Airport study delayed

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2002

A federal study that evaluates new development and safety projects at the Juneau Airport is taking longer to complete than earlier thought.

August's scheduled release of a draft environmental impact statement has been delayed until February. A final decision is expected in September 2003, Ken Wallace, project manager with SWCA Inc., told the Juneau Airport Board on Wednesday.

Projects under review include navigational lighting, a snow-removal-equipment building, taxiways, hangars and aircraft parking at the airport. The study also includes new runway safety areas for aircraft that undershoot or overshoot the airstrip. A wildlife hazard management plan also is a part of the study, including a controversial proposal to clearcut trees near the airport's floatplane pond.

The study is taking longer because of additional fieldwork, analysis and cooperative work with operators and other agencies, according to Patti Sullivan, project manager with Federal Aviation Administration.

"A lot has to do with taking time to understand the operating environment at the airport," she said.

Some Airport Board members expressed concern about the delay. The airport has needed a snow-removal-equipment building for years, according to board member Gordon Evans. Because the study is taking so long, equipment is sitting outside and deteriorating, he said.

By taking more time, the final decision will stand up better to scrutiny, Wallace said.

"To have decisions withstand appeal, we have to continue to go through the process," he said.

The extra work means the cost of FAA's contract with SWCA likely will increase from $1.6 million to $1.9 million, Wallace said.

The Airport Board in January asked the FAA to study the tree-cutting proposal in more detail. Sullivan said a decision on the issue wouldn't come until after the research is complete, which might be after the rest of the project is finished.

"It could be supplemental decision," she said.

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