Consider your Port of Seattle candidates

Several candidates vying for seats on the Port of Seattle Commission are on the ballot.

  • Wednesday, October 30, 2019 5:39pm
  • News

There is increasing alarm amongst many island residents as they become more aware of the runway that has been “installed” over their heads.

The Federal Aviation Administration has implemented a new, more focused and lower flight path as part of what they call NextGen, or Next Generation, a collection of technologies the FAA is employing to overhaul the nation’s air traffic control system — with the most impactful component to Vashon Island being PBN (performance-based navigation), which allows every single arrival to follow the exact same trajectory.

NextGen directs more than 200 flights per day (on average) on a beeline, right down the heart of the island most days, directly over the vast majority of our schools, health care facilities and recreation areas. We were never consulted. This single, narrow flight path concentrates the impacts of the airport, which should be more widely shared.

The 2012 Environmental Assessment completed by the FAA stated that noise levels on Vashon would not exceed (43.1) DNL (daylight average sound level) under NextGen. I believe, as do other residents I have talked to, the noise significantly exceeds that level. Since July of 2018, we have been asking the Port of Seattle, which runs the airport, to install two noise monitors on Vashon. To date, that item has never appeared on a Port Commission meeting agenda.

The Port of Seattle has significant influence over matters related to the airport. Now, two of the five seats on the Port of Seattle Commission are in play this coming election on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Ballots have arrived and await your attention.

I recently sent the questions below to candidates, indicating that I intended to publish their answers in The Beachcomber prior to the election. Here are the questions I asked and the candidates’ responses.

Question: Do you support the installation of noise monitors on Vashon?

Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position 2

Sam Choe: Yes, data should drive decisions and we should collect accurate noise data.

Grant Degginger: Yes. I support additional noise monitors at Vashon and several other locations.

Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position 5:

Fred Felleman: Yes. I am confident this will happen shortly.

Garth Jacobson: Yes.

Q: Will you request, prior to the meeting, that this item is put to a vote at the first Board meeting you attend?

Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position 2:

Sam Choe: Yes, I’ll work with my colleagues to put this on an agenda.

Grant Degginger: Yes. I want the Commission to address this in public along with other mitigation efforts.

Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position 5:

Fred Felleman: No. Monitors will be on agenda with other measures associated with the KC Community Fund before year’s end.

Garth Jacobson: Yes. I will ask (that) the item be put on the first meeting agenda and seek its approval.

Q: Will you support an effort to re-evaluate NextGen and its impacts on Vashon Island?

Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position 2:

Choe: Absolutely. I will lobby the FAA to do a full-scale re-evaluation of NextGen.

Degginger: Yes. I support looking at the noise issue, including NextGen, comprehensively.

Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position 5:

Felleman: Yes. Have made progress to increase altitude — more to do.

Jacobson: Yes.

Whichever candidates prevail, it will be up to us to hold them accountable.

If you have read this far and you want to know what you can do other than just vote, check out the island’s local group that works on these issues at You will find lots of information there along with a simple way to register your complaints about flights. (I am writing this article as a citizen and resident of Vashon and I am not affiliated with Vashon Fair Skies, although I do believe in their mission and their good work.)

Rob Harmon is a serial environmental entrepreneur and policy expert. He has lived on Vashon since 1998.

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