Debate over funding for Grove Field continues

Airport supporters notice negativity at port commission meeting

After several negative thoughts were expressed by Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioners about the possibility of applying for funding from the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for improvements at Grove Field Airport, Liz Pike suggested the port have the State Department of Aviation “deal with the feds.”

“I am struck by the lack of optimism [from the port commissioners] regarding this project,” she said. “You should sell [the airport] or deed it to another agency that would be a good steward.”

During the March 1 commission meeting, Neil Cahoon said he was disappointed with the “wishy washy” commission’s approach to the potential project.

“Pursue it with more passion,” he said.

Scott Price, a principal with Immelman Hangars, also noticed a negative tone at the meeting regarding the potential FAA funding.

“I’m not sold that you even want to consider it,” he said to the commissioners.

Port Commissioner Mark Lampton questioned the future of general aviation.

“I see a deep downturn,” he said. “The data is pretty grim.”

Lampton said the average cost of a new plane is $430,000.

Rainse Anderson, with WHPacific, an engineering and environmental firm in Portland, said there are other ways of getting into aviation, such as purchasing a used airplane.

“Airline pilots are aging,” he said. “There is a big need for training future pilots.”

Commissioner Bill Macrae-Smith said construction at the airport would be “a one shot deal” for construction crews.

“With those jobs, you can’t move a family to Camas,” he said. “Capital projects do not create long term sustainable employment.”

“Is it right to put $10 million of taxpayer money into Grove Field?” Macrae-Smith added.

Commissioner Bill Ward expressed concern about the future of residents who live in a mobile home park across from the airport.

“The [environmental] assessment says not to worry about it, but worry about it later,” he said. “It is right on the flight path.

“The relocation process is something to think about,” Ward added.

Bob Martilla, a pilot, said he brings dollars to the port.

He criticized the use of two-year-old data.

“Aircraft fuel consumption is going up,” Martilla said. “For 40 years, I have heard aviation is dying. It was not true then, and it’s not true now.”

Bob Glenn, of Camas, said he took flying lessons from Wally Olsen, the late owner of Evergreen Airport, in Vancouver.

Glenn said the port commissioners should be against the Grove Field Airport expansion “as a mandate from your supporters.”

“General aviation is dead,” he added.

Glenn suggested aspiring pilots join the military, in order to learn how to fly.

John Sentesy, of Camas, described the 89 to 100 pilots who use Grove Field as a “private flying club” that should not be subsidized.

Correcting FAA design standard deficiencies would involve widening the runway to 60 feet, lengthening the runway to 3,070 feet, clearing obstructions within the airport’s runway safety area and shifting the runway to meet center line/taxiway separation standards. Port commissioners are expected to decide whether to accept $10 million for improvements from the FAA, in exchange for a guarantee that Grove Field will remain an airport for at least 20 years. The application and subsequent approval for state and federal funding would pay for 97.5 percent of the costs.

The commission’s next meeting is set for Tuesday, March 15, at 5 p.m., in the port office meeting room, 24 S. “A” St., Washougal. For more information, call the port at 835-2196 or visit www.portcw.com.

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