A major Enumclaw airport is being proposed. We must resist. | In Focus

Editor’s note, updated August 5: An earlier version of this article said that the new airport would be an international airport. This is not necessarily true — the legislation did not define whether the new major airport would have to handle international travel, and a consultant’s analysis showed it would likely focus on domestic travel. We have corrected the error.

In 1980, a proposal was considered to use an abandoned gravel pit between Enumclaw and Flaming Geyser State Park to build a firefighters’ academy. Hundreds of Enumclaw residents protested to the King County Council in a series of public hearings, arguing that air quality would be compromised. As a result, the County denied the conditional-use construction permit. The state sued, but the ruling was upheld by the County Hearing Examiner. In 1983 the Firefighter Academy was built eight miles east of North Bend.

In 2009, Nestle proposed to Mayor John Wise and his administration the building of a water bottling plant in Enumclaw. The public rose up and pressured the Enumclaw City Council to reject the plan. I know – I was a new member of the 2009 council. I was shocked at the anger and vehemence of the citizenry to Nestle’s proposal. Looking back, having a Nestle’s water bottling factory in Enumclaw would have drastically altered the small-town appeal of Enumclaw.

We are now facing a similar threat to the Enumclaw Plateau with the recommendation to consider a new major airport just east of The Muckleshoot Casino.

The Washington State Department of Transportation added more funding and hired a consulting firm to assist the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC) created in 2019. It’s suspected that the consultants went back to a 1992 study by the Puget Sound Regional Council where members were considering whether to build a third runway at SeaTac (City of Enumclaw Administration).

According to information shared by City Administrator Chris Searcy at the June 27, 2022 Council meeting, a site on the Enumclaw Plateau was added to the original six that were selected back in 2021. All six possible sites are existing airports and would only need to be enlarged. None are in King County, which already has two major airports: SeaTac and Boeing Field.

Here’s the information sent by Enumclaw City Administrator Chris Searcy to the City Council prior to the recent Council meeting:

“In 2019 the legislature created the CACC and tasked it with recommending a single preferred location for a new commercial service airport. Due to the pandemic the schedule for completion was extended but this delay also allowed WSDOT [Washington State Department of Transportation] to begin an update to the WASP [Washington Aviation System Plan] in parallel with the CACC process, using a consultant team that acts as a technical advisory group to the CACC. The enabling legislation (SSB 5370) for the CACC specifically excluded King County as a site for expanding a current aviation site or new aviation site. [highlighting by Searcy] However, the WASP update has included a greenfield (new aviation) site titled ‘King County Southeast’, the location more specifically centered on the Enumclaw plateau immediately east of the Muckleshoot reservation. Furthermore, the WASP evaluation completed so far has this site ranked highest (least amount [number] of major impediments) among the 10 sites being evaluated and indicates it would serve the most unaccommodated passenger demand.

“The latest CACC meeting… in which the greenfield sites were first introduced, and the recording can be viewed… at https://tvw.org/video/commercial-aviation-coordinating-commission-2022061166/?eventID=2022061166. The discussion of greenfield sites begins at 30:35, the evaluation at 39:15 and the description of the Enumclaw site at 53:45. A summary of all evaluated sites is at 1:01:03….”

The Enumclaw City Attorney has been tasked to research this matter and to report back to the council as more information is found. The CACC is asking for comment from local citizens who might be potentially affected by its decision. There will be virtual public meetings between Aug. 23 and Aug. 31 by the CACC. More information and links will be announced. If you want to contact the CACC about this issue, go to Christina Crea, Communications at 360-810-0902 or write to CACC@wsdot.wa.gov

The placement of a major airfield in “King County Southeast” means that the millions of dollars spent by the citizens of King County over the past forty years for farmland preservation to maintain the greenbelts around metropolitan Puget Sound would go for nothing. Imagine the effects of the need for new freeways and ancillary businesses that would arise to serve the needs of a new airport. Consider the decrease in air quality and destruction of the environment which we all prize on the Enumclaw Plateau.

Just as in 1980 and 2009, it’s time for residents of South King County and East Pierce County to rise up and make their voices heard. On June 27 the Enumclaw Council and Administration were united against even having “King County Southeast” considered as a new airport site. It makes me wonder who stands to benefit financially from locating a new airport in this location, knowing that the CACC excluded King County as a potential in the original legislation.

Make your concerns known to the CACC, the King County Council, and WSDOT. Apathy is not an option.