EVERETT — Snohomish County and a company preparing to build an air passenger terminal at Paine Field have reached a settlement with an environmental group over the project’s impact on storm runoff in Japanese Gulch.
The agreement with Propeller Airports was signed earlier this week and sent to the county hearing examiner’s office for approval. It marks another significant step in a decades-long effort to bring regular commercial passenger flights to the county airport, something that now appears possible as soon as next year.
The legal paperwork would set aside an appeal from the Sno-King Watershed Council in exchange for redesigning the terminal’s stormwater drainage system. That would clear the way for Propeller to receive a grading permit.
“I guess you could say that Japanese Gulch is the real winner here,” said Bill Lider, an engineer who serves on the Watershed Council board. “We’re really pleased that Propeller was willing to sit down with us and negotiate seriously and correct the deficiencies so we now have what I consider to be a code-compliant design.”
Propeller Airports hopes to build the two-gate terminal adjacent to the airport’s control tower. Plans show a 29,000-square-foot building. CEO Brett Smith has said he’d like to start service in mid-2018. No potential carriers have been announced.
Many neighbors in Mukilteo have fretted about the potential for passenger flights to worsen noise, traffic and other aspects of their quality of life. They have put up steady resistance to the project, but lost key court battles during the past couple of years.
The new terminal could handle up to two dozen takeoffs and landings per day. Paine Field already averages more than 300 daily takeoffs and landings, mostly from general aviation and aerospace companies.
County planners announced in February that they were prepared to issue a grading permit to Propeller. They also reached a decision called a mitigated determination of non-significance, meaning that any environmental harm from the project could be eliminated through special measures. Conditions include a program to encourage pilots to avoid routes over residential areas and to limit late-night or early-morning trips.
Mukilteo did not challenge the county’s decision, but the Watershed Council did.
Lider said the sides reached an agreement after he drew up designs for a larger stormwater detention system that he says will be more effective.
“Basically, it’s a big underground box for storing water and gradually releasing it after a storm,” he said.
The legal agreement nearly doubles the capacity to handle stormwater. It aims to filter more pollutants from the water flowing into Japanese Gulch and the salmon-bearing stream that runs through it.
The settlement also compensates the Watershed Council $10,500 for the work and fees related to the appeal.
The county is prepared to issue a grading permit soon after the hearing examiner’s office signs the agreement, said Tom Barnett, a project manager in the county’s planning department. Propeller still must apply for building permits.
The New York City-based company entered into an option-to-lease agreement with the county two years ago. Once the lease takes effect, the county would receive about $429,000 per year in rent.