State eyeing Thurston County for Sea-Tac-size airport

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. — Commercial 737s could touch down in south Thurston County.

“An airport down here would be pretty cool,” resident D.J. Crawford said.

The state's Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission is looking for a place to build a Sea-Tac -sized airport.

“We are really near capacity at Sea-Tac International Airport and it’s the smallest international airport in the country with no room to grow, " Sen. Karen Keiser said. “We have got to figure out some options here.”

Last month, the state sent county commissioners a letter asking if Thurston County would be interested in being a contender for a commercial airport. Commissioners chose not to respond until they receive feedback from the community.

The site is 4,500 acres north of Littlerock, south of Black Lake and west of I-5.

Thurston County Commissioner Tye Menser said an airport would change the county's entire landscape.

“An airport, like Sea-Tac, that’s like a little city,” he said. “It is a massive change to the character of a community, so it’s something we really have to talk to our citizens about.”

Previous studies show the flight path would take planes over downtown Olympia and the state capitol.

Some people aren't on board.

“A solution is for all of us, myself included, to stop flying around so much,” resident Naki Stevens said. “I think we need to make do with the airport we have at Sea-Tac. It’s only an hour away.”

Projections show by 2050, the state will need twice the capacity for air travel. Many feel a second airport is the only choice.

“I don’t know what the other options are,” Menser said. “It may be that Thurston County is the best of a set of bad choices and, if that’s true, maybe my mind could be changed.”

It will be a while before a decision is made. Six locations will be selected by the start of next year. The list will be narrowed down to two spots by September 2021. The final decision will be made by Jan. 1, 2022.

Those who would like to weigh in are asked to contact WSDOT’s Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission or the Thurston County Board of Commissioners.