The Iowa Army National Guard's draft environmental assessment has found that stationing 10 U.S. Army helicopters the Iowa Air National Guard Base at Des Moines International Airport would have "no significant adverse impact," clearing the way for the project.
Guard spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood said the Black Hawk helicopters will be transferred from Boone to Des Moines in coming months, and within two years for sure. The Army plans to lease 38 acres on the east side of the Iowa Air National Guard for the operation.
The helicopter mission will support 54 full-time and 292 part-time jobs. The Army is expected to bring 38 full-time aircraft maintenance workers and a range of military units to Des Moines from Boone. The Guard said the Boone facilities lacked enough space to meet standards for the mission. The operations plan to use existing buildings at the Des Moines base.
Hapgood said the helicopters are considerably quieter than the F-16 fighter jets that previously were stationed in Des Moines. Flights are planned for 20 days a month, mostly on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The helicopters often will fly out to the northwest, parallel to an airport runway, to avoid flying over houses as much as possible, the report said. Some 150 vehicles and up to 225 trailers will be on-site, too.
Up to four Chinook and Lakota helicopters could use the Des Moines base, but won't be permanently stationed there, the Iowa Army National Guard's environmental assessment reported.
Kevin Foley, the airport's executive director and general manager, said there are no pending actions by the airport and the Guard is free to make the change. He continues to meet with federal officials about the possibility of shifting some of the Guard's leasehold back to airport operations. Foley has maintained the Guard promised to return some of the land when the fighter jets left and doesn't need the full base, which is approximately 170 acres.
Comments on the environmental assessment will be accepted from March 12 through April 11. The report is available online and at the South Side Library. Email comments or mail them to: Curtis L. Madsen, c/o Amec Foster Wheeler, 9210 Sky Park Court Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92123.