Editor's note: In support of bringing the F-35B to Beaufort, Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce president Carlotta Ungaro, whose column normally would appear in this space, invited Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Garry L. Parks, the chairman of the Military Enhancement Committee, to submit this column in her place.
The Final F-35B East Coast Basing Environmental Impact Statement was published Oct. 22. The public is invited to provide comments between now and Nov. 22, most easily using www.usmcJSFeast.com.
In the past several months, there has been a lot of speculation and misinformation in the Beaufort area about the F-35B, specifically Alternative I. Some of the more common rumors are below, along with clarification. For a complete list, go to www.f35beaufort.com.
The plane is twice as loud: While we anticipate this aircraft to be louder, the Department of the Navy acoustic information states that it will be about as noisy as other legacy military jets.
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There is no documented study available to support other claims.
Beaufort County, the city of Beaufort and the town of Port Royal put in place zoning to mitigate encroachment and have been cited as leaders on this issue. In the past 15 years, several developments have been constructed in the flight path. Residents of these communities were required to sign documents at the time of sale acknowledging that the property is located within a noise zone
The EIS reports a significant increase in the number of take-offs and landings, which is why Mayor Billy Keyserling, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Military Enhancement Committee continue to support an auxiliary landing field.
The chamber is receiving funds from Lockheed: Neither the Chamber nor any member of the MEC has received a penny from Lockheed Martin. This aircraft manufacturer is concerned about the number sold, not where the planes are located.
Those living under the noise and accident-potential zone will lose their insurance: The chamber has contacted several insurance agencies, and all have stated they have never had homeowners insurance denied for that reason and do not anticipate it with an aircraft change.
All F-35B take-offs and landings will be vertical: The Marine Corps reports about 80 percent of the take-offs and landings will be traditional.
The wood stork will be in greater danger: The Marine Corps states that any threat to the wood storks would remain as it is now with the F/A-18s, which is no threat. However, buzzards remain a problem for Marine aircraft.
No other country is buying F-35s: The current list of countries that have ordered some version of the F-35 aircraft are Great Britain, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.
The new planes will put our schools at risk: None of the public schools are in the current -- nor the projected -- noise and accident-potential zones.
The training squadrons will be a detriment to the economy: This is not a rumor but rather a difference in economic theory. There are those that believe the planes will be so noisy that residential property values will decline, along with the economy.
The chamber and local governments backing Alternative I believe that the best chance to diversify our local economy is through private-sector jobs associated with the training squadrons.
Warner Robins, Ga., is the model we want to emulate. Additionally, the investment will begin in 2011, versus 2018, with only operational squadrons. We cannot predict what or how many new types of business or industry these new squadrons might attract; however, we do know if we retain the status quo, our ability to diversify remains what it is now -- highly unlikely.
The chamber commissioned an economic-impact study by one of the state's leading economists, Donald Schunk. The study used a proven economic impact modeling program called IMPLAN, which was recently used by Charleston.
The study estimated the current economic impact of the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort at $615 million. We are not aware that any other validated economic-impact studies regarding current or future missions at MCAS Beaufort have been compiled.
If we get the training squadrons, we will become a base town: The fact is that Beaufort cannot become a base town because it already IS a "base town" with Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and MCAS Beaufort, both supported by Naval Hospital Beaufort.
The EIS Decision of Record is anticipated on Dec. 9.
Finally, with Veteran's Day this week, let us thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military -- in wartime and peacetime.
And because we live in a base town, please give thanks to our United States Marines -- many of whom began their service in our hometown -- who celebrate their 235th Marine Corps birthday Wednesday.