Friday, February 15, 2013

Debate sparked over EIS termination

Hailey: County isnít serious about new airport


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

A SkyWest plane takes off at Friedman Memorial Airport on Wednesday. During a meeting Tuesday, Hailey representatives to the Airport Authority said they werenít convinced county officials want to move forward with a replacement airport. Photo by Kate Wutz

Hailey Mayor and Friedman Memorial Airport Authority board member Fritz Haemmerle on Tuesday accused Blaine County of not wanting to proceed with a replacement airport or any siting studies, saying the county was “just giving lip service” to the idea of a long-term replacement.

The authority board met to discuss the possibility of asking the Federal Aviation Administration to terminate an environmental impact study regarding two preferred sites for a replacement airport. The study was suspended in August 2011 when the FAA told the community it was uncertain whether it had the finances to continue with either replacement option.

Donna Taylor, then manager of the airports division of the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region office in Seattle, stated in a letter to the FAA that the suspension was due to “increased anticipated costs of the project and potential impacts to wildlife.”

Since the EIS was suspended, Haemmerle and other Hailey city officials have expressed concerns that “temporary” expansion of the airport in its current location could become a permanent solution, and have urged the FAA to continue the process of airport relocation.
Permanent termination of the EIS would allow the authority to move forward with a master planning process that would involve finding a new, more affordable site and possibly lengthening the time for the authority to find funds to build the airport.

But Haemmerle said he would not be willing to terminate the EIS until he was convinced that the county is willing to move forward—which he is not, he said.

“It seems the county wants to move forward with a vague process, the vaguest of vague processes, and just talk about a dual path,” he said, adding that he has not heard a county commitment to relocation yet and that he wants to see a commitment to performing a study on potential sites.
“If you just want to give lip service to the dual path, be honest about that,” he said. “If you don’t really want to move forward with relocation, then be honest about that.”
Hailey representative Susan McBryant agreed, saying she imagines that everyone would welcome the information from a study of alternative sites.
“No one on this board should be afraid of having a site selection,” she said. “It just gives you a starting point for you to take your 10, 20 or 30 years to plan.”

County Commissioner and Airport Authority member Larry Schoen bristled at suggestions that the county was not committed to a replacement airport as a long-term solution. The county is concerned about how to pay for a replacement airport and the prerequisite studies, he said.
“In order for us to be successful in the long run, we must consider early in the process how we’re going to pay for a replacement airport,” he said. “Are we going to go about a site selection process before we’ve even talked about how we’re going to pay for a replacement airport?”
Haemmerle argued that finding sites would help the county and the authority budget for a future replacement airport, and supported board member Ron Fairfax’s suggestion that the authority request a stand-alone site selection study from the FAA as soon as plans for modifications to the current airport are completed.

He urged the authority to support a request to the FAA to terminate the EIS, conditioned on a stand-alone study’s being started within six months or initiation within three years of a master planning process that would include a site study.

But Schoen and fellow Commissioner and authority board member Jacob Greenberg balked at the motion, saying they needed financial information on how much a site study would cost.
“I think we need to be prepared to pay for something like that before we commit to doing it,” Greenberg said.

Schoen pointed out that, according to the joint powers agreement that governs the authority, Blaine County representatives can decide only on matters involving the replacement airport.
Acting Chair McBryant decided to table the issue until next month’s meeting, stating that she would discuss the issue of who could vote with the county and city attorneys as well as airport staff.

The authority also decided Tuesday to approve a scope of work from Boise-based T-O Engineers that would allow the company to form a detailed plan for modifications to the current airport site.
T-O Engineers Aviation Services Manager Dave Mitchell said the FAA has already reviewed and approved an outline of the report, and that the next step will be to develop a cost estimate.
Construction is expected to begin this summer, and will include a parallel taxiway and moving or dismantling of nine existing airport buildings.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2014 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.