Tyndall AFB, Florida, to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. This temporary relocation disrupted the current student pilot full-rate Basic Course. Hurricane Michael’s subsequent devastation of Tyndall AFB further aggravated deficiencies in the F-22 pilot production pipeline by rendering many of the FTU’s facilities unusable for the foreseeable future. The production of trained and qualified F-22 pilots completely stopped for two months, exacerbating the current pilot shortage that the USAF is facing.

The F-22 FTU restarted limited student flying at Eglin AFB on December 6, 2018. Flying was limited so that operations would fall within the parameters of an existing USAF Categorical Exclusion (CATEX) which covers relocating a small number of aircraft that does not significantly increase flying hours or number of operations. The Air Force will be unable to rely on this CATEX beyond January 31, 2019, consequently this Special EA is being developed. The delays in F-22 FTU student training will delay the Basic Course pilots arriving at their operational units, negatively impacting unit manning. Any further delay to restarting F-22 FTU operations or achieving full F-22 pilot production capacity will have negative impacts to the entire F-22 operational force, the United States’ sole fully operational 5th Generation fighter.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Parts 1500–1508), federal agencies are required to take into consideration the environmental consequences of proposed actions in the decision-making process.

The USAF requested emergency alternative arrangements for compliance with NEPA, in accordance with the CEQ regulation 40 CFR 1506.11, to respond to a pilot manning crisis exacerbated by Hurricane Michael that presents significant national security implications. To restore training of replacement pilots for the F-22 by January 31, 2019, the USAF proposed to the CEQ that it conduct a rapid environmental review with public involvement, mitigation of the significant environmental effects of the selected alternative to the extent practicable, and comprehensive analysis of the long-term effects on alternative F-22 training program locations. Alternative arrangements would allow the USAF to address the process of assessing the environmental impacts of the interim beddown of the F-22 FTU at Eglin AFB prior to the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the F-22 FTU’s permanent beddown.

On December 21, 2018, CEQ’s approved alternative arrangements pursuant to 40 CFR 1506.11 for implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA, for the interim beddown of the USAF’s F 22 FTU. The USAF published a memorandum documenting the USAF’s decision to accept the CEQ’s alternative procedures in the Federal Register (84 Federal Register 103, January 11, 2019). The alternative arrangements allow the USAF to comply with NEPA and temporarily restore training of replacement pilots for the F 22 FTU at Eglin AFB by January 31, 2019 and requires the USAF to undertake an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that addresses the permanent F-22 FTU beddown as soon as possible. The Notice of Intent to prepare the EIS must be issued no later than April 1, 2019.

The alternative arrangements are intended to be limited to actions necessary to control the immediate impacts of the emergency created by Hurricane Michael and are required to be superseded as soon as possible by USAF NEPA compliance in the form of an EIS and Record of Decision (ROD). Among other things, the alternative arrangements under 40 CFR 1506.11 require the USAF to:

  • Publish notice of its December 21, 2018, Decision Memorandum in the Federal Register (See 83 Federal Register 103–105, January 11, 2019).
  • Publish notices of these alternative arrangements in local newspapers likely to reach interested parties, which appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News and the Bay Beacon on January 2 and 9, 2019, respectively.
  • Provide notice of these alternative arrangements to interested parties listed in Appendix A of the 2014 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for F-35 Beddown at Eglin AFB, Florida (the “SEIS”), which was e-mailed and mailed to interested parties on January 9 and 10, 2019, respectively.
  • Specifically seek input in the notices to interested parties on the interim and final beddowns of the F-22 FTU and include an offer to meet with USAF and CEQ representatives to discuss the interim alternative arrangements, which was accomplished in the notice to interested parties on the 2014 SEIS and in the Notice of Intent to Prepare a Special Environmental Assessment (EA) published in the Northwest Florida Daily News on January 14, 2019.
  • Reconstitute and reconvened the Eglin AFB Noise Committee with representatives of the counties and municipalities of Walton, Okaloosa, and Santa Rosa Counties. The first meeting of the reconstituted Noise Committee was held on January 29, 2019. The governmental representatives attending that meeting agreed to schedule the Committee’s next meeting during March 2019 and to make reviewing comments on this Special EA part of the agenda.
  • Prepare a concise Special EA tiered off of the 2014 SEIS that analyzes the noise and other relevant impacts from the F-22 FTU interim beddown and operations.
  • Strive to complete the draft Special EA by February 28, 2019, and issue it for public review and comment for at least 30 days.
  • Respond to all substantive comments received and provide copies of all comments and responses regarding the Special EA to the CEQ and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).
  • Complete the final Special EA and issue a ROD no later than April 30, 2019.

This draft Special EA, along with the final Special EA and ROD, is being prepared for the purpose of meeting alternative arrangements approved for the interim beddown of the F-22 FTU under 40 CFR 1506.11, not for purposes of determining whether to prepare an EIS. The USAF is already committed under the alternative arrangements to prepare an EIS for the permanent beddown of the F-22 FTU and anticipates issuing a Notice of Intent to prepare that EIS by April 1, 2019.

Project Contact

Please direct any questions to:
Michael Spaits
96 Test Wing Public Affairs
101 W. D Ave, Room 238
Eglin AFB, Florida 32542
850-882-2836
michael.spaits@us.af.mil

Links to Key Resources

Resource CEQ letter
CEQ AA 12212018.pdf
 
Resource Decision Memorandum
F-22A Final Decision Memorandum (December 21 2018).pdf
 
Resource Notice of Intent
NOI_CEG aff. 1-14-19.pdf
 
Resource Notice of Availability
NOA.pdf
 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Website NEPA Website
Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on January 1, 1970, NEPA set forth a bold new vision for America.
 
Nevada Test and Training Range Website Eglin Air Force Base
U.S. Air Force Eglin Air Force Base website.

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