Group sues U.S. Air Force over planned training in southern Idaho
Boise residents and an environmental conservation group have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force in an effort to stop planned training exercises over nine cities in southern Idaho.
The complaint filed Monday lists potential hazards of the training and says the Air Force didn’t do enough to inform the public or local cities about its plans. Those who filed the complaint include Boise residents Anne Hausrath and Kathryn Railsback, among others, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a national organization with a Boise chapter.
The filing comes more than a year after the U.S. Air Force proposed its urban close air and ground training project. That project could include up to 160 “training events” per year, when military planes would fly over select Idaho towns and cities and communicate with service members on the ground, who would be unarmed and dressed as civilians.
A November environmental assessment found the training would have no significant environmental impact, according to military officials. The military also held a 30-day “scoping period” when stakeholders could review the project. After that, Air Force officials held seven public meetings throughout the territory the training would cover, including in Boise, Twin Falls, Eagle, Meridian and Mountain Home.
But not all affected areas got a public meeting, according to the complaint, and some municipal governments such as Meridian, Eagle and Garden City “received no formal notice of the scoping period.”
“Despite the vast scope of the Project and the potentially impacted population, the Air Force did little to notify or seek input from the public during this scoping period,” according to the complaint. “The only notice provided to the general public was a Draft Description of the Proposed Action on the Mountain Home (Air Force Base) website.”
As of Wednesday, the U.S. Air Force has not filed a response in the case, which originated in the U.S. District Court of Idaho, due to the fact that it involves the federal government. An official with the Mountain Home Air Force Base did not return a call seeking comment from the Idaho Press by late Wednesday afternoon.
The complaint alleges the Air Force began “conducting project training operations over the urban centers” before the review process was complete, indicating that it had made up its mind beforehand, attorneys wrote in the complaint.Tommy Simmons is the Ada County public safety reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow him on Twitter @tsimmonsipt