Pierce County residents, fearful of losing homes, farms & wildlife, vow to fight airport proposal

More than 200 filled a room at the lodge at Frontier Park in Graham Monday night, vowing to fight a proposal that would build a new airport in a rural area of Pierce County.  

Many frustrated residents at the meeting said they had no idea that land near or around their homes, businesses and farms was being considered for a larger airport.  

Arlene Murray-Adams says she was shocked to learn that her property is in one of the areas under consideration. 

"Our home will be gone," said Adams, grabbing a map. "My home is right there."

"I’m here because I’m going to lose my home, and it’s going to affect two elk herds out in this area," said Carrie Bassen, a business owner in the area.  "I didn’t even know this was on the table until it got passed around on Facebook.  There’s a lot to lose here in Graham." 

She's worried about the impacts on her business and on wildlife and the community as a whole. 

"There is a whole housing back in this area. So, it’s going to affect 2,000 to 3,000 people in that area," said Carrie Bassen, pointing to a map. "My home sits right about in here." 

Dr. Shannon West created a Facebook page to organize residents and bring awareness to the proposal after the state commission narrowed its list of sites to three locations in rural Thurston and Pierce Counties. 

"We don’t lose our house, we don’t lose our homes, or the animals, or the hayfields, it’s all important," said Dr. West as she was speaking to the crowd.

She feels both proposals in Pierce County would be damaging. 

"I don’t want to lose my home, and I don’t want my neighbors to lose their home.  If either site was done in Pierce County, one I’ll lose my home, the other one I’ll lose my town," said West.  

Once she started looking into where the airport might be located, she created a map for residents that could be impacted. 

"My goal was to make people aware.  The map that was available, if you knew where to look for it, was really hard to read.  It was satellite. There weren’t enough landmarks, so I enlarged it," said West.

The commission has also considered expanding Paine Field near Everett in addition to sites in Pierce County and Thurston County.  The sites are all under consideration by the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission.  We reached out to the CACC for comment regarding the meeting and are waiting to hear back.  West says the site is to be chosen next summer, giving them time to stop it.   She hopes more residents join in the fight. 

"We are doing everything we can. If we are going to go down, we are going to go down fighting. That’s how I look at it," said West.

An organizer for the group that's protesting the proposed site in Thurston County was also in attendance at the Monday night meeting.  Dawn Sonntag says that group is calling themselves, "Stop the Thurston Airport."  She says her group is planning to meet at 6:30 pm Wednesday in the Sunwood Lakes community.  Sonntag hopes to have another meeting scheduled in the coming days in Thurston County.  She says she came to the Pierce County meeting Wednesday to stand in solidarity with those residents. 

Pierce County Council and Pierce County Executive also sent a joint a letter formally objecting to the potential new airport in Pierce County, citing reasons including environmental harm.