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Washington State Aviation Policy - New State Roles

New state roles

The new aviation policy will change the state's roles in the areas of preservation, safety, capacity, and outreach.

The state has an interest in land use encroachment, wetland mitigation, the economic role of airports, and general aviation airport preservation funding.

Land use encroachment

Although airports cannot be easily relocated, there has been a recent trend of land uses adjacent to airports that are incompatible with preserving the facility.

Role Changes:
The state will develop a technical assistance program to help local jurisdictions implement Senate Bill 6422. The 1996 bill, sponsored by WPA, requires local governments to protect general aviation airports from incompatible land uses and to incorporate airports into local comprehensive plans.  The state will also evaluate implementation of SB 6422 at the end of five years.

Wetland mitigation

Current state law requires that airports compensate for displaced wetlands by creating wetlands on-site, which may lead to bird strikes and prevent some airports from expanding. 

Role Changes:
The state will coordinate an effort to develop an off-site mitigation program.  Airports will be included as an eligible use for WSDOT's wetland banking program.

Economic role of airports

Airports serve as economic generators, but they produce impacts on the environment and surrounding communities. Some people argue that a lack of understanding among decision-makers about the economic importance of airports to the state and local economies may result in inappropriate land use decisions, competing priorities for local funding, and inappropriate environmental mitigation policies.

Role Changes:
The State Aviation System Plan will include this economic information, which will be provided to local, regional and state decision-makers to enhance their aviation planning efforts.

General aviation airport preservation funding

In 1996, the state identified over $60 million worth of preservation needs at general aviation airports, with state funding at less than $1 million per year. 

Role Changes:
The state will pursue increases to the state Local Airport Aid program as outlined in revenue legislation. Local, state and federal funding priorities will be actively coordinated.

Because of the large federal role in aviation safety, there are few issues which threaten the state's interest in safe air travel which are not being adequately addressed. 

Role Changes:
The state will support an increase in general aviation infrastructure funding for safety needs and maintenance of our air system.

The growth of airline service to Washington, population growth and other factors has led to increasing flight delays and ground congestion at air carrier airports.  Some general aviation airports are also facing capacity needs. The state has an interest in approaching air capacity needs from a statewide context, looking at mitigation from a regional viewpoint, and surface transportation connections.

Statewide context of air capacity

The members of the advisory committee that made these policy recommendations have different perspectives on whether the state should have authority over commercial airport siting, or if siting should be left to local jurisdictions and the free market.

Role Changes:
Recommend that the state Growth Management Act recognize airports as essential public facilities.

Regional mitigation approaches

Currently, the impacts of expanded airport capacity are mitigated by the airport sponsor, who does not have the authority to mitigate impacts on a regional basis. 

Role Changes:
The state will create a mechanism that allows a broader regional approach to mitigation.

Surface transportation connections

Role Changes:
The state will expand the State Aviation System Plan and the Highway System Plan to include all roadway and transit connections to airports. The state will also address the growth in surface transportation needs as they relate to growth in airport activities.

Environmental protection
It is felt that existing programs provide appropriate safeguards for the environment.

Increased outreach on aviation
Without good information on the benefits and impacts of aviation in Washington, it will be difficult for citizens to understand and participate in discussions about aviation today and in the future. 

Role Changes:
The state will provide an aviation outreach program to promote communications among our aviation customers and aviation interests, compile information to educate citizens and decision-makers, and facilitate communications among aviation interests on request.

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