The Muckleshoot Tribal Council, the governing body of the Muckleshoot Tribe, has asked the commissioners looking at sites for Washington’s next major airport to drop the Plateau from their consideration.
The Tribal Council shared their letter to the commission Wednesday on Facebook, laying out several serious concerns that the “King County Southeast” site would pose to the Muckleshoot community if selected.
A brief recap: “King County Southeast” is one of ten “greenfield” (a.k.a. new and undeveloped) sites researched and presented by a consulting agency in June to the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC), which was created in 2019 by the state legislature to research and recommend a solution to the state’s growing need for a new airport.
The CACC isn’t allowed by law to consider a solution in King County, but the consultant wasn’t under that restriction. The presentation raised eyebrows locally, because building on the “King County Southeast” site, located just east of the Muckleshoot Reservation, would forever change the character of the Plateau and cause massive changes to local traffic, wildlife, residents and infrastructure.
Because the CACC can’t recommend “King County Southeast,” it won’t, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. But the CACC is only an advisory group, and the ability to place a new airport lies with the FAA, the state legislature and an airport sponsor. So far, no sponsor has expressed interest in the site, and local legislators have denounced the idea.
The CACC will deliver their top two recommendations this October, and a final recommendation in June.
Based on information from the CACC and the Tribe’s own research, “we have concluded that the negative impact in general and on Tribal facilities and operations in specific, would be significant and (would) fundamentally change the character of the Southeast King County region,” reads the letter, signed by Tribal Council Vice Chair Donny Stevenson and addressed to David Fleckenstein, chair of the CACC. “For those and other reasons we ask that this site be removed from further consideration.”
The Tribal Council outlines the following concerns with the location:
1. Numerous important Tribal facilities are very close to the greenfield area. Placing a major airport essentially next door would likely have a severe effect on employees and Tribal members trying to access those facilities.
2. Transportation infrastructure in the area is already strained, and the ability to expand it is limited. Adding a major airport could exacerbate the situation and create major problems for Tribal enterprises like the Muckleshoot Casino, bingo hall, smoke shop and the White River Amphitheater, among other businesses.
3. The facility would pose major environmental concerns, including threatening salmon habitat, wetlands and other environmental investments the Muckleshoot Tribe and other groups have poured time and money into improving.
4. Many Tribal members and their families live in the immediate area of the proposed site and would be directly, immediately affected.
“While we appreciate the need for expanded commercial and freight aviation services in the Puget Sound region, the Muckleshoot Tribal Council cannot support the siting of such a facility in the Southeast County area,” the letter concluded.