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Wed, Feb 18, 2009

Residents Barking About FAA-Owned Land Near ORS

Land Purchased Under AIP Has Gone To The Dogs... Literally

Commissioners of the Port of Orcas in Washington State's San Juan Islands are preparing to butt heads with the FAA in support of local dog owners.

At issue is a parcel of land adjacent to Orcas Island Airport, purchased by the port with an FAA Airport Improvement Program grant for future expansion needs, but in use temporarily as an off-leash dog park. The FAA is pressuring the port commission to terminate the Eastsound Off-Leash Dog Park from its temporary agreement to use the land.

A report in the Islands Sounder says the issue is an AIP provision that requires airports receiving grants to reserve use of airport land and revenues for the benefit of aviation. But a letter from FAA Project Manager Timothy Shaw to the port commission suggests the real reason for the eviction demand is to eliminate any possibility of future hassles when expansion is needed.

"Our past experience in the Orcas Island community have shown us that changes at the airport against the community will take quite a while to accomplish, so we see this as a real risk," Shaw wrote.

Jeff Hanson of the Dog Park Board reminded commissioners at their Monday meeting, "...we have taken steps to both enhance the area for the off-leash area users and to protect the port's property from damage. We respectfully request that the port continue to permit the use of this land until it is truly needed for airport purposes, at which time the off-leash area improvements will be removed."

Commissioner Ullanah McCoy told Hansen, "You are preaching to the choir. We're with you." Fellow Commissioner Al Edwards said of the FAA, "It's not like they're holding a gun to our heads, but they're holding a gun to our heads."

The port commission's next meeting is scheduled for March 12.

FMI: www.faa.gov, http://orcasislandchamber.com/

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