Letters to the Editor for Feb. 8, 2011

What are the obstacles to airport plan?

I live in Fern Prairie. My property is adjacent to Grove Field airport on two sides and right underneath the airport traffic pattern. I like the sound of small airplanes. One of the reasons I moved to Fern Prairie was because of the availability of Grove Field.

Grove Field is identified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in their National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS), and the Washington State Growth Management Act identifies Grove Field as an Essential Public Facility. By identifying Grove Field in their planning, these agencies suggest that the Port of Camas/Washougal has a responsibility to the airport different from the marina or the industrial park that goes beyond their management role. The Port of C/W is entrusted with an asset that has regional importance. As such, they have the responsibility to ensure the longevity of Grove Field.

The FAA, the decision makers of all things aviation in this country, has identified four items that do not meet their design standards for the type of small aircraft that use Grove Field. They are: 1. Runway width, 2. Runway length, 3. Runway alignment, and 4. Obstructions on the west end of the airport.

To help communities pay for airport improvements, the FAA formed the Aviation Trust Fund. They collect user fees and offer grants to provide funding for small airports just like Grove Field. The only stipulation to accepting grant monies is that once spent, the airport must remain an airport for 20 years or the balance of the grant money returned.

Every Port of Camas/Washougal constituent has paid into the Aviation Trust Fund when they were taxed on the purchase of a commercial airline ticket. My fellow aviators and I have further contributed to the fund through taxes collected from the sale of aviation fuel that we put in our small airplanes.

The FAA determines how this Aviation Trust Fund grant money is distributed, not the Port. The FAA has affirmed that correcting the design deficiencies at Grove Field is an appropriate use of Aviation Trust Fund monies and is willing to commit to funding 95 percent of the project cost. The Port Commissioners must decide if they want to apply for this grant from the Aviation Trust Fund thereby returning our tax dollars to our community. I hope they do.

The funding picture gets even better. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is willing to match the contribution of the Port district, which means the Port district splits the final 5 percent with WSDOT making our obligation 2.5 percent of the project cost. And since the Port of Camas/Washougal has already purchased property under the auspices of this project, our local financial obligation is zero. No more local tax dollars need be spent for this project.

In this economy I would sure like to see our local construction crews and businesses have the opportunity to benefit from this “shovel ready” project. Once these infrastructure improvements are complete, Grove Field airport can provide an environment conducive to business opportunities and be the economic engine that we all would like to see it become.

Clearly, this project is about more than where the money comes from. Meeting the design standards for small airports will reduce potential liability to the Port in the event of an accident. Grove Field is the only Clark County airport above the 100 year floodplain and offers a place for search and rescue and firefighters in times of need. New business is being generated from the construction and sale of new hangars. Our local mechanics work on aircraft and local instructors train future aviators. Aviation volunteers provide scholarship opportunities to local students. Community events are held at the airport. Good things happen at Grove Field.

My concern is a perception I have that the port commissioners are reluctant to embrace this project and move forward — and I would like to know why. What do they perceive the obstacle to be?

Neil T. Cahoon, Camas

Letter writer mistaken

In response to Patti Olson’s Letter to the Editor 2/1 (Yale Valley is not “unpopulated”), she is mistaken in saying that citizen groups have suggested a route that “zigzags” through Yale Valley.

The route she is referring to is Segment O, which was added by Bonneville Power as a proposed route in August 2010. The citizens groups’ suggested route is farther north and east, through unpopulated, company-owned forest land and Department of Natural Resources land. We would never have suggested these transmission lines be built through populated areas, urban or rural.

To her point that those along Segments 9 and 25 in the heart of Vancouver purchased homes knowing the towers and lines were there: yes, they made a choice to live next to 65 foot high towers and 230 kV transmisiion lines. They did not make a decision to live with towers that will be twice that high and transmitting more than double the kilovolts; but they now will have no choice. They can’t sell their homes and move away from these lines, because no one wants to buy there with this project looming. Should they be forced to just submit to these new lines because they couldn’t predict the future?

Citizens throughout Clark and Cowlitz Counties need to join together to ensure that BPA builds these lines away from all populated areas. Ms. Olson’s letter seems to indicate that she thinks a more divisive strategy will save Yale Valley from the power lines.

Debby Prentice Thornley, director of Another Way BPA, Camas

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