New terminal gets hearing

September 30, 2008 11:00 pm

By Kelley Atherton

The Border Coast Regional Airport Authority will hold a public hearing regarding a new passenger terminal planned for Del Norte County Airport from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

Citizens can comment on the draft Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Report for the terminal replacement or ask questions of a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The document is available at the Community Development Department at the Flynn Administration Center at 981 H St., and on the county's Web site at on the left hand side under "New to Our Site."

Airport Manager Jim Bernard explained that comments will be incorporated into the final report, which the board will vote on when its completed.

"This is just the draft document," he said.

The new terminal would contain 20,800 square feet of space and be located just south of the existing terminal on Dale Rupert Road. The current facility was built in 1950 and contains only 2,020 square feet of space. Construction is projected to begin in 2009 and be completed in 2011.

The terminal would be two stories high, and a second-floor observation area would provide ocean views.

The existing terminal is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and contains asbestos, Bernard said.

In 2000, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson earmarked FAA funds to remodel the terminal, Bernard said.

"The FAA looked at the terminal and said, ‘No way, we're not putting money into that building,'" he said.

Its tiny waiting area can get cramped.

There's also currently not enough ramp space for one more than one plane to taxi, which Bernard said is also something the FAA wants fixed.

The new terminal was designed based on the number of passengers coming though each year. The number of passengers has increased from 2,500 in 1990 to almost 12,000 in 2007.

"It was mainly designed to meet our current need," Bernard said. "It's not based on development, it's based on what we have right now."

However, the new terminal will be able to "accommodate any foreseeable growth for next 50 years," he said.

The location of the new terminal would accommodate future growth and would have the least impact on the environment, Bernard said.

"The logical space is to use the (existing) terminal and parking lot as ramp space," he said. "The FAA said we need more ramp space — it's that simple."

The project will be on about 20 acres of "previously disturbed" land, Bernard added. The Army leveled it in the early 1940s to build the airport and the plants and trees there have grown up since then.

"We're not messing with anything endangered," Bernard said.

The draft environmental document made conclusions in several areas:

• Noise levels: The report concluded the new terminal would not cause a significant increase in noise. However, there will be typical construction noise while the terminal is being built.

• Water quality: Stormwater runoff from the terminal will be "relatively small, therefore, runoff would not be significant," according to the report. Water is generally drained by nearby creeks and goes directly into the Pacific Ocean or Lake Earl.

• Cultural resources: The report states that there are no historical, architectural, archaeological or cultural resources contained on the land surrounding the project site.

• Fish, wildlife and plants: The project would not alter the habitat of common plant, wildlife species or sensitive habitats. "It would be isolated from known wildlife habitats," the report said.

The new terminal could possibly impact the western lily, according to the report. In that case, the airport would have to improve one to three acres of "suitable, but overgrown" habitat for the western lily by Dec. 31, 2011.

• Wetlands: Construction would only impact about 0.18 acre of wetlands, which must be mitigated off-site, the report stated.

• Coastal resources: The report found that the terminal project would not have a significant impact on public access and coastal recreational uses in the area.

"It would be designed to enhance the visual quality of the Airport. Removal of the existing terminal building would improve the appearance of the...facilities."