Port commissioner wants action on Lincoln Park trees

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

Port commissioner says he might balk at Fairchild funding

By Paul Gottlieb

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Inaction on cutting runway-obstructing trees at the city's Lincoln Park could have an impact on Port of Port Angeles Commissioner John's Calhoun's willingness to fund airport improvements, he said this week.

He voted — with reservations — along with Commissioners Jim Hallett and Paul McHugh in approving a $915,436 contract Monday to Kent-based Scarsella Bros. Inc. to extend an access road to airplane hangars at William R. Fairchild International Airport.

The improvement project — which will include wetlands mitigation, installation of new fencing and gates, and roadway lighting — is intended to replace an existing access road that according to the port master plan is too close to the airport's runway.

The Federal Aviation Administration will fund 90 percent of the project.

“These kinds of investments depend on a viable airport,” Calhoun said.

Lincoln Park's tall trees

Tall trees at Lincoln Park, which is owned by the city, block the flight approach to about one-fifth of the 6,350-foot runway.

The City Council has said the trees won't be removed without council approval.

Resident Devon Graywolf said at a July 16 council meeting that her group, Save the Trees, had collected 2,100 signatures on a petition that supports keeping the trees as they are.

Also, the port needs a navigation easement from the city to ensure replanted trees don't eventually create the same problem once the existing trees are gone.

“Without success solving that [aerial navigation] easement, I'm not too enthusiastic about proceeding down this line too much longer,” Calhoun said of supporting airport improvements such as the access-road extension.

“I think we have to have the issue resolved before I can continue to support [such projects].”

Calhoun said Wednesday that Federal Aviation Administration funds available to the port are diminishing because of decreasing enplanements and deplanements, or the individual Kenmore Air passengers who arrive at and depart from the airport.

In June 2011, Kenmore cut daily scheduled departures from Fairchild in half, from six to three.

Enplanements and deplanements, combined, have continued to drop.

They shrank by nearly a third in two years, from 1,443 in July 2011, a month after the cut in service, to 1,022 this past July.

The drop in 2011 Kenmore Air ridership triggered the loss, in 2012, of a $1 million FAA grant the port had intended to use to pay for removal of the trees.

“Looking at the future, we can see that if we do not solve the runway displacement problem, we will be faced with 2,000 feet of [runway] displacement.

“At that point, the airport's viability will be in question,” Calhoun said.

“We need the easement to make sure there are no more intrusions on air space.

“The [port] master plan is based on having a full-service runway there, which is in jeopardy now.”

Port commissioners went into executive session during Monday's meeting to discuss the Lincoln Park issue.

Impasse with city?

“We discussed what course of action we might take to resolve the Lincoln Park-airport issue, since we seem to be at an impasse with the city,” Calhoun said.

“We are investigating alternative courses of action to achieve our purposes.

“We are consulting with the FAA and others and the city.

“We are continuing our discussions with the city manager, council members, the mayor and experts with the FAA to explore all the options available to the port.”

Asked whether the port is considering legal action, Calhoun responded, “Not at this time.”

Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd said Thursday that she disagreed that the city and the port were at an impasse.

“Not at all,” she said.

How much money?

“The city has never been given an exact monetary total of how much money we will have for Lincoln Park through removal of the trees,” Kidd said.

“We have [an aerial navigation] easement we are being asked to sell that has value, and we don't know how much.

“It's not just a clump of trees. It's our Lincoln Park,” Kidd added.

“We need more communication and further negotiations, and I am hopeful that we can work together for the benefit of the community.”

Port Airport and Marina Manager Jerry Ludke said port officials plan to contact the FAA at the end of this month and “decide on what the FAA thinks we might do going forward and talk some more with the city.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 15. 2013 5:52PM
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