After receiving a devastating hit from Category 5 Hurricane Michael a year and a half ago, Tyndall Air Force Base is now set to purge the last of its significantly damaged facilities and start rebuilding from the ground up.
To reach this vital starting point, the 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall Program Management Office and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center collaborated to complete the Tyndall AFB Programmatic Environmental Assessment – one of two major National Environmental Policy Act actions required before reconstruction can begin at the installation.
“The approval of this Environmental Assessment, or EA, is great news for Tyndall AFB because we can now move forward with the multibillion-dollar rebuild of the ‘Installation of the Future,'” said Col. Travis Leighton, Tyndall PMO director. “This includes completing the demolition required to clear sites in time for the construction of new facilities.”
Through the Environmental Impact Analysis Process, which evaluates the potential impacts of proposed projects, NEPA ensures decision makers consider environmental and other significant factors before proceeding with federally funded projects.
“Finalizing the EA quickly was critical to return Tyndall to a fully operational base and recover mission capabilities impacted by Hurricane Michael,” said Cindy Pettit, a NEPA program manager with AFIMSC’s Air Force Civil Engineer Center. “It took about seven months, which is a major accomplishment for the complexity of the project.”
One of the Tyndall Airmen responsible for streamlining NEPA compliance and facilitating the rapid reconstruction of the installation is Edwin Wallace, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron NEPA Program Manager.
“The process was extensive with different review phases, consultation with state and federal agencies and Air Force-level reviewers,” Wallace said. “But it’s so important to the base because it allows us to maximize beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, or risk to health or safety. It can also serve to preserve important historic, cultural and natural aspects of the base.”
Now, Tyndall AFB can obligate funds to start the 28 rebuild projects evaluated under the EA, which includes construction of new facilities and infrastructure, renovations, consolidation, demolition of 1.93 million square feet and management of natural resources.
The Air Force will continue with the second NEPA action requirement in the rebuild process – the Environmental Impact Statement for the new mission bed-down of the F-35A Lightning II and MQ-9 Reaper wings. The EIS, which entails public scoping meetings, public-hearing opportunities and Environmental Protection Agency review, remains on schedule for a January 2021 Record of Decision.
“Our local community and Team Tyndall supporters will welcome this good news,” said Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th FW commander. “We will continue moving ahead so we will be ready to welcome the first F-35s beginning in September 2023. This timeline ensures Tyndall will train and project unrivaled combat airpower from the panhandle for years to come.”