Airport improvements to meet safety requirements and minimize community impact

  • Wed Jul 11th, 2018 1:30am
  • News

Submitted by The Port of Orcas

The Port of Orcas is currently preparing a master plan for Orcas Island Airport that will guide the direction of projects to bring the airport into compliance with safety standards for existing airport operations and to provide for the future needs of island residents and visitors over the next 20 years.

Because public involvement is a very important aspect of this process, the Port will hold a special commission meeting on July 26 at 3:30 p.m. at the Eastsound Fire Station to hear public comment and answer questions and concerns. To facilitate addressing these questions and concerns fully, accurately, and efficiently, please email detailed questions about the process and concerns to orcasairport@rockisland.com.

The Orcas Island Airport master plan will present the short-, mid-, and long-term needs for the airport. After the plan is completed an environmental document must be prepared to comply with State and Federal environmental regulations. Based on conversations with the FAA, it is anticipated that the projects may require an Environmental Impact Statement, which is the most extensive federal regulatory process.

The intent of the master planning process is to obtain information on the desires of the community and of those most affected by the airport. The master planning process seeks to identify the present and future needs of the community for its airport and ability to meet FAA standards and to suggest reasonable methods for meeting those objectives. The FAA requires that the Airport document a plan to guide future operations.

In its present configuration, Orcas Island Airport does not meet the safety standards required to service aircraft currently using the airport such as the Cessna 208B Caravan. Cessna Caravan operations make up a large and significant share of the air traffic serving Orcas Island. Operators of regularly scheduled passenger and cargo flights to the island fly the Caravan because of its safety, dependability, and efficiency over the routes they commonly fly. In developing alternatives that will bring Orcas Island Airport into compliance with operations already being conducted there, every attempt has been made to make the best use of existing airport property and facilities while minimizing the undesirable effects it may have on its neighbors.

While several alternatives have been proposed to comply with current safety standards while meeting the needs of the community, none of those alternatives includes any expansion of the airport to serve airplanes larger than those that have already been operating there for years. No such expansion has been planned or contemplated.

Since January of this year, two open-house public meetings have been held locally to solicit input from the community regarding its desires for the airport. The comment period is being extended through August 3 to allow for additional input regarding the preferred development plan. To eliminate confusion regarding the alternative options, additional information will be provided on the project website ( http://www.portoforcas.com/master-plan/ ) and to the project contact list by July 16 to better explain FAA requirements and safety standards and to explain the alternative options.

All comments received by August 3 will be considered in the development of the preferred alternative. A public open house will be held in September for the public to review and comment on the preferred alternative.

For more information about the project, the alternative options, and the project schedule visit http://www.portoforcas.com/master-plan/.