Friday, September 9, 2011

FAA to answer ‘tough questions’

Administration official on Airport Authority agenda


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County residents will be able to ask a Federal Aviation Administration official what's next for the airport during a meeting of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority next week.

Donna Taylor, manager of the airports division of the FAA's Northwest Mountain Region, will address board members and members of the public regarding the agency's decision to suspend a draft environmental impact statement for a replacement airport.

"She'll be prepared to answer the tough questions," said Freidman Memorial Airport Manager Rick Baird. "We don't know a lot about what they uncovered."

Baird said Taylor will take questions from the public after board members finish their own discussion

In a letter to Baird dated Aug. 22, Taylor stated that further work on an EIS for the project had been "indefinitely" suspended. Taylor stated that the suspension was due to "increased anticipated costs of the project and potential impacts to wildlife."

But the letter has left county residents and Airport Authority board members wondering what's next for the airport. Ron Fairfax, the board's general aviation representative, said he wants to know what the decision means for commercial air service.

"Really, I want to know what the FAA wants at the Friedman Memorial Airport site to meet the safety standards," he said. "If we're not going to have a new airport and we have to have something here, what does the FAA want us to do to keep commercial air service?"

Tom Bowman, a Blaine County commissioner and Airport Authority board member, said he wanted more information on the replacement sites.

"I hope Donna further explains why the FAA took site 10a and 12 off the table," he said, adding that he was looking for guidance on what would be the best solution to keep commercial air service coming to Sun Valley.

Taylor is on the meeting agenda for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey. She is scheduled to meet with city and county officials as well as other stakeholders on Wednesday.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com

Crash course

Bone up on airport history before the meeting by searching "Wutz airport EIS" on our homepage, www.mtexpress.com.




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