News

Runway down to its final hurdle

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

The Port of Seattle has cleared one hurdle on the way to a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but it has another one yet to go.

A federal judge two weeks ago ruled in the port’s favor on a permit issued last year by the Army Corps of Engineers that allows the port to fill almost 20 acres of wetlands at the site of the third runway.

But several appeals of a water-quality permit issued by the state Department of Ecology (DOE) are still pending in the state Supreme Court.

Airport Communities Coalition spokeswoman Kelly Evans said ACC members don’t expect construction to start on the third runway until all sides hear back on the water-quality permit.

Oral arguments have been scheduled for mid-November, and a judge’s decision could come down any time after that, Evans said.

Last year, DOE issued a water-quality permit that allowed the port to proceed with bringing in what opponents of the runway call “dirty fill” to build the third runway.

The ACC appealed the permit to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, which added 16 conditions designed to meet the concerns of the coalition, including fill cleanliness requirements, stormwater control and filtration, and increased monitoring.

The port appealed eight of the conditions in Supreme Court, and the coalition and DOE also filed appeals.

Though port officials have said they plan to go out to bid for fill for the third runway this fall and could begin construction early next year, Evans said, the ACC doesn’t expect any real construction activity until the court rules on the state permit.

The federal ruling “doesn’t absolve them from the state permit,” she said. “They’ve cleared one hurdle, but they have another one. They still have to deal with state rules.”

The ACC is comprised of cities near the airport, including Federal Way. Cities pay dues to be represented by the coalition, which has filed appeals on behalf of member cities to stop the expansion.

While communities closer to the airport have direct concerns with water-quality issues, Federal Way’s more immediate concerns are noise from the increase in air traffic and the greater potential for airline crashes here, officials said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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