Many of us feel especially protective these days of Orcas Island’s nature and culture, as we should. Critical Areas Best Management Practices state that protection is foremost; second is restoration. “Mitigation” is suggested as a last resort.
We are now dealing with rapid and startling UGA Eastsound development. A lot of pressure is being placed on our narrow land mass. Airport neighbors are increasingly suffering from the effects of noise pollution and the dangers of close proximity to flying planes. The Port’s recent wetland changes contained incomplete data in the Environmental Impact Statement, and I personally grieve the loss of wildlife and habitat due to Port actions.
A lack of transparency in planning to expand the Orcas Airport caught us by surprise, especially when pursuing basic facts we couldn’t find on the Port website. Of primary concern is the safety of all our people and the survival of our wildlife and natural buffers. Some questions for the Port:
• Who is on your advisory committee concerning airport expansion and what is their role?
• Now that the port has updated its website to include the names of current commissioners, meeting minutes and some images of proposed changes, when will the port post and update all public comments in a public database?
• Will maps of alternative proposals WITH OVERLAYS clearly showing potential impacts to wetlands and densities be brought to the July 26 public meeting so that we can make informed comment on what we see? Please facilitate this.
• Elected commissioners, will you represent the public’s preference when choosing the “Preferred Alternative?”
• Are any alternatives besides ‘No Build’ compatible with Eastsound Visioning work and SubArea Plan land uses?
• Where can we find existing and past Master Plans?
• Should the airport be relocated?
I ask the port to prove to us at this week’s meeting that any proposed expansion or changes do not negatively affect Orcas or islanders. Thank you, islanders, for your incredible outpouring of concern and actions on this matter, and for protecting our beloved island from unnecessary harm.