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Permit is mixed victory for runway opponents
By ERICA JAHN
The Port of Seattle got its water quality permit for the third runway project at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but officials are reviewing it to see if they can comply with new requirements.
Its a mixed victory for the Airport Communities Coalition, a group of cities, including Federal Way, and the Highline School District opposed to the third runway project.
While the permit gives the port its next-to-last go-ahead to build the 8,500-foot runway, it introduces new and possibly expensive requirements to preserve water quality. For example, the port now must truck in uncontaminated fill for the runway.
The permit process is the crux of the project, but for Federal Ways Marine Hills and Steel Lake-area neighborhoods, its the byproducts of construction that are most concerning.
Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar, who sits on the Airport Communities Coalition, said the noise, truckloads of fill and the possibility of an airplane crash are most distressing for all city residents, but noise is most acute in those neighborhoods under which airplanes begin their approach to Sea-Tac.
The noise level is high now, she said. If the third runway comes in, its going to increase the noise level.
The runway project is also expensive. Port planners estimate the project will cost $773 million, but Kochmar said coalition members are sure costs are going to be at least double that.
Now that the Pollution Control Hearings Board has issued its permit, the port can either comply or file an appeal. The last hurdle for the project will be an Army Corps of Engineers permit, which could be issued in days or weeks.
Meanwhile, members of the coalition are looking at a totally different option ÑÊa second regional airport. State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, called last session for the creation of a subcommittee to explore possible locations for a second airport.
It would be a better option all around, Kochmar said, and not just because of opposition to the third runway project. If an earthquake or inclement weather or a terrorist attack knocked out the airport, a second regional airport could provide auxiliary support.
I believe they need to look at a second regional airport, Kochmar said. I fail to see the need for a third runway.