Owner pushes for Sequim Valley Airport water, sewer hookups

Growth boundary part of difficulty

SEQUIM — When a major disaster strikes the North Olympic Peninsula, longtime owner Andy Sallee said, Sequim Valley Airport will likely become a busy — and critical — location for assistance and recovery efforts.

“The biggest thing is, if we had some big emergency (such as a long-predicted Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake), you’re going to have Blyn washouts,” Sallee said. “Basically, we’d be an island.”

The prospect of events have Sallee and other airport advocates seeking better options for water, and their push to have the facility hooked up with Clallam County Public Utility District water and sewer by becoming part of the Carlsborg Urban Growth Area has gained county commissioner support.

In November, Clallam’s three county commissioners signed letters up support to PUD general manager Doug Nass as well as Gary ldleburg, a senior planner at the state Department of Commerce.

Calling the airport a “vital local facility,” commissioners write that “it serves as an essential component of our regional emergency management infrastructure and plays an important role in both wildfire response capability and in emergency life flights taking off for trauma care in Seattle that isn’t available in our rural county.”

Clallam County may not expand or offer sewer connections to locations outside of the UGA boundary, commissioners noted, and the county does not currently meet all requirements for expansion of the UGA.

“However,” commissioners wrote, “given the important role the Sequim Valley Airport plays in our region, we write today in support of the Airport owner’s request for expanding the Carlsborg UGA to include the Airport property.”

Commissioners in their letters lobbied PUD officials for a water connection and for the Department of Commerce for connection with the Carlsborg sewer system.

“We are uncertain as to why this facility was not included in the Carlsborg UGA boundary when it was originally created,” commissioners wrote to state Commerce officials on Nov. 9, “but given both the nature of the facility and its role as essential infrastructure, we do support its inclusion now and would like the Department of Commerce to take action to assist the county in getting sewer access for the Sequim Valley Airport.”

In their letter to PUD officials, commissioners noted, “We are uncertain as to why this facility was not included in the Carlsborg UGA boundary when it was originally created, but given both the nature of the facility and its role as essential infrastructure, we do support its inclusion now and we sincerely hope that a path forward may be forged to allow for a water connection.

Sallee said in early January that the appeals have not yet been answered.

“It took a little bit of educating the commissioners to understand the issue,” said Sallee, who added he appreciated that the county leaders support the value of the proposal.

Access to large volumes of water would benefit emergency vehicles during a catastrophic event such as a major forest fire in the Olympic National Park; tankers could load up and deliver water from the nearby airport.

The water and sewer access would also provide a benefit to the airport as its owners consider expansion, cutting the cost of having to develop septic systems and trimming considerable building requirement costs.

“Environmentally, it’s better across the board,” Sallee said. “It’s huge for us … to succeed long term. We’re really optimistic. This would really be a game-changer for us. I just see a win-win for everybody.”

Sequim Valley Airport is a private corporation but is also a public-use airport that has served Clallam County for the past 3½ decades.

A number of government and public entities use the airport and surrounding grounds or various activities and training sessions, including U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, Civil Air Patrol, Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and disaster food distribution teams and fire districts.

In addition to local and out-of-town pilots, the airport provides service for various ambulance and air ambulance Medivac companies, Angel Flights, air cargo, air taxis, blood transportation companies, animal rescue flights, local Experimental Aircraft Association members, flight instruction, hot air balloon flights, events such as the Olympic Peninsula Air Affaire and more.

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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