Port Angeles Business Association members say Tuesday that some Lincoln Park trees should come down
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
The historic Loomis Tavern building in Port Angeles' Lincoln Park sits next to a stand of trees that PABA members would like to see cut to clear the landing approach for the nearby William R. Fairchild International Airport.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Lincoln Park trees obstructing the approach to a neighboring runway should be removed, Port Angeles Business Association members said Tuesday.

PABA members present at the group's regular breakfast meeting unanimously approved sending a 1-page letter to the Port of Port Angeles, Clallam County commissioners and the City Council.

The port owns William R. Fairchild International Airport. The city owns the park adjacent to it.

Tall trees are blocking access to 1,350 feet of the main runway, leaving about 5,000 feet left, Port Airport and Marina Manager Jerry Ludke said later.

“We believe that the trees in Lincoln Park that are making unusable an increasingly large portion of the runway need to be removed urgently,” the letter says.

City Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West told the group an environmental assessment of the proposal is the next step.

That may be coming soon.

Interim port Executive Director Ken O'Hollaren said later he has met with City Manager Dan McKeen about tree removal, which was opposed in a June petition signed by 2,000 people.

A tree-cutting proposal may be presented to the City Council by mid-February, O'Hollaren said.

“What we are trying to get to is the commencement of the environmental assessment, which would have as an outcome removal of the trees,” O'Hollaren said.

“We are needing to get to a point where the parties have reached a meeting of the minds associated with all the conditions of the environmental assessment.”

The PABA letter says Kenmore Air, which provides the only commercial passenger service to Seattle out of Fairchild, is losing more than $100,000 annually by having to circle west to land to avoid the trees.

Ludke said a new Global Positioning System approach has reduced that cost, but bad weather often forces aircraft to take the detour because the GPS approach allows aircraft to go only so low.

“In bad weather, it's still several thousand dollars' cost,” Ludke said.

Kenmore already has cut its flights in half, according to the letter. That occurred in June 2011.

Airport enplanements-deplanements totaled 721 in December, down from 847 in 2012 and 1,691 in December 2008, when there were six flights daily.

“A complete cancellation of scheduled air service to Port Angeles must be avoided at all costs,” according to the letter.

Kenmore is taking reservations through December, according to its website, http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Fairchild.

Large charter aircraft also are able to continue to use the airport despite the obstruction, but if the trees grow tall enough, those flights, too, will be affected, Ludke said.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration will pay for 90 percent of the environmental assessment, which will cost about $400,000.

Agency officials also have said the FAA will pay for 90 percent of tree and stump removal, regrading and the planting of lower canopy trees to replace the taller ones.

But FAA officials are
disputing the $6.5 million cost estimate for the
park restoration.

The city also must determine the value of an aerial navigation easement — also called an aviation easement — that the port would acquire from the city that would allow aircraft to fly in airspace above the park.

“We are basically selling our rights to fly over the park,” City Councilwoman Cherie Kidd, who attended the PABA meeting, said later.

“We need that information because we are looking for money to put into our park. It's our space, and we are selling that.”

Kidd said federal Department of Interior approval also is needed for the city to sell those rights.

________

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

Last modified: January 14. 2014 7:37PM
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