The Recent Environmental Impact Statement Release
The Air Force recently release the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the impact of B-21 placement at Ellsworth AFB and Dyess AFB and is now hosting public hearings on the findings. Both locations were considered during the EIS evaluation although Ellsworth AFB has been announced as the preference for the B-21 Formal Training Unit, and first operational squadron with Dyess AFB as the alternate location. Like the Air Force, we agree that placing the formal training mission and the first operational B-21 squadrons at Ellsworth AFB will provide the infrastructure and community support required to ensure the next generation bomber is ready to meet the war fighting mission now and well into the future. Nothing released in the draft EIS indicates that preference has changed.
The EIS is a legal step required by the Air Force in determining basing and mission decisions. The B-21 EIS considered impact to the local area of the bed down of the B-21 at Main Operating Base (MOB) 1, which includes the training mission, first operation squadron, and a weapons generation facility. The Air Force has named Ellsworth AFB as MOB 1 with Dyess AFB as the alternate location. Therefore, the EIS evaluated both Ellsworth AFB and Dyess AFB as possible MOB 1 locations, as well as a ‘no action’ alternative.
The draft statement did not identify any concerns on the impact of the B-21 mission to the local environment, population, or resources. We fully anticipate the expanded mission at Ellsworth AFB to be a benefit to our State and the war fighting capability of the USAF.
The Powder River Training Complex is the primary training area for the B-21. Unlike the B-1, the B-21 will not fly low altitude, and is expected to be quieter than the B-1. The Powder River Training Complex is the primary training range for Ellsworth AFB. The community and State work closely with Ellsworth officials to mitigate any concerns that may arise with the range, to build partnerships with local ranchers, and to advocate for increased training capacity to meet the changing needs associated with Ellsworth aircraft.
We stand ready to give unprecedented support to the Air Force, Global Strike Command, and Ellsworth Air Force Base in the bed down and future mission of the B-21. Our community has put into place programs that enhance the quality of life for the military families stationed at Ellsworth AFB. Spouses can continue to grow in their profession, children can excel in our schools, and families can build their support networks in our neighborhoods. We have a proven history of innovation and partnerships that support the mission of Ellsworth AFB, that capitalize on local resources to offset costs and increase operational capacity for the base.
Ellsworth AFB is Home of the Raider. Placing the B-21 Raider at Ellsworth AFB honors the rich and noble heritage of the Doolittle Raiders. Whose bravery and honor live on in the hearts of the 37th and 34th Bomb Squadrons today. South Dakota celebrates a strong sense of patriotism and pride. We see ourselves as an active partner with the Department of Defense and take seriously our responsibility to help maintain our national security.
The EIS outlines the expected personnel and infrastructure impact to the local area. While these numbers are still very fluid and subject to change, they give the community a baseline as to evaluate potential impact.
There will be a mix of military personnel, contractors, and dependents. The personnel numbers will fluctuate as the B-21 is phased in and the B-1 is phased out. Therefore, the EIS outlines the estimated flow of people and the impact to the area during; (1) the ramp up of the B-21 where there will be an overlap with the B-1 operations, and then the (2) eventual end-state scenario after the phase-out of the B-1.
The draft EIS estimates total base population of 14,398 at the height of the transition when both the B-1 and B-21 missions are being supported. Then a reduction of EAFB population to 13,743 when the B-1 is phased out and the B-21 at full capacity. Current base population is approximately 10,596.
Facilities and Infrastructure
The B-21 bed down will require the building of new facilities and infrastructure, as well as the repurposing of current structures to meet new demands. Below is the expected construction needs and square footage outlined in the draft EIS.
Virtual Public Hearings
- Tuesday, October 20, 2020 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. MST
- Thursday, October 22, 2020 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. MST
Meetings can be accessed via Zoom or phone dial-in.
Passcode: B212020 (case-sensitive)
Virtual Hearing Phone Number
Phone Number: 1-877-853-5247
Meeting ID: 813 4560 9980
Meeting Password: 0903275
You can read the draft B-21 EIS here.