Business and Environment

Airport Master Plan Update Open House being conducted under the shadow of state effort to expand aviation capacity

Olympia Regional Airport is officially off the list, unofficially remains under consideration

Posted

The Port of Olympia will hold its third public open house on the Olympia Regional Airport Master Plan Update (MPU) on Thursday, May 26, 2022, from 2 – 3:30 p.m. via Zoom.

For details about the open house or to register to participate online, click this link.

About the Airport Master Plan

The Airport Master Plan is a long-term planning document that examines current conditions and projects future aviation and non-aviation needs for the community and the airport. These requirements guide the master planning process and serve as the foundation for identifying the Airport's suitable function and future growth. The previous plan was completed in 2013 and is available on the Port’s website.

The Port's Airport Master Plan web page includes the Airport Layout Plan (ALP). The ALP is a visual conceptual development plan that outlines changes required to solve design flaws, increased aviation demand, and changing conditions and situations at the airport. The Federal Aviation Administration has given its approval to the ALP. All proposed future developments will be subjected to a rigorous state and federal environmental study as required by law.

Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC)

At the same time the Port of Olympia is making its plans, the CACC is studying airports and land throughout the Puget Sound area as it works to deliver to the Washington State Legislature a single preferred location for a new commercial service airport. The recommendation is due by February 15, 2023, a date that was pushed back by 13 months due to the pandemic. The Legislature’s stated goal is to have a new commercial airport to be operational by 2040.

On February 9, 2022, the CACC issued its “final short list” report to the Legislature which listed six airports it recommends for further study. Olympia Regional Airport is not on that list. The list included only one airport, Snohomish County (Paine Field) Airport, as having “potential for additional commercial passenger service and air cargo capacity.” The other five listed were indicated to have only “potential for additional general aviation capacity.” In other words, if Paine Field is not selected to become the new SeaTac, the CACC will continue to search for either an existing airport or a parcel of land that could be developed into a new “greenfield” airport. 

During a January 6, 2022 meeting of the CACC, Chair David Fleckenstein explained to State Representative Tina Orwall the reason that Olympia Regional Airport was no longer being considered. He said “there was no sponsor support from the Port of Olympia to have Olympia on the list. So when we went through the initial filtering of the airports, it was removed because of that.”

Data presented at the January 6 meeting (see Slide 13 above this story) indicated that 69 percent of CACC commissioners offered feedback that Olympia Regional Airport offered "potential for accommodating additional" air passenger and air cargo service; 100 percent offered feedback that additional general aviation capacity could be developed. 

Despite official claims that Olympia Regional Airport is not being considered for use as a commercial cargo or passenger service airport, there are two scenarios in which Thurston County could find plans for a bigger or new airport in its future:

  1. The CACC could reconsider a “greenfield” approach to adding capacity and take another look at building a new airport on a swath of land they’ve identified that is located south of Black Lake, north of Mima Mounds and west of Olympia Regional Airport.
  2. If invited: The Port of Olympia Commissioners could decide to invite the CACC to take another look at either the airport or the greenfield land. Fleckenstein added, “the Port [of Olympia] could, at some point in the future, change their mind and decide that they want to pursue commercial service.”

It would take only two votes of the three-member commission for this to happen.

Recent local comments

"CACC members reportedly show little concern about impacts to our quality of life," said former Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs.

Lee Riner, who says she has family near Sea-Tac Airport, commented about how aircraft may harm public health in terms of pollutants, noise, and stress. She said her family members who resided along the SeaTac flight path had asthma. Their health "deteriorated year after year," she added.

Some local business leaders have commented that additional aviation business at the airport would be good for the local economy and increase the value of land surrounding the airport. 

Comments

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  • JanWitt

    Thank you, Jolt, for covering this important issue.

    Several dozen residents of Thurston County recently submitted two comprehensive analyses (white papers) pertaining to the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission and the Olympia Airport Master Plan Update to Port of Olympia Commissioners and other local elected officials. The papers are lengthy, include attachments and will not fit into this comment box . Does the Jolt have an email address to which we can cc those do***ents?

    Jan Witt, Olympia

    Thursday, May 26 Report this

  • Miller19

    Don’t let the local government sell out the community. The airport is fine, we don’t need to tear up south Thurston or jam more people into the current location. Make no mistake, in either scenario, normal community members lose long term. The Port will NEVER have community interests in mind. It’s just a scam to increase tax revenue.

    Thursday, May 26 Report this

  • FirstOtter

    Despite at least two hundred "No" voices in the earlier Zoom meeting, the Port of Olympia is still looking at 'enlarging' or enhancing' the Olympia Airport. I believe I read that it would enable up to 600 flights a day from Oly Airport. The 'local business leaders' who think that land under the flight paths, homes in the vicinity of another SeaTac (for that's what they want) would "INCREASE THE LAND Value" are smoking something illegal.

    Have them talk to people in SeaTac..the town, not the airport itself. No one wants their houses, even in as hot a housing market as that in Seattle.

    This whole thing is nothing a land grab. Ultimately it will be shoved down our throats and done so by using "eminent domain" to justify stealing peoples land and homes.

    Thursday, May 26 Report this