by Nicholas Wolfe
The Port of Seattle committed Ã¢â‚¬Å“fraudÃ¢â‚¬Â by misrepresenting its actual plan for use of the third runway at Sea-Tac International Airport until after the controversial addition went into operation on Nov. 20, CASE (Citizens Against Sea-Tac Expansion) president Brett Fish of Burien charged at a meeting of the watchdog group Wednesday evening.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I know thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a strong term, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what else to sayÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of heads should roll down the third runway,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fish declared as he criticized port officials for using it 24/7 as a primary runway, even in good weather conditions, despite repeated pre-construction assurances that it would be used only in bad weather Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and then primarily for landings to prevent flight delays. Ã¢â‚¬Å“They lied about not using it as a main runwayÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. Do we want to become a jet ghetto? I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think so. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s our job to turn this thing around.Ã¢â‚¬Â
And the first step in turning things around, both Des Moines Mayor Bob Sheckler and Fish emphasized, is for Highline residents who are experiencing negative impacts from third runway flight operations to speak out at a public meeting of the Highline Forum with port officials at 2 p.m. Thursday, January 8, at the port office on the mezzanine level of the main terminal at Sea-Tac. Parking will be validated upon request.
Sheckler also is co-chairman of the Highline Forum, which is comprised of the cities of Des Moines, Normandy Park, Burien, Tukwila, SeaTac and Federal Way, the Highline School District, and the port. The forum Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which replaced the Airport Communities Coalition that for a decade tried to block the third runway Ã¢â‚¬â€œ was organized after construction got underway to promote cooperative relationships between the Sea-Tac and neighboring cities.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I never expected to be before you again on third runway issues. At least I hoped I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sheckler told CASE members. But now itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“very, very clear how itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s operating,Ã¢â‚¬Â he observed. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like a main runway Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obvious to me that the third runway will continue to be used as a main runway. So the focus needs to be on mitigation.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In the past, Sheckler continued, Ã¢â‚¬Å“the port has been fairly good on addressing issues of mitigation. But this is really a big oneÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. When the third runway was built, they never looked at it in terms of impact by its use as a main runwayÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. We need to ask them, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhat are you going to do about it?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
Noting that Ã¢â‚¬Å“we were caught off guardÃ¢â‚¬Â by the immediate use of third runway as a main rather than a backup runway Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which Highline communities had been assured it would be Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he added, Ã¢â‚¬Å“We werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t prepared for this. The first thing we have to do now is see what the portÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s response is. We hope to find that outÃ¢â‚¬Â at ThursdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s meeting. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I want everyone to remember to ask, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhy did you tell us that?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
Asked by one community resident about the possibility of suing the Port Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and even the Federal Aviation Administration Ã¢â‚¬â€œ for damages, Sheckler replied, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m hoping to avoid. I hope the port does not have a short-term memory lossÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. But if the third runway becomes a major issue Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be hell to pay for it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
While CASE membership is comprised of veterans of the anti-third-runway fight, an outspoken newcomer is Miriam Bearse of Burien, who moved to the city late last year. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t aware of the third runway when we bought our home,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said. But the impact on their lives has Ã¢â‚¬Å“been astoundingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. That roar (of jets flying low overhead). The whistling. It sounds like itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s getting so closeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. No matter how hard I try, it strikes fear in me.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That the port should be able to go back on their word is incredible,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bearse declared. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think that we should stand for it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
She said a meeting for affected homeowners and renters only, at which the possibility of legal action against the port will be discussed, will be held at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at the SeaTac Community Center (full details here).
Burien Deputy Mayor Rose Clark, who lives close to the third runway, said noise from flight operations Ã¢â‚¬Å“is an increasing problemÃ¢â‚¬Â that rattles her windows to the point that she is concerned they will break eventually. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We need to do something soon.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Beyond the possibility of such damage, Clark is concerned about the negative impact on the value of neighboring homes. Her house Ã¢â‚¬Å“was devalued by $20,000 by King CountyÃ¢â‚¬Â due to the second runway at Sea-Tac. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now I expect its devaluation to be even greater.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The impact of devaluation doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop with individual homeowners. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Property devaluation also impacts local cities and the Highline School District,Ã¢â‚¬Â she noted, Ã¢â‚¬Å“because lower valuation results in less property tax revenue.Ã¢â‚¬Â
One member of the audience noted that a port representative had told a long-time resident, who complained about the noise, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your fault for living there.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Another exclaimed, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Since the state is out of money and the feds are out of money, why donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t we just shut the goddamn runway down?Ã¢â‚¬Â
But, observed a third, there is little community residents can do because the Ã¢â‚¬Å“jet airplane mobstersÃ¢â‚¬Â operate under laws passed by Congress.
Both the port and the FAA are expected to study the impacts of the third runway Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a process that could take months if not years. Ã¢â‚¬Å“In the meantime,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fish suggested, Ã¢â‚¬Å“have them back off on the use of the third runway and do what they said they would.Ã¢â‚¬Â
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The B-Town Blog would like to welcome its newest Writer, Nicholas Wolfe, to its team. Wolfe is an investigative journalist who will be covering community issues. Look for more of his coverage of the third runway noise issue soon!]