Officials express ‘strong objection’ to potential new airport in Pierce County

Members of the Pierce County Council and Pierce County executive Bruce Dammeier sent a joint letter to aviation officials on Tuesday to formally object to the possible construction of a new airport in the county.

The letter was sent to the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission, which was created by the state legislature to address concerns that the state’s airports will soon reach capacity.

The commission is now working to recommend a site for a new commercial airport in Washington.

“Pierce County is writing to express its strong objection to the inclusion of greenfield sites Pierce County Central and Pierce County East on the short list of new primary airport locations,” wrote Dammeier in the letter. “Development of either of these greenfield sites faces significant infrastructure and environmental barriers, as well as other challenges, and Pierce County requests that these sites be eliminated from further consideration.”

The CACC is currently considering three sites for a new potential airport:

  • Pierce County East — Located south of Puyallup and Graham, about 4.5 miles east of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
  • Pierce County Central — Located east of Roy and McKenna, about 2.25 miles south of JBLM.
  • Thurston County Central — Located east of Olympia. The southern portion of this site overlaps the westernmost portion of JBLM land.

The commission is also looking into expanding the capacity of Paine Field in Everett and says that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport continues to “work to meet passenger and shipper needs.”

Thurston County residents are also opposed to the idea of a new airport being built in their community.

In an online open house hosted by the CACC in September, about 57% of those surveyed objected to the Thurston County Central site being considered for a new airport.

Sixty-three percent of respondents were opposed to the Pierce County East site being considered and 56% were opposed to the Pierce County Central site being considered in the same survey.

According to the CACC, forecasts show that millions of passengers might not be accommodated at the state’s airports due to lack of capacity by 2050.

While SEA is expected to remain the flagship airport for the region, the commission says a new airport site “will be important to industry and the economic vitality of the region” as the area’s population continues to grow.

The commission has been tasked to recommend a single preferred location for the new commercial service airport by June 15, 2023.

After that, construction on a new airport of “this size and scale” is expected to take about 20 years, according to CACC.