[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff:]

The Port of Seattle, the operator of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, is working in strong partnership with the City of SeaTac and other airport communities to preserve trees and green spaces to support a healthy environment now and for the future.

We are proud of our success engaging with the cities and residents to improve the environment, as we strive to balance our responsibilities to operate SEA, a major engine of economic vitality for the region.

Commissioners Hamdi Mohamed and Toshiko Hasegawa have led in the effort to develop a roadmap for restoring North SeaTac Park that has been under SeaTac’s care for 30 years. They have put their values into action in a good faith partnership with SeaTac to determine the best path forward to support the long-term health of the park. The City and the Port have recently stated their intent to develop a “shared vision for the future of North SeaTac Park… to figure out a plan for the long-term health and wellness of the park.” (read the full statement here).

A recent Letter to the Editor contained misstatements and mischaracterizations about North SeaTac Park and our Commissioners. We want to correct those and share the many positive steps we are taking with communities to support healthy green spaces and support vibrant urban areas.

    • North SeaTac Park: As we have stated many times, the airport is not considering any development in North SeaTac Park under the airport’s Sustainable Airport Master Plan or in the airport’s Real Estate Master Plan. The Port and the City of SeaTac are currently engaged in discussions regarding the future of North SeaTac Park with the common goals of having a healthy park.
    • Lora Lake: The lake was man-made and was contaminated by off-site industrial stormwater long before the Port acquired the property for runway construction. The airport actually cleaned up the polluted Lora Lake and converted it to a wetland, under a state program.
    • Former Tyee Golf Course. For environmental reasons, the airport has restored portions of the golf course as a wetland. We are working to prevent flooding and enhance the overall health of Des Moines Creek.
    • Future Development: In support of airport operations and in partnership with airport communities, the Port has initiated job-creating development on vacant properties. We follow the development standards of our host cities, including tree replacement standards. The Des Moines Creek West project was enthusiastically embraced by the Des Moines City Council, and, not only will the developer replant trees according to local code, the development will also extend the Barnes Creek Trail to connect to the Des Moines Creek Trail, providing recreational and safety improvements. The developer will protect wetlands on the acquired property as well.

Unfortunately, the letter overlooks the 15 years of hard work by the Port and neighboring cities. The Port Commission has funded urban canopy assessments and native forestry management plans in partnership with SeaTac, Des Moines, and Burien. These reports inform city planning to make long-term decisions about what to maintain and where to invest. Des Moines and Burien have formally adopted these plans.

The Port has also created 150+ acres of wetland, habitat, and forest space in Auburn and along Miller Creek and Des Moines Creek that is protected from development. In just the last few years the Port Commission has provided more than $1 million to fund community-led environmental projects, including programs that restore park areas and expand tree canopy. This video shares one of the most recent habitat restoration stories about a project at a local Highline School District high school.

There is no debate that the airport must protect the safety of aircraft operations, including removing trees and other obstructions that conflict with flight operations. Even the limited removal of trees has ended up as a net positive for the environment. Through the program and in partnership with Washington Department of Transportation, more than 12,000 trees have been or will be planted after removing 978 over-height trees. The replanting program dramatically increased native species and removed invasive species in urban forests near the airport.

The Port of Seattle is proud of its commitments past and future to our neighboring communities to restore and enhance the environment.

Whether we are talking about caring for existing green spaces or careful development of airport-owned land, we always follow local replanting protocols, protect wetlands and leave behind a restored habitat richer with native species. Keeping development near the airport reduces sprawl, which benefits our regional environment, and limits truck traffic to the shortest distance possible. These are the practices, philosophies, and values that maximize the value of our green spaces while maximizing the benefit of our airport.

– Dave Kaplan
Local Government Relations Manager
Port of Seattle

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have something you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to scott@southkingmedia.com and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must use their full names and cite sources – as well as provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes).