A federal agency has bowed to pressure from locals concerned about proposed projects at the Juneau Airport and extended a public comment period 60 days.
People now have until Sept. 30 to tell the Federal Aviation Administration what issues it should consider as part of an environmental review of the projects.
"I think it's positive to have extended the deadline to allow the job to be done properly and I commend them for doing that," said Laurie Ferguson Craig, a resident critical of the projects proposed by the city.
Proposed projects include an approach-light system on the east end of the runway and an access road to it, new parking areas for aircraft, a new building for snow removal equipment, a road across Duck Creek, and a 1,000-foot safety area at either end of the runway for aircraft that undershoot or overshoot the airstrip. The proposal would require crews to fill about 70 acres of wetlands.
Some residents, particularly people who use the Airport Dike Trail, were worried the projects would jeopardize nearby fish and wildlife habitat. The city last year released an environmental assessment of the projects, but the FAA ordered a more extensive environmental impact statement, or EIS.
The FAA is in the scoping phase of the study, meaning it's gathering public comment on issues raised by the projects. The agency will use the comments to measure the projects' social and environmental effects and to write alternatives.
Ferguson-Craig said the agency should go one step further and hold more public meetings over the next 60 days to better explain the projects, especially how they would affect an area by Duck Creek earmarked for development.
"It's a forested area at the end of Radcliffe Road where people park to access the trail. There were a number of questions about how public access would be provided and maintained if that area is developed. There's questions about how to provide an appropriate noise barrier for the neighborhood," she said.
The FAA's Patti Sullivan said the point of an EIS is to explore such concerns and that the agency won't have answers to those questions until it completes the review.
"We're not yet at the stage in the EIS where we really evaluated the impacts," she said.
The FAA has posted a diagram of the projects on the Internet at http://www.jnu-eis.org.
Kathy Dye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.