It seems as though it’s been a long time coming, but Bellingham International Airport’s neighbors are now speaking out in public about the impact that the dramatic expansion of commercial air service is having on their lives.
For years, airport neighbor Matt Paskus has been showing up at almost every Port of Bellingham commission meeting, usually with a slide show prepared, to make the case against further port investments in airport growth. Besides the noise and pollution impacts, Paskus has argued that a bright future for commercial aviation is far from assured here.
Until Thursday, April 19, Paskus’ voice was a lonely one. But on that date, the port scheduled public information sessions on the airport master plan update, and airport neighbors took the opportunity to express their dismay. After the meeting, they gathered in small groups to exchange phone numbers.
I was frankly surprised that the burgeoning flight schedule at BLI didn’t seem to be generating the kind of community pushback that resulted in the 1980s, after a southerly extension of the main runway brought aircraft noise much closer to the airport’s southerly neighbors.
I could only speculate that many or most Whatcom County environmentalists and neighborhood quality watchdogs were willing to overlook the drawbacks of airport growth because they enjoy the convenience of our local airport even more than Canadians do. Environmentalists love to travel.
(My last trip to Sea-Tac three weeks ago took three hours. Traffic backups started just north of Marysville.)
It’s easy for some people to say it’s their fault for living near an airport. For anybody who bought a house there in 2011, that wisecrack might be valid. But many have been in their homes for a lot longer than that, dating back to a time when few could have predicted non-stop flights from BLI to Honolulu and major California metro areas.
The airport master plan process is expected to take the rest of 2012, and a draft plan will be subjected to more public comment later in the year. If you want to weigh in before then, you can visit the relevant page of the port’s website here, and link to the comment form near the bottom.
Favorite online comment from the story link above: ”I don’t mind the airline noise. The noise from the bands that practice at the U-Haul storage area on Airport Way is worse.”