Port Commissioners delay vote on funding for Flight Corridor Safety program


trees-testimony

Jim Langston, Debi Wagner, and Walter Bala were among those who testified against the proposed Flight Corridor Safety Program’s tree-cutting plans at the Oct. 25 Port of Seattle Commission meeting.

For the second time in a month, Port of Seattle Commissioners have delayed a vote on approving additional funding for the Port’s proposed Flight Corridor Safety Program, a three-phase plan that would remove over 2700 tall trees from both public and private property around Sea-Tac Airport over the next three years.

At their Tuesday (Oct. 25) meeting, after hearing testimony from residents in Burien and Des Moines who questioned the Port’s need to remove that many trees, Port Commissioners decided to postpone voting on a request to dedicate an additional half million dollars to a project that already has been approved to the tune of $2,731,000.

Commissioner Stephanie Bowman noted that previous tree removal campaigns, which have been conducted to comply with Federal Aviation Administration standards for safe airspace, have targeted only 50-100 trees at a time. In those situations, the FAA was the agency that identified which trees needed to be removed. This is the first time that the Port of Seattle has conducted its own analysis of trees that could potentially obstruct safe flight operations. Bowman was concerned about the disparity between the scope of previous tree removal operations and the one currently proposed by Port staff.

This past summer, the Port of Seattle conducted a SEPA review on Phase One of the project, which would bring down 1200 trees, and determined that an Environmental Impact Study/Statement was not necessary. The City of SeaTac has filed an appeal in King County Superior Court, arguing that the SEPA review should have been for the total project, not just Phase One, and that automatically would have triggered the need for an EIS.

Commission President John Creighton brought up the City of SeaTac’s concerns.

“That really makes me want to pause,” Creighton said, and noted that he hoped to work with the City to resolve some of those issues before moving forward with the tree-cutting plan.

Echoing the concerns of other commissioners that the Port had not done enough to listen to community input, Commissioner Fred Felleman noted that the Port had scheduled a Nov. 1 community open house on the SeaTac Airport Flight Safety Program.

“The idea of taking this vote prior to a public meeting really sticks in my craw,” Felleman said.

The open house/community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 1, from 6-8:30 p.m. at Bow Lake Elementary School, 18237 42nd Avenue S in SeaTac. The public is encouraged to attend and give feedback. Program details are at http://www.portseattle.org/safecorridor

Translators are available so that non-English speaking residents can participate. To arrange for a translator, call the Port’s language help line at 206-787-3797 and press the following extensions for help with:

  • Spanish – ext. 1
  • Vietnamese – ext. 2
  • Somali – ext. 3
  • Cambodian – ext. 4
  • For all other languages, press ext. 5.


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