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"Airport rule may require federal permitting of private constructionbeyond perimeter fence"


 
Friday, February 3, 2017

Airport rule may require federal permitting of private construction in Kenai
By BEN BOETTGER
The Kenai (AK) Peninsula Clarion
      

A Federal Aviation Administration rule for construction on airports may apply 
to Kenai businesses beyond the physical bounds of the Kenai Municipal Airport 
itself.

An FAA rule that went into effect in August 2016 will require construction on 
airport land to follow the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, under which 
federally-funded or permitted projects must be examined through a rigorous 
federal procedure for their effects on the environment. In Kenai, the airport's 
wide-ranging land ownership may require this process of businesses that don't 
get federal funds or federal permitting.

In his report to the Kenai city council on Wednesday, Kenai City Manager Paul 
Ostrander said he had learned of the new rule in a meeting with FAA 
representatives last week in Anchorage, which he attended with Kenai Airport 
Manager Mary Bondurant, Finance Director Terry Eubank, and Public Works 
Director Sean Wedemeyer.

Ostrander told council members that applying NEPA requirements to all 
construction on airport land would be "a huge shift from what we've seen in the 
past."

"We'll continue to follow that and see how impactful it really is to the city," 
Ostrander said.

Wince-Corthell-Bryson, the Kenai-based engineering firm which holds a contract 
for engineering on the Kenai airport, already goes through the NEPA process for 
its work because of the federal funding it receives from the FAA. In 2016, this 
work included a roughly $2 million taxiway renovation - of which $1.9 million 
was FAA-funded - and replacement of a floatplane pond drainage for $379,643, of 
which the FAA contributed $355,915.

With the NEPA requirement extended to all construction on Kenai airport land, 
other business connected to the airport only by the ownership of the land 
beneath them may be required to go through the same procedure. As of 2015, the 
Kenai airport legally owned 94 pieces of property throughout the city that had 
been leased and developed by private business-owners into businesses such as a 
bowling alley, a car wash, and various stores. This arrangement is the legacy 
of the military airfield which covered much of present-day Kenai in the 1940s 
and 50s, and which the FAA granted to Kenai's municipal government after it was 
decommissioned. Kenai has since sold or leased much of that land to individuals 
and businesses that have developed it.

Exactly how the NEPA requirement would be applied to these businesses isn't 
completely clear. FAA spokesperson Allen Kenitzer wrote in an email that "NEPA 
does not automatically apply to every development."

"We must review them on a case-by-case basis," Kenitzer wrote.

Ostrander wrote in an email that the FAA had not yet given specifics of the new 
policy and that Kenai administrators "are still going to be working with FAA to 
better understand the regulations and what impacts they may have on the City."

In an interview following the Wednesday council session, Ostrander gave 
examples of the new rule that he said FAA staff had given during his meeting 
with them.

"If you put up a sign on your building, that wouldn't require a NEPA," 
Ostrander said. "If you expand your building, expand your parking lot, those 
would fall in the category of needing to go through the NEPA process. Which is 
why when they initially told it to us, our reaction was, 'Wow, that's 
significant.'"

According to Ostrander and Kenitzer, the rule was previously in effect in every 
state but Alaska.

On the web: http://www.ci.kenai.ak.us/airport

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