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Permit allows work to start on third runway
By ERICA JAHN
The Army Corps of Engineers issued the Port of Seattle the second of two important permits last week, allowing the port to fill wetlands and begin construction of a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in exchange for some environmental mitigation and preservation.
The Airport Communities Coalition took the decision directly to U.S. District Court, where attorneys filed an appeal.
The corps issued the 404 permit last Friday and, that afternoon, coalition (ACC) representatives met with port and Corps officials and filed a stipulated injunction in federal court to delay construction until Jan. 13, 2003.
ACC attorneys also filed the appeal on Friday afternoon.
As part of the runway project, the port proposes to bring in 20 million cubic yards of fill dirt to fill almost 20 acres of wetlands on the site and to build up the 8,500-foot runway.
Last August, the state Department of Ecology issued the first of two important permits ÑÊcalled the 401 permit ÑÊto allow the port to fill the wetlands and build the runway.
The ACC appealed the decision to the state Pollution Control Hearing Board, which reviewed the permit and issued a list of stringent environmental mitigations and preservation requirements.
But the recent Corps permit only includes six of the roughly 16 conditions required by the board, including restoration and enhancement of about 90 acres of wetlands on the site and creation of about 30 acres of wetland near Auburn.
The ACC, the Corps and the port agreed last Friday to the Jan. 13 delay in order to take the case before a federal judge, but now theyre waiting to see if the Port Commissioners will go along.
The board is expected to make a decision at its meeting later this week. If the board agrees to take the challenge to federal court ÑÊand a federal court judge agrees to hear it Ñ construction could be delayed until the end of May.
Meanwhile, the ACC is fighting the project in state court following a Department of Ecology appeal of the Pollution Control Hearing Boards August ruling.
Members of the ACC, including representatives from the city of Federal Way, said they have many concerns about progress on the third runway project, not least of which is the foes claim that the port hasnt shown a purpose and need for the third runway.
Opponents of the runway say the airport no longer has the air traffic to justify construction of the 8,500-foot landing strip ÑÊand the associated environmental impacts associated with it.
While environmental concerns are relevant to all south King County cities, Federal Way officials are more concerned about noise pollution from aircraft taking off and landing at the airport.
A recent meeting between Marine Hills homeowners and the port revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration had tweaked the turning points for aircraft taking off, meaning theyre cutting a corner in the area identified as the noise abatement corridor.
That corner-cutting means airplane noise drowns out conversations and thunders over television shows for homeowners living under the flight path.
Its a noise nuisance that makes living in Federal Way miserable, property owners have told City Council members. Councilwoman Linda Kochmar, who represents Federal Way on the ACC, agrees.
We need to stand up for them, she said. And thats what I intend to do.
Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and firstname.lastname@example.org