The Port of Seattle announced it will give $1 million in grant money to help with the environmental impacts of airport operations.
The fund was announced on Tuesday at the SeaTac Botanical Gardens. It was fitting that the ceremony ended with a tree planting. After all, it is tree cutting that brought a lot of the crowd to see it. Many of them tried to stop the airport from removing nearly 3,000 trees.
"If nothing else, the port has heard the people are upset. They don't just want to be told what's going to happen in their area. It sounds like they're starting to hear us," Joel Wachtel said.
Wachtel is running for city council in SeaTac, but his political organizing really branched out last year with trees near the airport. Officials report the trees are too close to flight paths. Neighbors demanded an environmental review.
Since then, the port has postponed parts of the project to review other options.
"I think we've become somewhat less adversarial. We're aren't less insistent," Wachtel said.
Insistent enough, they showed up Tuesday to learn about a million dollars to reduce environmental impact on nearby communities.
"The last thing you want is for us to tell you what we think is the best idea. This is our chance to allow the community to identify the assets they want. For the port to put up a million bucks to help that, it makes up feel more accountable acknowledging our impacts on the region," said Port Commissioner Fred Felleman.
For Felleman, the money is an effort to show people the port is trying be a good neighbor.
The funds are available for projects in Des Moines, Burien and SeaTac. Experts will help with ideas like removing invasive species and planting trees. Forterra will assist cities in creating initiatives to preserve and create more green space.
"This is above and beyond the call of duty. This is a reflection of the port trying to do our best to acknowledge we have impact on the community already," Felleman said.
But it's unclear if the money will do much for the tree cutting Wachtel tried so hard to stop.
"Ninety-five percent of the trees that are targeted are in our city. Do we get ninety-five percent of the money? This is not a greed question. This is a logical question. Is this going to help make up for the trees we're losing because trees are important in the environment," Wachtel said.
Every dollar requested must be matched with three dollars from the grant applicant, per state law. It can come through volunteer labor, donated materials and professional services.