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Airport Improvements Environmental Assessment - Opportunities for Public Involvement

January 11, 2017

Preliminary results for the second half of environmental analysis in the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Improvements Environmental Assessment (EA) will be available for review and comment at an open house in Aspen on January 19th. The environmental resources to be discussed will include aircraft noise, air quality, climate, socioeconomic conditions and surface transportation. Throughout the two-year long EA process, the Airport has taken community feedback on the potential environmental impacts associated with the airport’s proposed improvements: a new commercial terminal building and the relocation of the runway, among other associated projects.

“Up to now the community has had the opportunity to give us feedback on most of the other topics of environmental significance related to proposed airport improvements including historic resources, Section 4(f) resources, and visual effects,” said Airport Director, John Kinney. “Noise, air quality and surface transportation are topics of particular interest to our community and we hope for a great turnout at the open house,” Kinney said.

The EA analysis to date indicates that no new federally defined thresholds of significance would be exceeded if the proposed projects were to be implemented. The EA does indicate that wetlands mitigation may be required along the section of Owl Creek that would be affected by the relocation of the runway. The project would result in the piping of approximately 1,670 feet of Owl Creek to reduce sedimentation and wildlife hazards on the airfield.

The workshop will be an open format; no presentation will be given.  Resource category displays will be available for viewing and comments are encouraged.  Airport Staff and Consultants will be available to answer any questions.   The public is encouraged to attend this event and offer feedback. Please join us on the January 19th at The Gant Hotel, 610 S West End Street from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.

February 10, 2016

Opportunities for the community to share its thoughts on the potential environmental concerns of a new airport terminal and a widened/reconfigured runway begins in earnest next week at public meetings in Aspen and Snowmass Village. The so-called ‘Scoping’ portion of the 18-month-long Environmental Assessment is an important step in considering how the proposed improvements might impact areas including air and water quality, climate, noise levels, wildlife, landscape, and view plane. Other airport improvement environmental concerns that community is being asked to consider include socioeconomic, historical, architectural, archaeological and cultural. After community scoping comments are received and examined, the environmental analysis will begin.

Now that we’ve narrowed down possible airport terminal concepts to two, and defined the scope of the runway reconfiguration, we can really hone in on any potential environmental concerns the community might have,” said Aspen/Pitkin County Airport Director, John Kinney. “Once we have a solid list from the community we can then analyze the level of impact to the environment that the proposed airport improvements might have,” Kinney said.

The two airport terminal concepts being studied in the EA were chosen by Pitkin County Commissioners after considering extensive public feedback collected over several months. Preliminary three-dimensional graphic representations of split level and stacked terminal configurations will be shared with the public at the meetings next week. They will be used to stimulate discussion about potential visual concerns from the north and south, from Buttermilk Mountain, Owl Creek Road, Starwood and McClain Flats. Public comments will help determine the modeling that will be completed to understand visual impacts.

Graphic representations will also be used in discussions about how the runway project will change the alignment of Owl Creek Road and the bike path within the existing right-of-way.

“The impact to Owl Creek Road is far less since west side development of the airport is no longer being considered in this phase of the EA,” Kinney said.

The runway project is a requirement of the Federal Aviation Administration to maintain the airport's status as a Design Group D-III commercial airport. Robust, but not exhaustive community dialogue began in January of 2015.

“We’ve learned that one of burning questions in the community’s mind is if compliance with the FAA’s requirement means bigger aircraft at our airport, Kinney said. “The short answer is, we simply don’t know. But this question is going to be quantified in the environmental assessment. This is the time for the community to express its concerns so that they can become part of the study,” Kinney said.

The community is encouraged to participate in one of two public meetings  being held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen on February 16th and at Snowmass Village Town Hall on February 18th. Online feedback will be collected beginning February 19th at www.pitkincountyconnect.com.