Fears over commercial air service at Paine Field dismissed

EVERETT — Commercial airline service at Paine Field would not significantly increase noise in surrounding neighborhoods, nor would jet exhaust noticeably pollute the air or traffic clog the roads around the airport, according to a study released Friday.

The 86-page study was conducted by consultants hired by Snohomish County in response to requests from two airlines last year to operate passenger flights from Paine Field. The airport, which primarily serves Boeing operations and smaller, private aircraft, is owned and operated by the county.

Public hearings on the report are planned for early January.

Horizon Airlines of Seattle has said it wants to fly four times a day to Portland, Ore., and twice per day to Spokane, using 75-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplanes on both routes. Allegiant Air of Las Vegas has said it plans to fly twice a week to Las Vegas, using 150-seat MD83 jet aircraft.

The study was prepared based on the number of flights proposed by the airlines, said Peter Camp, who handles land-use issues for Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.

The county was required to conduct an environmental assessment before the airport’s certification can be changed to allow for commercial flights.

Some Snohomish County elected officials have said they oppose commercial air service at Paine Field. Still, federal law obligates any airport operator that receives federal funds to negotiate in good faith to provide space to any airline that expresses an interest in using the airport.

The $450,000 environmental study was funded by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

For noise, the study uses an average 24-hour decibel level as the gauge. The federal government considers the 65-decibel level the threshold for effects that could require remedies, such as noise insulation programs.

The study concludes that the area where noise would reach an average 65-decibel level would expand by four acres in 2010. That would not extend into nearby neighborhoods.

By 2016, the 65-decibel footprint would grow to 17 acres larger than today, but still would not “encompass any residences, persons or other noise sensitive land uses or areas,” according to the study.

Opponents of commercial air service at the airport say it would damage the quality of life in nearby neighborhoods with noise and pollution. The cities of Mukilteo, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Woodway have approved resolutions opposing passenger flights at the airport.

Some of those opponents have said they would mount their defense against commercial flights during the public comment period on the study.

Greg Hauth, president of Save Our Communities, the leading opposition group, said the group would save its observations for the comment period.

“We highly encourage people to actively participate in the process and to get out for the public hearings when those are held in January,” Hauth said Friday.

Others have pushed for commercial flights at Paine Field, citing convenience and potential economic benefit.

Greg Tisdel, spokesman for the group Fly Paine Field, said Friday they would also hold off on commenting on the study.

“We’ll have something to say later,” he said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439, sheets@heraldnet.com.

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