Friday, March 4, 2005

Petitioners protest Camas County site


By PAT MURPHY
Express Staff Writer

A meticulously organized protest against the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority considering Camas County as the possible site of a new airport to replace the Hailey airport barely got into action Tuesday night before it was virtually stopped in its tracks.

Airport authority member Len Harlig told protest spokesman Claude Ballard, Fairfield, that siting a new airport "is a land use issue—and that must be decided (in Camas County) by the county commissioners of Camas County," not by the airport authority.

Harlig said the same is true of any site designated in Lincoln County: county commissioners there must approve or disapprove land use for an airport, not the Friedman authority,

Ballard and a handful of Camas County residents attended the authority's regular monthly meeting. Ballard asked to read into the record a letter he described as a petition during the governing board's "public comment" segment.

He then read the entire contents of a two-and-a-half page single-spaced letter featuring 22 citations covering criticisms of the composition of the citizens site selection committee, a history of comprehensive planning and zoning, environmental impact, allegations of failures by airport consultants and more.

Ballard's letter also was accompanied by another 90 pages of wide-ranging data—Camas County's comprehensive plan, soil and fire data, school information, terrain maps, etc.

Airport authority chair Martha Burke allowed Ballard to read the letter, rather than merely accepting it for the record. She also said she took issue with some of the petition's allegations as misinformation and would be happy to discuss them later.

It was then that Harlig virtually extricated the Friedman board from any dispute involving Camas County residents, by suggesting Ballard contact his own county commissioners because of their powers to decide whether to allow an airport there.

The Camas connection is so-called site 13, along U.S. Highway 20 east of the city of Fairfield. Actor Bruce Willis has offered acreage at no cost in the area for an airport, which would benefit his ski resort at nearby Soldier Mountain.

Although the Camas site was attracting initial support, new interest is being focused on an area north of the city of Shoshone, east of state Highway 75, which the airport authority's consulting engineers believe has the attributes of a workable airport location.

However, final designation of three sites by the selection committee, which meets again on March 22, has yet to be made.




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