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Runway Extension Project

Comments on Supplemental Environmental Assessment

 

Review of 1991 Environmental Assessment Final Report for Huntsville Airport North.

Summary.

1.  There are fewer operations in 2009 with a 5,000-foot runway than there were in 1991 with a 3,700-foot runway.  The report did not demonstrate a need to expand Madison County Executive Airport runway beyond 5,000-feet.
  
2.  The report neglected to include Pryor Field Regional Airport near Decatur AL in its assessment of local airports in its justification to purchase and expand Huntsville Airport North.  Huntsville-Madison International Airport has a master plan that shows areas allocated for additional runways that can be constructed if needed without removing homes or relocating roads.   According to the Fixed Base Operator at Huntsville-Madison International Airport, they were operating at about 30 percent capacity in June 2009.

3.  The report did not describe most of the social impacts the airport expansion would cause as it missed the homes on Lewis Tate Road that the Madison County Executive Airport Authority wants to remove.  If removal of those homes is necessary, the Alabama Aeronautics Bureau should have noted that in their review comments. 

4.  The report understates the adverse effects of road and runway construction on nearby residents and equates road construction noise and pollution to home building noise.

5.  The notification process (notices in the legals section of the newspaper) for the project public hearing may have met the letter of the law but it wasn’t enough for a project that was going to force people to move.

Comments  

Chapter 2.  Purpose and Need for Environmental Assessment

The report listed total operations of 50,577 for 1991 and projected 111,895 total operations for 2006 and 121,020 total operations for 2011.  In an April 2009 press release, the number of operations was given as about 3,800 per month (45,600 per year) which is fewer than claimed in 1991 and far fewer than projected for 2006 and 2011.  This reduced number of operations is after completion of a 5,000-foot runway in August of 2001.  According to the report, the 5,000-foot runway was sufficient for precision instrument approach facilities.  Events since 1991 have shown that expansion of the Madison County Executive Airport to 6,500 feet is not needed.

Chapter 3. Alternatives

When justifying the need to purchase and expand Huntsville Airport North, only Madison County, AL and Lincoln County, TN airports were considered.  The report ignored Pryor Field Regional Airport near Decatur.  In addition to serving Decatur and Athens with their industries, Pryor Field now has a 6,100-foot runway and drive time/mileage is more convenient to Huntsville-Madison International Airport and Trade Zone businesses than the Meridianville location.  Pryor Field drive time/mileage to Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park are comparable to the Meridianville location. Mileage and drive times were found on Mapquest.com.

Chapter 5.  Environmental Consequences – Specific Impact Categories.

(3).  Social Impacts.

The report identified relocating four dwellings and two house trailers as the only social impact of the airport expansion with only one of the homes being south of Meridianville Bottom Road (Item 23 as shown on the photo below).  Now some 18 years later, the Madison County Executive Airport Authority wants to remove seven more substantial homes south of Meridianville Bottom Road with taxpayers paying most of the costs.  The report should have shown and the Madison County Commission and the Madison County Executive Airport Authority should have known that the runway expansion and relocation of Meridianville Bottom Road would adversely affect homeowners on both sides of Lewis Tate Road.

Runway Expasion Aerial View

(20) Construction Impacts.

The report states construction noise should not be a problem due to distances from occupied property.  From the photo above, it should have been obvious that statement is incorrect.  In addition to noise, dust and windblown dirt would be an irritant to nearby property owners.  The report then states residential construction has been in the area for years.  To compare noise from heavy equipment constructing roads and runways to noise from residential construction is not a valid comparison.  

Exhibit No. 8-12.  Project Comments by Alabama Aeronautics Department (now called Bureau of Aeronautics).

Comments stated there is no justification to construct a 6,500-foot runway at the time of the review.  The Alabama Aeronautics Department had no objection to the project as shown for protecting airspace around the airport for future development.  The Aeronautics Department should have noted the homes on Lewis Tate Road and required additional studies to determine if the homes should be removed or some sort of noise mitigation measures instituted if a 6,500-foot runway is constructed. 

Transcript of a Public Hearing on Proposed Development at Huntsville Airport North.

Notification of the public hearing was through ads in the legals section of two local newspapers.  Whether intentional or through ignorance, that is a sure way to assure low attendance.  How many people read that section of the newspaper?  Direct mail to all residents and property owners that might be affected is the proper method of notification for a project of that is going to take people’s homes or affect the value of their property.  Another effective method of notification that could have been used is posting notices where people gather often like post offices and grocery stores.

It is obvious from the meeting transcript that the people came to find out what was proposed and were not prepared to speak in public about the project.  No one said they were in favor of the project.  One person was against the project and the rest complained about how the notification was carried out.  In the end, it didn’t matter how many people showed up or what they said.