The 6,347-foot long main runway at William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles, known officially as 8/26, is shown in this July 2011 file photo. The heavily-forested Lincoln Park with its athletic fields is shown at bottom. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The 6,347-foot long main runway at William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles, known officially as 8/26, is shown in this July 2011 file photo. The heavily-forested Lincoln Park with its athletic fields is shown at bottom. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles airport stays eligible for funding; FAA won’t pay for entire runway

PORT ANGELES — William R. Fairchild International Airport will remain eligible for about $5 million in federal maintenance funds to upgrade 5,000 feet of runway.

The Dec. 8 determination by the Federal Aviation Administration drew sighs of relief from Port of Port Angeles officials.

Trouble is, the maintenance funds won’t take the port to the end of the 6,350-foot runway, or 1,350 more feet over the 5,000-foot threshold for funding, port officials said Saturday.

The FAA had considered cutting the airport out of the program, which would have forced port officials to either reduce the runway to 3,850 feet or foot the bill to maintain the other 1,350 feet using local funds.

Under the FAA’s decision, the port can apply for funding under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program for 90 percent of the $5.5 million runway upgrade project on 5,000 feet of Runway 26.

Airport manager Jerry Ludke said Saturday another 5 percent of funding would come from the state Department of Transportation, leaving the port to pitch in about $275,000 for the $5.5 million upgrade, he said.

Budgeting discussions on the improvement project are likely in 2019, with construction likely in 2022, Ludke said.

But port officials say an additional 1,350 feet of runway must be upgraded at an additional estimated cost of $1.5 million, an expenditure not currently eligible for the same federal Airport Improvement Program, Ludke said.

Port Commission Chairwoman Colleen McAleer was cognizant of the future uncertainty for the entire runway though still happy with the FAA’s decision to fund most of the improvements.

“Our long-term goal is to get the full 6,350 feet back,” she said Saturday.

“But in the meantime, we dodged a bullet.”

McAleer said she did not know when the port would begin examining funding options for the additional 1,350 feet, which Ludke said could come when the port begins discussing funding for the 5,000-foot length.

That’s not far down the road, according to McAleer.

“I would guess we’ll be looking at that sooner rather than later,” she said.

“We’ll have to go back and do some analysis on what we would be buying if it’s a million and a half [dollars] or whatever that amount is, and what we’ll be getting if we invest in the runway.”

The FAA was ready to pull Fairchild’s eligibility for the funding after the airport fell far below the requirement of 500 annual airport operations by jet aircraft that are required for airports to apply for the AIP program.

One operation equals a touchdown and takeoff combined.

But McAleer said port Executive Director Karen Goschen was able to convince federal officials to take into account two additional factors.

One was the emergency medevac operations conducted at the airport that provide a lifesaving link between the North Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound hospitals.

The other factor was the importance of having a landing field long enough for large emergency aircraft that would be vital during a catastrophic event such as a Cascadia Subduction earthquake.

According to the Washington Emergency Plan and Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fairchild International Airport is a piece of critical infrastructure vital to the government’s response to wildfires and earthquakes.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, whose 6th Congressional District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, also heralded the FAA’s action for economic reasons.

“Keeping the runway fully-funded will not only give emergency responders a vital lifeline to our region in an emergency, but also drive economic growth that will sustain skilled jobs in our region,” he said.

The 5,000 foot runway helps drive economic growth by permitting jets to land, McAleer said.

“It is a chicken and the egg issue,” she said.

“We need to have enough runway length to support our existing business as well any businesses that are thinking about expanding, and ones we want to attract.

“If we don’t maintain at least that runway length, it’s gong to harm our ability to grow the economy.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Sequim Gazette Editor Michael Dashiell contributed to this report.

More in News

KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS
Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer as coworker Robert Bufford prepares to secure the load as the pair prepares to open the parking lot at Port Angeles City Pier to automobiles on Friday. The work was part of a project to improve storm drainage, replace damaged sidewalks and ADA ramps and mitigate shoreline erosion around the lot, which had been closed since early January. Tree replacement and other project detail work is expected to follow over the next few weeks.
City Pier parking open

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer… Continue reading

Sequim Citizen of the Year luncheon on Tuesday

Emiko Brock, Labbe, Olsen to be honored

EYE ON THE PENINSULA: Broadband, public health before county boards

Government meetings across North Olympic Peninsula

A pair of Clallam Transit buses sit at The Gateway Transit Center in Port Angeles in preparation for their fixed-route runs on Thursday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Clallam Transit sees large rise in ridership

No issues seen with new zero-fare policy

Plans move ahead for Quilcene skate park

Jefferson County, volunteers seek grants

Peninsula College Foundation reports record levels of giving

Programs, students both recipients of funds

County to repave section of Carlsborg Road

Clallam County commissioners will consider awarding a contract for… Continue reading

A paving crew from Lakeside Industries replaces pavement on the Waterfront Trail and the entrance to the Port Angeles City Pier parking lot on Wednesday as part of a project to improve sidewalks and storm water drainage around the site. The project is expected to be substantially completed and the parking lot reopened by mid-March. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles City Pier

A paving crew from Lakeside Industries replaces pavement on the Waterfront Trail… Continue reading

Port Townsend approves utility rate changes, renames skate park

Public hearing set for Transportation Benefits District

Slate of initiatives has upended Olympia, lobbyist says

‘Potential showstoppers’ described at Coffee with Colleen

Artist Chris Stevenson, who described herself as an urban sketcher from Port Townsend, uses a pencil for scale as she sketches the work at the new entrance to Point Hudson Marina on Monday morning. A group in town, the Port Townsend Urban Sketchers will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday to sketch at the Port Townsend Aero Museum. Sessions are free and open to sketchers of all skill levels. For more information, see www.urbansketchersporttownsend.wordpress.com. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Marina art

Artist Chris Stevenson, who described herself as an urban sketcher from Port… Continue reading