Okaloosa County Florida initiated a Tri-County JLUS in September 2006, following the Air Force’s September 2005 nomination, to plan for future compatible growth of the Eglin AFB community and to attempt to mitigate current encroachment challenges. After forming a JLUS Policy Committee and JLUS Technical Advisory Committee, these committees in consultation with the Eglin AFB officials developed a Scope of Work (SOW) based on current Air Installation Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) noise contours in order to initiate the JLUS planning process. The initial strategy was to conduct a Phase 1 JLUS using the current AICUZ data since the Clear Zones (CZ) and Accident Potential Zones (APZ) in the area of highest concern were not expected to change plus the community wanted to initiate a Growth Management Planning study, as a separate initiative, which the JLUS would feed into. A Phase 2 JLUS would be initiated when the Air Force released the EIS for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) (F-35) planned for November 2008, which is expected to expand the noise contours. According to the Air Force, an updated AICUZ to include the new BRAC 05 JSF training mission could take several years to complete.
After receiving a JLUS grant agreement from OEA, Okaloosa County conducted an extensive RFP process to find and hire a qualified planning consultant. The county signed a contract with consulting firm Tetra Tech, Inc. in January 2007. After completing most of the data collection, analysis, and GIS mapping, Tetra Tech held a public workshop at which the most affected community, the City of Valparaiso located off the end of the most active runway, determined that a Phase 1 – Phase 2 strategy would not work for them and requested that JSF data be used now. After several conversations between the community, Eglin, and OEA officials, Eglin AFB held a Public Scoping Workshop on November 6 & 7, 207 to announce their preferred JSF alternative out of 4 scenarios, along with their preferred bed-down locations for the JSF and Army 7th Special Forces Group cantonment areas. The preferred JSF alternative is called a “Blended Mix” which distributes the training and noise impacts among Eglin’s main airfield, Duke Field, and Choctaw Field. Subsequently, Eglin issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement on March 28, 2008 which confirmed the 7 SFG cantonment area west of Duke Field and provided two alternatives for consideration for JSF flight training. The full Draft EIS report can be issued at www.eglin.af.mil.
2. Objectives and need for OEA Assistance. As the sponsoring jurisdiction, Okaloosa County is requesting an amendment to the currently approved SOW which will require an extension of the current grant period from 16 to 24 months and a total cost increase of $74,090, from the current $198,000 to $272,090. The new objective is to prepare a Tri-County Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) using an expanded Scope of Work (SOW) to include the two flight training scenarios, increase the number of visits to affected jurisdictions, and conduct an examination of economic impacts from the JLUS recommendations regarding property tax revenues. Local jurisdictions recognize the importance of maintaining the mission capability of the Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) reservation by protecting it from urban encroachment. Managing urban encroachments on the Eglin Installation has always been a priority for Eglin AFB, but with the 2005 BRAC, surrounding communities agree that a JLUS is important to preserve long-term land use compatibility between them and the Installation and to better protect the health, safety and welfare of the civilian and military community near the installation. The local county and city governments are collaborating on this compatible land use effort in support of the military missions at Eglin AFB and view this study as an integral component of the larger Growth Management Planning effort that will start soon in order to meet new mission growth requirements.
It was essential to initiate the JLUS effort in January 07 based on known data in order to get the process started to ensure that compatible use information be available for the GMP effort. With a few minor adjustments, the JLUS can now move forward using newly released JSF data and complete the JLUS by August 2008 allowing it to sequence in perfectly with the growth planning effort.
In addition to the main cantonment area at Eglin AFB, which is the planned location for the F-35 JSF, the 919th Special Operations Wing uses Duke Field to the north as the only special operations unit in the Air Force Reserve and also has the only qualified assault landing strip for night training in the United States.
Hurlburt Field occupies 6,000 acres in Okaloosa County and is home to the headquarters of the Air Force Special Operations Command and the 1st Special Operations Wing. Its mission is to support the training and execution of special air operations that are conducted worldwide. Hurlburt Field employed 7,530 military and 867 civilians in 2004 (Economic Impact of the 2005 BRAC Relocations in Okaloosa County, November, 2005).
Choctaw Field is also located on the Eglin AFB reservation. The U.S Navy has a long term agreement with the USAF to use NOLF (Navy Outlying Landing Field) Choctaw on condition that it is used for flight training. NOLF Choctaw is located at the southeastern edge of Eglin AFB. The field is 13,419 acres.
3. Results or benefits expected.
The results and benefits of the expanded Joint Land Use Study are to produce a comprehensive plan that will address compatibility between the military mission and the impact on local communities. Specifically it will address the following areas of concern:
a. Joint Strike Fighter Noise. The Air Force released their draft noise contours on November 6, 2007 as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process regarding the BRAC mission activity at Eglin and Hurlburt and updated those that noise information in the Draft EIS on March 28, 2008. The original JLUS Scope of Work was based on the current Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ), dated March 2006; the JSF noise contours are not part of that data. Based on in depth consultations with those communities in closest proximity to Eglin and with the approval of the Chairman of the JLUS Policy Committee, it is felt in the best interest of all parties that this effort is extended to allow inclusion of these noise contours. This will impact the first three phases of the existing JLUS Project Schedule.
b. Economic Impacts. Jurisdictions that will be most affected by JSF increased noise and expanded noise contours have requested an economic impact analysis to determine the impact JLUS recommendations may have on their local economies. Once land use compatibility recommendations are developed, the economic impacts of those proposed recommendations will be examined. This will include a description of potential impacts to property tax revenues in each affected jurisdiction, based on agreed-upon study areas for the entire JLUS effort. This will impact the third phase of the existing JLUS Project Schedule.
c. Outreach. After the initial public workshops with affected jurisdictions it was determined that additional visits to each of the most directly affected jurisdictions by the consultant was desired. The SOW was amended to include additional community visits since JSF noise contours will expand into jurisdictions that were previously unaffected and noise intensity will increase in those areas that were previously affected by Eglin AFB operations. In addition, increased outreach will be needed to those jurisdictions requesting the proposed economic impact analysis.
All procurements with OEA grant funds will be in accordance with applicable State and local laws and regulations, and applicable Federal laws and regulations, including compliance with the procurement standards in CFR 32 Part 33, Uniform Administrative Requirement for Grants and cooperative agreements to State and Local Governments. Okaloosa County will provide the 10 percent non-Federal match.
The two primary goals of the JLUS are to protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens living and working near Eglin AFB, and second to protect the operational and training missions of the base. These goals can be accomplished through improved understanding of the flight and other operations at the base and through improved local land use planning. The JLUS will be used to make recommendations for changes to regulatory and non-regulatory policies regarding compatible land uses around Eglin AFB, allowing communities to better manage encroachments near the Eglin Reservation.
The JLUS will be a comprehensive analysis of current and future operations planned for the Eglin Reservation. The JLUS will identify actions that could and should be taken jointly by the community and the installation to mitigate existing encroachment problems and to plan for compatible land use in the future. By working together, mutually acceptable growth management strategies can be developed to avoid conflicts between Eglin’s mission and the counties’ desired growth patterns and quality of life.