I love solving puzzles. It requires an agreement to a set of rules that may initially be unclear. Sometimes that’s half the allure. The Master Plan for the Port of Orcas feels like my kind of puzzle. First, there’s a chasm between proponents and detractors filled with misinformation and misunderstanding to wade through. Then there are the actual rules of engagement, the RCWs, FAA compliance, zoning, and safety.
Months ago I studied the different versions of the master plan, I asked questions. Lots of questions. I concluded that in accordance with the FAA’s requirements, borne of their dogged investigations of crashes in similar settings to ours, the Port must widen the runway. This isn’t about landing larger planes, it’s about making it safer for those that already do. It’s about maintaining the much-needed services of Fed-Ex and Kenmore that many of us rely on.
BUT: Every version of this Master Plan, this widening of the runway, includes property the port does not own and laying tarmac on wetlands. DOWL, the company paid $650k, (10% by us) to solve our puzzle was not concerned with the agreed-upon rules, the most important being the stewardship of our environment and a buy-in from our community. No environmental impact study will support moving forward with this project. But we need to be vigilant in not allowing our port or county to find a work-around. Either way, the process will be long and enable more community engagement.
Whenever there is this much concern and confusion in one of our taxing districts, it is incumbent upon our elected folk to put light on the issues so we can understand what is being weighed. Without knowing the restrictions they must operate within, it is impossible for us to fairly measure their efficacy. We must turn the lights on and open the doors. I look forward to working collaboratively with the port commissioners, as a public servant, in mindful and innovative stewardship of the port and all that entails, for the benefit of the island community as a whole.