On May 30, 2018, the Port of Seattle gave a presentation on its Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP ) to nearly 150 residents at the Burien Community Center.
This was the Port’s first open house – of three total – for its 2018 SAMP.
The public meeting consisted of six stations where attendees could learn more about different aspects of the SAMP process and speak with Port staff and representatives from the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The meeting was held from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. and 147 people signed in, according to the Port.
After learning about the SAMP at the stations, Aviation Managing Director Lance Lyttle, along with Jeffrey Brown, Director of Aviation Facilities & Capital Programs, and Arlyn Purcell, Aviation Director of Environment & Sustainability, gave a presentation and answered questions from the public.
Download a PDF of the Port’s summary of this meeting here .
South King Media  was able to videotape the Public Comment period, which included many direct questions from concerned residents and activists (EDITOR’S NOTE: We apologize for the tardiness of posting this video, as we had some technical glitches that may make the audio out-of-synch).
Here’s the full video of the Public Comments, with the Port’s transcription following (total running time 53:56):
At 6:00 pm, Michael Stringer opened the presentation portion of the meeting by welcoming the attendees and thanking them for coming to learn more about the SAMP. He explained the format of the meeting and introduced Aviation Managing Director, Lance Lyttle, who launched the presentation and was followed by Jeffrey Brown and Arlyn Purcell who provided additional context:
- Overview of the SAMP (Lance Lyttle)
- Planning Update (Jeffrey Brown)
- Environmental Review Process Introduction (Arlyn Purcell)
Question & Answer
Following the presentation, Lance Lyttle was joined by Jeffrey Brown; Arlyn Purcell; Clare Gallagher, Public Affairs Director Capital Projects Delivery; and Tom Hooper, Aviation Planning Manager to respond to attendees’ questions about the SAMP. In some cases, staff needed to report back on the answer to the question, and this is provided in brackets below the question.
Questions from Attendees
Q: There was no mention of the tripling of the cargo in your presentation, is that still on track? In regard to the goal of 56 million enplanements, that’s equivalent to JFK and SFO, which are both about 5,000 acres and have four runways. How are you planning to increase enplanements if you can’t grow physically? Will it be in frequency? How is it going to be safe to increase that many operations?
A: The tripling of air cargo is an aspirational goal or target that was established in the Port’s Century Agenda. These goals were adopted by the Port Commission to reflect attainment in 2037. Last year, air cargo grew by about 16%. In the SAMP’s near-term projects, the Port has planned to add cargo facilities to accommodate growth, recognizing though there are constraints.
[From the Port: The amount of activity a particular airport is able to handle depends on a number of factors, including (among others) the number, length, and spacing of runways; size and character of other airport facilities; and aircraft fleet mix. The fleet at Sea-Tac includes larger aircraft, so Sea-Tac doesn’t need to have as many flights to achieve the same number of passengers. During the environmental review process, the Port will provide more specific information on the number of planes and time of day.]
Q: How much air cargo do you expect/forecast as part of the SAMP?
A: The Port will need to go back to the technical memo to give you a specific answer.
[From the Port: The SAMP forecast is approximately 10,000 cargo aircraft operations in 2027, which is just over 2% of the approximately 480,000 total forecast aircraft operations in 2027.]
Q: You mentioned that there is a lot of wealth and big companies in the region. The airport now has a Microsoft Line and Amazon Line—the communities being impacted are predominantly minority and low income. The people bearing the brunt of the impacts are not the ones who are benefiting from the airport. Additionally, the Port doesn’t always do what they say it’s going to do. For example, the hush house isn’t in your plan.
A: The Port would agree that the communities closest to the airport are the most impacted by the airport. However, the Port also recently completed an economic impact study in which the consultant looked at the impacts of the airport on surrounding communities. This study showed the number of jobs created in each individual city and the benefits to the region. We have to have some sense of balance that the airport doesn’t have a 100% negative impact on the surrounding communities. As the airport grows, one of the challenges is to grow responsibility and to grow sustainably, both socially and environmentally.
The hush house is in the long-range plan. There isn’t adequate space on the airport currently available to build the hush house. While there is airfield property that could physically fit a hush house, in order to be effective, it has to be in a certain location and face a certain direction.
Q: I have a comment about full disclosure. When you talk about an operation, it is a takeoff or a landing. But it’s also a flight. When you show 56 million passengers, can you also show how many additional flights it means to help the lay person at these meetings understand the impact? In your economic impact study, only $405 million is being spent on environmental and noise mitigation. This is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars generated.
A: Thank you for bringing that jargon to the Port’s attention and Port staff, going forward, will state how many additional flights that number translates to in the future.
[From the Port: Forecast activity in 2027 is approximately 56 million annual passengers and 480,000 annual aircraft operations. Please see below for additional detail.]
Q: My understanding is that the footprint of Sea-Tac won’t expand, it’s just going to utilize more efficiency to make the expansion happen. It isn’t that Sea-Tac isn’t looking at becoming a 24- hour airport?
A: The Port is not looking at expanding the footprint.
[From the Port: The proposed Near-Term Projects would not expand the footprint. The Long- Term Vision includes the South Aviation Support Area, which would represent an expansion.]
Q: I didn’t hear an answer to whether you are planning on increasing flights to occur 24 hours per day.
A: When the Port created the model for accommodating more enplanements, it is based on the airport’s current level and schedule of operations. If you receive FAA funds, an airport cannot refuse to let an airplane land regardless of the time of day. An airport can have a discussion with the airlines and try to influence when they take off or land. The Port is having some of those discussions now. The Port can influence – however, the Port cannot mandate when aircraft operate at Sea-Tac.
Q: Can you clarify whether the Port of Seattle serves only Seattle or King County and is it for profit? You showed us that, in past five years, enplanements have gone up 40 percent. The noise, pollution, etc. from that increase… I shudder to think what the effects will be. We have other airports in King County. Why aren’t we spreading out enplanements among other airports? Jobs in our local communities aren’t all from the airport. Why can’t there be a more aggressive approach to a regional answer?
A: The Port of Seattle serves King County and it is not for profit; it is a government agency. What you’ve outlined in terms of looking to other airports and considering building a second major airport is exactly what the FAA and the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) have stepped up to do. The Port is a local government agency. The Port doesn’t control the other airports and doesn’t have the unilateral authority to send airplanes somewhere else. It’s a question of service, availability, and market demand.
Q: The number one figure we need is how many more planes are going over our heads every day. Please make that very clear in the future.
A: The Port will get that number from the technical memo and provide it to you in the notes for this meeting.
[From the Port: In 2017, there were 416,124 total aircraft operations (takeoffs and landings), or an average of 1,140 per day. In 2027, the SAMP forecasts approximately 480,000 aircraft operations which would result in an average of approximately 1,315 operations per day. The forecast demand would be an increase of about 175 operations per day, on average, over 2017 levels. The actual number of operations per day varies depending on airline schedules and changes in demand throughout the year.]
Q: When the third runway was being built, we were told it was only for cargo aircraft. Then it was for passenger aircraft and the flight patterns changed. I don’t understand why the third runway is being used as a runway for passenger aircraft. What will happen to the flight patterns as part of this plan?
A: In the near-term, the Port assumes existing flight and airspace patterns will continue. You are correct, that the third runway is being used for arrivals to accommodate the increase in demand discussed tonight. The SAMP does not assume a significant change in runway use or in how the airspace is utilized. Additionally, it is important that you comment during environmental review so that the Port can capture your concerns about the existing flight patterns.
Q: I used to go out on my balcony to enjoy the view of Mt. Rainier and the airplanes. Since the third runway was built, I don’t go out on my balcony anymore. Now there is a layer of black soot that accumulates on my balcony. This soot is some of the most carcinogenic stuff there is. I haven’t heard any discussion about the biofuels or clearing up the pollution that causes this black soot that falls from the airplanes.
A: The Port encourages you and other people to come back during the environmental review process to officially submit that comment. The airport is pursuing sustainable aviation fuel, which reduces carbon emissions and also reduces air pollution. It is something the Port is first in the nation on addressing and continues to work on as hard as possible.
Q: Why don’t you charge cargo flights more to influence them to fly elsewhere?
A: I think there is a perception that all cargo flights are older and noisier. Newer cargo flights that are quieter also operate at Sea-Tac. The Port cannot tell the cargo flights to go somewhere else. If they request to land at Sea-Tac, the Port has to accommodate them as long as the airport receives FAA funding. The Port has to charge the airlines on a cost recovery basis and can’t distinguish between different users.
Q: I don’t equate the EIS results of impacts with the true impacts on the community.
A: Thank you for your comment.
Q: There are inconsistent statements being given to the community and other groups such as the Chamber of Commerce. If you gave this presentation to the Chamber of Commerce, you’d be focusing on the Century Agenda and growth. You need to help site a second airport and not compete for that business. You are selling the advantages of Sea-Tac while you’re also saying wouldn’t it be great if we had a second airport.
A: Thank you for your comment.
Q: How does the one percent growth in population translate to a 10 percent growth in enplanements?
A: There are multiple factors associated with the growth in enplanements. Low unemployment and higher incomes mean that people have more disposable income and can travel more. And, as Seattle becomes a more international city, more people (their friends, family, etc.) come here to visit.
Q: The comments we make in this process, are they shared with others FAA, WSDOT, etc.?
A: Yes, the Port will share all comments. This meeting is the first public meeting in the planning process. The Port has two more similar planning public meetings scheduled at different locations. The Port is capturing a record of comments tonight that will be presented to the Commission and be made available to the public.
When the Port moves to the environmental scoping phase, during those public meetings, the comments will be captured by a court reporter as a complete transcript and then shared with the FAA and other agencies.
Q: How many on panel live on flight corridor?
A: Clare Gallagher and Jeffrey Brown raise their hands.
Q: Since the 1980s and 1990s, the approach to noise mitigation has always been to cocoon up the house. Since then there have been advances in noise cancellation technology. Why haven’t we used noise cancellation technology for noise mitigation?
A: Port staff will need to look into what technology is available and get back to you.
[From the Port: It’s the Port’s understanding that this technology has never been perfected on a scale of magnitude where the source and receptor of the noise are continually at different ranges. The cost alone of placing microphones and speakers around a home would be prohibitive with today’s technology. If in the future this technology is perfected and implemented for aircraft noise reduction on the ground, the Port would be receptive to its use.]
Q: I am disturbed about the classist approach you are taking when you talk about demographics. The people who are using the airport because of their disposable incomes aren’t the people living in these communities. How much mitigation, such as sound proofing, is included in the SAMP? Is there any plan to pay dividends to the people who are having to deal with impact of the airport?
A: The SAMP doesn’t have plans for noise mitigation in it. The Port is continuing to insulate homes within the current noise remedy boundary. The mitigation for impacts of proposed projects will be discussed in the environmental review process.
Q: I drove along East Marginal Way and there is some sort of noise wall Boeing Field put up. Can those be put up in any part of the airport area? Could Sea-Tac figure out a way to somehow be a noise absorber rather than a noise reflector?
A: The Port is not aware of Boeing Field doing that, but will look into it and get back to you.
[From the Port: Port staff talked to staff at Boeing Field and they confirmed there are no noise walls at Boeing Field. What the individual described is actually a blast fence which isn’t designed for noise reduction capabilities. It’s designed to safely protect people and vehicles from the thrust generated by an engine blast.]
Q: I heard you talk about traffic, jobs, etc. and the impacts that they could have. I’m wondering if you coordinate your activities with cities and with the development of their Comprehensive Plans.
A: As part of the environmental scoping process, the Port will also hold agency environmental scoping meetings. Planning staff attend those and share information during those scoping meetings. The Port works regularly with the neighboring cities. Port staff likes to think the Port has a good relationship with those cities, and Port staff is able to engage at the staff-to-staff level. The cities have done a good job of implementing noise abatement guidelines in their building codes. Both the cities and the Port do work hard to try to keep each other updated. However, there’s always more than can be done.
Currently, there are two groups that represent the local cities that meet to address this type of issues. The first is the Highline Forum, which meets every other month and includes elected officials from the Port, Highline College, the cities, and the school district to talk about airport issues and issues within the community. The second is a new group called START that includes stakeholder representatives and the city managers that meet to develop a shared understanding of the issues, concerns, and how the airport operates.
For more info, visit https://www.portseattle.org/plans/sustainable-airport-master-plan-samp .