An airplane near Harvey Field flies over Bailey Farm as concerned residents Barbara Bailey and Beth Jarvis walk through a pasture near a levee on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. The women have multiple concerns about the proposed expansion of Harvey Field, including how it will affect the floodplains around the Snohomish River, which contains a number of farms, homes and roads. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

An airplane near Harvey Field flies over Bailey Farm as concerned residents Barbara Bailey and Beth Jarvis walk through a pasture near a levee on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. The women have multiple concerns about the proposed expansion of Harvey Field, including how it will affect the floodplains around the Snohomish River, which contains a number of farms, homes and roads. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

SNOHOMISH — In 2006, Snohomish resident Beth Jarvis gathered 1,000 signatures against a potential Harvey Field expansion.

She worried about increased flooding risk, effects on wildlife and the cost to taxpayers.

Jarvis and others succeeded in stopping the expansion of the airfield, just south of Snohomish and the river of the same name.

Now, almost 20 years later, the fight is on again.

In the 2010s, airport officials realized slightly bigger airplanes were using the family-run airport more and more, owner Kandace Harvey said.

But the runway doesn’t meet safety and design standards for these planes. It is too narrow and is obstructed on both ends, among other problems.

To meet Federal Aviation Administration standards, Harvey Field wants to reposition its runway west. That would involve rerouting Airport Way.

In a report, the airport noted work on the project would begin in 2026 and open around fall 2028.

Potentially, the airport would not be eligible for federal aviation grants, Kandace Harvey said. But she stressed the renovation is more about meeting safety standards.

The airport, privately owned as “a public use general aviation” airport, commissioned an environmental assessment from consulting firm RS&H.

The report examined the impact on air quality, farmland, aircraft noise, wetlands, water as well as biological, coastal and cultural resources.

Source: ESRI, 2022; RS&H, 2023;
Kate Erickson / The Herald

Source: ESRI, 2022; RS&H, 2023; Kate Erickson / The Herald

‘We said no, we meant no’

When Jarvis heard about the new proposal, she reached out to what she calls the “2006 team.” She emailed Barbara Bailey, who lives on and operates the Bailey Farm just south of Harvey Field.

Jarvis and Bailey had both been active in fighting the airport expansion in 2006.

The two woman, both 67, said they are neither friends nor activists.

Jarvis would rather enjoy her retirement and paint. Bailey would prefer spending time with her grandchildren.

Yet it was more important to them to stop a project that they think would worsen floods. Water already accumulates in a nearby slough. Jarvis worries the project risks breaking the levee system.

“I think of it as a chain,” she said. “Everything impacts everybody else.”

In 1990, a major flood damaged the airfield, inundating hangars with muck and leaving the scene looking “like an explosion hit,” according to Daily Herald reporting from the time.

Memories of other floods in 2006 and 2009 soured the neighbors’ views on the airport’s new proposal.

“I’m ready to do it again,” said Jarvis. “We said no, we meant no. And I’m not dead yet.”

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

‘Make sure the valley is protected’

Residents brought up the flood concern at a public meeting on the project Tuesday.

Candace McKenna, a Snohomish resident of 35 years, asked Nick Gentile, aviation water resources engineer at RS&H, questions about the risk.

“If the river is already at flood stage, what is it doing to surrounding properties?” she asked. “Are the farmers going to be more adversely affected?”

By removing material from the floodplain, it would give floodwater more places to pool. But there would be a “net zero” rise in the floodplain, Gentile said.

Culverts will also ensure floodwater doesn’t get trapped in the runway. An environmental assessment also looked at 500-year floodplains, Gentile said.

McKenna said she felt reassured about the flooding risk. She was still worried about “unknowns.”

“It’s going to be very disruptive, because of the rerouting of Airport Way,” McKenna said. “It’s going to make potential negative impact. The fish. As well as: ‘Who knows what it’s going to do to the farmland?’”

Snohomish residents Beth Jarvis, left, and Barbara Bailey come together in Bailey’s kitchen to talk about their position against the expansion of Harvey Airfield on Monday, May 13, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Snohomish residents Beth Jarvis, left, and Barbara Bailey come together in Bailey’s kitchen to talk about their position against the expansion of Harvey Airfield on Monday, May 13, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

‘The science has to support the opinion’

Marshland Flood Control District commissioners manage the system of canals and ditches and discharges into the lower Snohomish River through a pump station.

Commissioner Tim Stocker, of Stocker Farms, said it’s “common sense” that altering the floodplain could worsen flooding.

“We’re concerned about the flooding,” Stocker said. “We want to make sure the valley is protected.”

Stocker said a lot of information was still missing, like the precise dimensions of the culvert.

Commissioner Don Bailey, from Bailey Farm, shared Stocker’s concerns.

Tyson Harvey, who is in charge of skydiving operations at Harvey Field, said the valley would be protected.

“I’m personally convinced our approach at this time won’t have an impact,” he said. “People forget we are neighbors.”

Tyson Harvey called the 2006 opposition to airport expansion a “scare campaign” and urged others to “stick to the data.”

In an interview, Kandace Harvey echoed her son’s worries about misinformation Monday. For example, she has heard concerns about lengthening the runway.

“It’s not that we’re making it longer,” she said. “We’re actually making it shorter, but we’re repositioning.”

The current 2,671-foot runway would be replaced by one spanning 2,400 feet.

Kandace Harvey said she lives by the airport, as does her family. She doesn’t blame Jarvis and others who are afraid, but asked them to “concentrate and read the science.”

“We’re not interested in creating grief for ourselves,” she said. “Remember, the science has to support the opinion.”

Interested parties have until 5 p.m. May 24 to send comments about the proposal. They can be mailed to Cynthia Hendrickson, Airport Manager, 9900 Airport Way, Snohomish, WA, 98296.

Written comments may also be submitted through the project website, harveyfield.mysocialpinpoint.com/en/home or via email to cyndyh@harveyfield.com.

Aina de Lapparent Alvarez: 425-339-3449; aina.alvarez@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @Ainadla.

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