Julie McDonald Commentary: New ‘Sea-Tac 2’ Airport Located at IPAT? Why Not?

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The South Lewis County Regional Airport at Toledo doesn’t have enough room to support a large commercial or cargo freight airport on its 95-acre footprint.

At least, that’s what Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper said last week at a meeting of the Citizens for Responsible Aviation at Toledo, or CRAT.

Last spring, Lewis County commissioners submitted the Toledo airport to the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC) as a possible site to relieve pressure and congestion at Sea-Tac. When that letter became public, Stamper said Toledo’s chances of landing the airport were equivalent to hitting the Powerball three times. He said the commissioners submitted the airport for consideration only to improve opportunities for federal and state aviation grants.

However, in December, the CACC submitted a report to state lawmakers in which it listed six potential sites: Arlington Municipal Airport, Bremerton National Airport, Snohomish County Airport/Paine Field, Sanderson Field (Shelton), Tacoma Narrows Airport (Gig Harbor) and Ed Carlson Memorial Field at South Lewis County Airport.

Our chances of winning the lottery have increased immeasurably.

After speaking with officials in neighboring counties, Stamper said any new generation Sea-Tac-type airport would require 3,000 to 4,000 acres. He noted that Shelton has nearly 1,300 acres and Bremerton 1,700 compared with Toledo’s paltry 95. Of course, the government could always buy property to expand the airport. 

“It’s going to be in Thurston County, whether they like it or not, because they’ve got some land up there,” Stamper said. “It’s not going to be part of the Olympia Airport.”

Last summer, Thurston County commissioners unanimously voted against the idea of building a new airport in their county after hearing objections from residents in the Black Lake area. But, as New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

If the goal is to spur economic development and alleviate pressure on Sea-Tac, why not locate the new airport in the Industrial Park at TransAlta? It has 4,400 acres prepared for large tenants that require major utility services such as water and electricity and rail and freeway access. Creation of an I-5 interchange north of Centralia would be a must, which would benefit both IPAT and the Port of Centralia. When TransAlta’s coal mine shut down in November 2006, Lewis County lost nearly 600 high-paying union jobs. Another 64 TransAlta workers lost their jobs in early November 2020.

A commercial passenger or cargo airport would certainly generate more jobs for Lewis and Thurston counties than the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s proposal to purchase nearly 10,000 acres of TransAlta’s former Centralia Mine property, including 200 acres at IPAT. I’m all for preserving property for wildlife and recreation, but the goal of IPAT has been to generate jobs.

Before screaming or throwing the newspaper across the room, take a deep breath. Now you know how Toledo folks feel about the proposal for their little airport.

I’ve read plenty of Facebook comments from people in the Twin Cities and elsewhere who embrace the idea of expanding the Toledo airport. But they don’t live here, so their lives wouldn’t be disrupted. 

I’m actually not opposed to all expansion at the airport. I’d like to see it grow organically. Perhaps build a new fire station there, as one poster suggested. Establish a fixed-base operator to serve the pilots with fuel, hangars, parking, and maybe even flying lessons. Build a restaurant where people can dine while enjoying the breathtaking views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier offered on the Cowlitz Prairie.

At the CRAT meeting, Stamper said the two newly-elected Lewis County commissioners haven’t had time yet to study the idea of Toledo as a possible regional airport expansion site, so he proposed waiting until after the next CACC meeting Feb. 16 before voting whether to continue supporting the proposal. That session, a webinar on federal and state funding, can be accessed at http://bit.ly/CACCFEB16.

 

Super Bowl Song

As Super Bowl 55 started, I pounded away on my laptop, but the sound of the “tomahawk chop” drew my attention to the television. It took me back to Toledo Indians’ athletic events, where the band often played the tomahawk chop during football and basketball games.

That is, until February 2019, when the Toledo School District banned both the tomahawk chop fight song and the Indian mascot costume after consulting with the Cowlitz Tribe, whose leaders described both as “offensive and stereotypical.”

When Kansas City Chiefs players ran onto the football field in Tampa Bay Sunday, a band played the tomahawk chop as Chiefs fans sang along to the made-up war chant as they’ve done since the early 1990s. The team has banned use of the native headdress and war paint at home in its Arrowhead Stadium, but not the tomahawk chop. Native Americans who consider the song an offensive mockery of the nation’s first residents have protested the Chiefs’ use of it.

Maybe Toledo was ahead of its time.

 

Space Alien Visit 

I’m a Trekkie from way back, so I love the idea of extraterrestrial beings someday visiting humans on Earth. Perhaps that’s why I clicked on a news story about a Harvard astronomer who says an alien vessel visited our solar system in 2017.

As I perused the well-circulated article, I learned that Abraham “Avi” Loeb, the prestigious university’s longest-serving chair of astronomy, claims an interstellar object that sped through our system four years ago was alien technology. Loeb, 58, the author of eight books and 800 papers on black holes, first stars and the search for extraterrestrial life, has collaborated in the past with the late physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking. He’s written a book about the object dubbed ’Oumuamua, or “scout” in Hawaiian, called “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.”

So why mention this in a column called “Highlighting Lewis County”? 

Scanning further, I read a quote debunking Loeb’s contention. Writing in Forbes, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel described Loeb as a “once-respected scientist” who failed to convince his peers of his arguments so instead is pandering to the public. Siegel, a 42-year-old native of the Bronx in New York, is a theoretical astrophysicist and full-time science writer who taught at the University of Portland and Lewis & Clark College before moving in 2014 to Toledo, where he and his wife, Jamie Cummings, have been involved in Vision: Toledo.

Well, if we can’t host visitors from outer space, at least we have a well-respected science guru living in our county.

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Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.

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