Mukilteo, Edmonds unite in FAA fight

By Sara Bruestle | Feb 06, 2013

Mukilteo and Edmonds filed an appeal Jan. 31 to the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to allow commercial flights out of Paine Field. The appeal continues a fight that has lasted more than two decades.

The two cities were joined in the appeal by the group Save Our Communities and two Mukilteo residents. It was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

While noise and pollution concern Mayor Joe Marine, his main opposition to commercial flights out of the Snohomish County Airport is the impact it may have on Boeing operations.

“We’ve got that huge aerospace manufacturing connection there,” Marine said. “That is the envy of the nation. South Carolina is about to do anything to get it.”

Although the FAA studied an introduction of two commercial gates and two airlines to Paine Field, Marine said he worries that more airlines will follow – and push Boeing out.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, however, doesn’t think Boeing is going anywhere, and welcomes commercial airlines to Paine Field.

“Everett has been on record supporting commercial air at Paine Field for many years now,” Stephanson said. “The FAA has completed its effort, and by all indication, the impacts of commercial air appear to be minimal.

“Commercial air is necessary for economic development and job growth. Hopefully we’ll soon be working with a company to provide commercial air at Paine Field.”

Marine is confident they have a good case against the FAA’s ruling. He said the fact that Edmonds has joined the fight should make for a stronger appeal, if not legally, then politically.

“A lot of people have the belief that it’s a ‘NIMBY’ thing, that it’s [only] people in Mukilteo who don’t want the flights,” he said.

“The reality of it is, it goes much larger than that: Most of the noise reports and complaints are from people south of us, in unincorporated Snohomish County, Lynnwood and Edmonds.”

“Now it doesn’t look like it’s just one city against the airport and no one else really cares.”

Marine had asked Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood to join the suit in “political support.” Edmonds was the only other city to file before the deadline – but Edmonds won’t be footing any of the bill.

Mukilteo has set aside a legal fund of more than $150,000 to fight the FAA.

“There’s a deep concern on the council’s part that it will have an impact on the quality of life in our community,” Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling said. “They wanted to make their position known, and so they voted to join the suit.”

Mike Moore and Victor Vernon, of Mukilteo, both Save Our Communities members, also filed appeal. They want to be available to reiterate their comments as private citizens against the FAA decision.

After nearly three years, the FAA’s ruling concluded that permitting commercial flights at the airport wouldn’t significantly increase noise, traffic or air pollution.

The agency’s environmental study of the impacts of adding up to 23 flights per day had reported the same findings: That environmentally there would be “no significant impact.”

The opposition argues the environmental study was too limited, and that it should have considered the possibility of additional flights in the future.

“The study is flawed and insufficient, and the FAA ruling of ‘no significant impact’ is therefore also flawed,” said Moore, SOC vice president. “The lawsuit seeks to point out those flaws and push in the direction of having an adequate study done.”

Allegiant Air has expressed interest in flying out of Paine Field. If Allegiant offers commercial service, Alaska Air has said it will also add flights to stay competitive.

Although the FAA approved commercial flights at Paine Field, Snohomish County still needs to complete its own environmental review. The county plans to start that process this month.

“We don’t think they have done a proper study of the footprint there,” Marine said. “It’s much larger. Why wouldn’t they look at if commercial airlines came in and grew to its capacity? They didn’t do that.”

“Especially after three years, they could have done a full EIS.”

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