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SEATTLE - Opponents of building a $490 million sports arena in SODO charge that Mayor Mike McGinn is treating the proposal differently from how he approached another major project in the same part of the city -- the deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct.

Specifically, critics say McGinn is not raising the same environmental questions.

Ashley Bach, a spokesman for Save Our Sodo, said by email that compliance with the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) seems to only be a priority for McGinn when it's politically convenient. Bach pointed to a Feb. 2011 letter written by McGinn explaining why he chose to veto the tunnel.

In the letter, McGinn wrote: we must protect Seattle from a hasty rush to approve this project before these concerns are addressed. [SEPA] exists to show the public the harmful impacts caused by a project, both to inform the decision process as well as to provide an opportunity for leaders to negotiate solutions. Both City and State law are clear: a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be completed before a final decision is made that commits the government to a particular course of action.

McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus said he believes there is no contradiction, citing the Arena Memorandum of Understanding language that would require SEPA compiance and an EIS study before construction can begin.

The Seattle City Council is currently deliberating on the language of the MOU and negotiating with investor Chris Hansen about possible amendments. To date, the principle criticsms of the arena project have centered on the impact a third sports arena in the city's stadium district would have on commuters and on freight traffic to and from the Port of Seattle.

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