Friday, January 28, 2005

Camas airport protest turnout fizzles

Most questions mild

Express Staff Writer

Camas County residents attending a packed American Legion hall meeting in Fairfield earlier this month threatened to show up in force Tuesday night to protest a possible airport site along U.S. Highway 20 east of their county seat.

But only about 30 were in a standing-room-only audience attending the Friedman Memorial Airport site selection committee meeting at the Old Blaine County Courthouse.

And most questions and challenges from the Camas delegation were mild.

At the Fairfield meeting on Jan. 10, Camas residents threatened to use the technique of Bellevue Triangle residents who successfully had a site in their area eliminated -- turn out in force to pressure the site committee to ditch site 13 east of Fairfield.

For those who did rise to speak, most of the criticism was aimed at how an airport would destroy Camas County's rural quality of life.

What about consideration of humans living near a site, just as wildlife is considered, asked Jennifer Freeman, who opposes site 13.

Cheryl Bennett chimed in, saying she lived in Hailey's Woodside beside Friedman Memorial Airport for six years and "know what it's like to live next to an airport."

Twin Falls' existing airport, said Susan Brumley, should suffice since it's "not an unreasonable distance to travel" from the Wood River Valley.

A high-speed bullet train, Skip Kammer suggested, could link the Wood River Valley and Twin Falls, although by today's cost such a rail link would cost several hundred million dollars at a minimum.

Jim Speck, who said he represents South Cave Ventures that owns some 4,000 acres east of site 12 inside Blaine County along U.S. 20, offered the land for an airport.

Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commissioner Larry Schoen renewed his plea for a site farther south along state highway 75 that would serve Lincoln, Jerome, and Gooding counties, and thus be closer to existing services as well as a larger area from which to draw airline passengers.

To objections about noise, Friedman Memorial consultant Tom Schnetzer said that the new generation of aircraft will have quieter engines, and airports now can construct noise shields on the ground to reduce noise from pre-takeoff engine runups.

As for ways of reducing the 50-minute drive from the Camas site 13 site, Schnetzer said it is only a rumor that a road link could be built between Hailey and the site through Croy Canyon.

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