The Klamath National Guard is a significant employer in Klamath Falls at a time when jobs are scarce, but in many ways it is a drain on the City. The City charges $1 a foot for anyone leasing space at the airport, but the entire base pays the City only $1 a foot for all the land it uses.
There are some benefits. Their presence ensures the federal government helps pay for airport maintenance and operations. The employees spend money in the community. Sounds good?
It doesn’t sound good if you are trying to talk on the phone as three F-18s scream by at an altitude only 1,000 feet directly above you with the afterburners on. That sound drowns out your conversation. Even inside some buildings you have to stop talking. The noise harms property values within earshot. It can ruin an otherwise peaceful day. It didn’t used to be that way.
There was a time when flight path restrictions were in place. The fighters were sequenced over Stukel mountain away from the population center and prohibited from using afterburners until 20 miles outside of tower airspace. That was a time when the Guard was sympathetic to the population as a symbiotic neighbor. It imposed the restrictions on itself, but that ended sometime around 2005.
As more fighters have moved in, they’ve conveniently forgotten about their good neighbor policies.
It costs over $700 per hour to operate those jets. You can hear them nearly every day, one, two, ten, times $700 per hour. Meanwhile, the IRS clamps down on small business owners who can’t afford to pay last year’s taxes, charging compound interest like credit card companies do so the government can pay for running those jets that disrupt business and life.
Klamath’s incredible beauty and nature is irreparably disrupted by the ear-splitting noise. It is that nature that draws people here. Some of them seek to reconnect with nature, to shun the rest of the world that has become too complicated. When they hear that noise, they decide not to visit again. They decide not to move here. They decide not to open businesses.
It is impossible to assess how deep this impact is. The conundrum runs deep. Is the benefit of the military presence worth the price of quiet enjoyment?
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