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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of September 24 - 30, 2003


No need for warp
speed at airport

In the middle of planning improvements for Friedman Memorial Airport in August, the Blaine County Airport Authority suddenly did an about face.

It stopped and revived a long-dead push to move the airport outside of the Wood River Valley.

Why the sudden change?

The Federal Aviation Administration under Bush Administration appointee Marion Blakely had delivered the following message: Build an airport where both regional jets and larger may land, or kiss federal money goodbye. Federal grants to the airport in 2001-02 totaled $7 million, while operations brought in $1.2 million.

This was a radical change in policy in an agency that had previously worked within the geographic limitations of airports like the one in Hailey.

No more.

Concerns about the cost of relocation of the airport—$100 million in today’s dollars—that had ended a relocation discussion 12 years ago suddenly disappeared.

The authority balked when it looked at what it would have to do at the existing airport to give the FAA what it wants.

Some of the options:

  • Condemn a small ranch south of the airport, which would put planes directly over Bellevue;

  • Condemn Hailey homes and businesses to extend operations north;

  • Move the runway to the east and move Highway 75 to within 10 feet of the bike path and closer to residences in Woodside.

The clincher? Building the airport the FAA says it wants would require shutting down the airport for an entire summer. So much for jobs and the local economy.

Prior to the FAA’s attitude shift, airport officials and consultants were convinced the airport could continue to be safe and sufficient in the present location.

That seemed like a conclusion everyone could love, especially with the FAA on the hook for 90 percent of the cost of relocation at a time when the country is facing a $2.3 trillion deficit.

The speed of the airport’s about-face was so fast that valley residents have little idea of what’s going on.

Yet, today at 5:30 p.m., the Airport Authority will ask the public to weigh in on airport options that were presented to the public just four weeks ago at the peak of summer’s frenzy.

In early October, the authority is scheduled to decide what option it prefers.

That’s too soon. The pace is blinding—and that’s the problem. Valley residents need a chance to absorb the size and scope of the problems facing the airport before being asked for their opinions. The authority needs time to explain the options before it.

When it comes to making decisions that will re-shape the valley forever, slower is better. There’s no need for warp speed.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.