Draft environmental report details B-21 personnel influx, economic impact for western South Dakota

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The B-21 Raider takes another step toward Ellsworth Air Force Base with the completion of the draft environmental impact statement. Published last month, the report gives a more detailed picture into what Western South Dakota can expect when the bomber touches down in the mid-2020s.

The stealth bomber will first arrive at Ellsworth AFB where operational and training units will be housed before Dyess AFB and Whiteman AFB receiver bombers as they become available. That was the plan announced in the spring of 2019 pending the environmental impact statement and compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The draft report lays out scenarios with and without the B-21. With the Raider, increased personnel, added facilities, and multiple secondary effects are laid out.

Mapped out are multiple facilities, mainly east of the runway, that would replace existing facilities. Two weapons generation facilities are also planned, one on the northwest side of the base and the other on the southwest side.

Based on the report, the Air Force expects a 30% influx in personnel. Under current operations, active duty, civilian, contractors and family members total 10,596. After a transitional period that would include B-21 personnel plus 10% of B-1 personnel, roughly 13,700 people would be connected to the base.

Then these numbers in turn effect schools, jobs, and the economy.

Estimating that 2,300 family members would be school-aged, that means an additional 284 students in local area schools. For homes, the report says 2,900 houses will be needed in the area which is up nearly 2,000 more than what would be needed without the addition of the bomber.

With the additional 1,600 active duty personnel (totaling 4,860 active duty) and existing 1,000 civilian and contractor workers, the report estimates an additional 2,100 jobs in the area to help meet demand for services. The Air Force values this increase at $86 million compared to $23 million without the B-21.

To meet public service needs, a handful of health care workers and dozens of first responders may be needed in Meade and Pennington County or more during the phase-out process for the B-1 when both aircraft and their crews are stationed in the area.

What the report does not take into account is what changes the region must make to accommodate the growth.

For more information and to read the draft report, visit the website. You can leave public comments beginning Friday, Sept. 25 and ending Monday, Nov. 9. Locations to view aside from the website are listed below. The Air Force also plans to hold virtual public hearings in October. More information is also listed below.


Draft EIS Available at:

Rapid City Public Library

610 Quincy Street

Rapid City, SD 57701


Devereaux Library

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

501 East Saint Joseph Street

Rapid City, SD 57701


Sturgis Public Library

1040 Harley-Davidson Way, Suite 101

Sturgis, SD 57785


Big Horn County Library

419 North Custer Avenue

Hardin, MT 59034


Miles City Public Library

1 South 10th Street

Miles City, MT 59301


Virtual Public Hearings:

  • Tuesday, October 13, 2020 – 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST)
  • Thursday, October 15, 2020 – 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. CST
  • Tuesday, October 20, 2020 – 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time (MST)
  • Thursday, October 22, 2020 – 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. MST


Categories: ConnectCenter1-Military, Local News, South Dakota News