ENUMCLAW, Wash. — As Sea-Tac International Airport recently experienced long lines of travelers waiting to get through security screening, state lawmakers are worried the facility is nearing its limit.
Sea-Tac is on track to exceed its capacity by 2050, which is what's prompting state lawmakers to look for a new commercial airport location.
Lawmakers passed a bill creating the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission which will find the best location with help from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
However, one location being considered in King County has locals fighting back.
About 30 miles from Sea-Tac is Enumclaw, an agricultural area that is under consideration as a location for a new commercial airport.
“You put an airport out here, slowly and surely this is all going to be asphalt,” said Dave Brockman, a retired airline pilot who lives in Enumclaw.
“It’s not like we're concerned about the quality of life. We won't be able to live here anymore,” said Tim O’Brien, President of Enumclaw Plateau Community Association
WSDOT is studying two types of locations which are “greenfield locations” or undeveloped land and existing airports. There are 10 greenfield locations it's considering across Skagit, Snohomish, King, Pierce, Thurston and Lewis counties.
One reason the study said the sites are being considered is that all are west of the Cascade Mountains making access easier in inclement weather.
“This will be a hard place to travel to and there's no way to build enough bridges, high bridges to get over these gorges,” O’Brien said.
It can also impact the current airspace in the area, which is home to smaller airports and personal aviation.
“There's a lot of aviation out here that isn't even mentioned in any of these studies. All they're really looking at is how do we get more of these jet transports out,” Brockman said.
The bill that formed the committee to find a new airport location bars a location in a county with a population of more than 2 million, which technically leaves King County out of the running. WSDOT is still studying the area as a recommendation leaving the community concerned especially about the environment.
“This is the Big Spring Creek Reserve that they've put in and spent 3 million dollars to restore salmon habitat,” said Kym Anton, Chairperson of Save the Plateau Committee.
Anton said WSDOT’s study is flawed, not considering salmon and how much the area floods.
“Most of these farmlands flood all the way up to the door stop,” Anton said.
The study also looked at impacts on BIPOC communities. The Muckleshoot Tribal Council sent a letter to the Chair of the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission opposing the airport. The letter said it will impact tribal enterprises and the environment and is asking for the site to be removed from further consideration.
“We're all in unanimous agreement that this is a bad idea not just for the local community but the whole Puget Sound area,” O’Brien said.
The top two picks will be recommended to the legislature by October and the final choice will be recommended by June 2023.