About the Proposed Airport

The proposed project is a new land-based airport and airport access road for the community of Angoon in Southeast Alaska. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is the project sponsor - the party proposing the project. The DOT&PF would maintain and operate the airport if one is built. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for the requirements of public use airports and is the lead federal agency responsible for the preparation of the environmental impact statement for the airport. The DOT&PF is requesting both funding and approval for the proposed airport from the FAA. See Government’s Roles and Responsibilities for more information about the FAA’s role.

The DOT&PF proposes to construct the airport and a portion of its associated access road on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service as the Admiralty Island National Monument and Kootznoowoo Wilderness Area. Alternative locations for the proposed airport and access roads are also considered in this EIS.

What are the proposed Airport Alternatives?

Shown on the map below, three possible airport locations are being considered and will be analyzed in the EIS. These locations may be familiar to you, because they are the same ones discussed in public meetings. These sites were identified through technical studies and public, agency, and tribal input as the three most viable locations from an aviation standpoint. Two of the sites (Alternatives 3a and 4) are located in the Admiralty Island National Monument and Kootznoowoo Wilderness Area. The third site (Alternative 12a) is located on the Angoon peninsula. The Airport Alternative 3a location is the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ (DOT&PF) proposed location.


Why did DOT&PF propose a new airport at Angoon?

Angoon, the only permanent settlement on Admiralty Island, has no road links to any other developed areas and is completely dependent upon either marine or seaplane transportation. It is the largest southeast Alaska community without an airport.

Travel and transport to and from the community is accomplished through day boat ferry service, chartered ferry, or commercial or chartered seaplane. Night landing is prohibited. There are navigational hazards near the seaplane float area, and at certain times of the year, prevailing northeasterly winds make landing difficult. Additionally, in the winter, Favorite Bay periodically ices up, precluding floatplane operations. The Alaska Marine Highway System generally provides ferry service to Angoon once a week during late fall, winter, and early spring, and 2-3 times/week in the summer. The nearest commercial center (Sitka) is over five hours away by ferry.

Because of the combination of isolation and limited transportation options, Angoon has difficulty in accessing emergency health care, markets for its products, and necessary social, recreational, and educational opportunities. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) conducted several studies and determined that an airport that could accommodate Part 135 air carriers (scheduled commuter and unscheduled, on-demand charter carriers) would provide safe and reliable access to health care, goods, and services available in nearby developed areas.

What kind of airport is proposed by DOT&PF?

Any land based airport established in Angoon would provide services similar to those in other rural Alaskan communities and would be served by Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 135 air carriers using aircraft such as the Cessna Grand Caravan and the Piper Navajo. Many of the float planes currently used for service are amphibious and would continue to serve the community after the runway is constructed.

DOT&PF prepared the Master Plan, which proposes that the airport include a single runway and required facilities, including a terminal building for passengers, airport support and storage structures, and a vehicle parking area. The Master Plan also proposes that the runway would be developed initially to a length of 3,300 feet with visual approaches serving each runway end and that it have the flexibility for a future extension to a length of 4,000 feet with instrument approach capabilities.

Can you put an airport in a wilderness area?

Yes, an airport can be built in a wilderness area but only under certain circumstances. Management of federal lands in Alaska is distinctive in that uses that would be prohibited in conservation system units in other states are allowed under Alaska Specific Laws. When Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (commonly called ANILCA) in 1980, more than 100 million acres of Alaska lands were transferred into federal ownership. Congress recognized that Alaskans, particularly those living in remote areas, depend on utilities and transportation modes that must often extend across great distances. Air travel is many times the only option. To meet the socioeconomic and public safety needs unique to Alaska, Congress included in ANILCA some exceptions in the ways Alaskans can use federal lands. An important use provided for in ANILCA is the placement of transportation and utility systems on lands such as the Admiralty Island National Monument and Kootznoowoo Wilderness Area.

The required steps that must be followed before a transportation system can be placed in a wilderness area in Alaska include the following:
These steps are known as the ANILCA Title XI process.

Does FAA have a Preferred Alternative?

The preferred alternative is a term used by the Council on Environmental Quality to describe "the alternative the agency [in this case, the FAA] believes would fulfill its statutory mission and responsibilities, giving consideration to economic, environmental, technical, and other factors." 

Until recently, the FAA had decided not to identify a preferred alternative in the public draft EIS. However, we have been conducting a very detailed review of the EIS chapters. It is the job of our FAA reviewers to scrutinize the quality of our data and analysis before the EIS is released to the public, and they take this responsibility very seriously.

As we come to the end of our FAA review of the document and draw closer to the release of the Public Draft EIS, our project team is confident that Airport Alternative 12a meets the criteria for a preferred alternative. CEQ and FAA guidance encourage us to identify the preferred alternative as soon as we have the justification to do so - and to communicate to the public that we believe this alternative is preferable to FAA. What this means is that on balance, we feel the preferred alternative minimizes effects while best fulfilling the project's purpose and need. 

What does this identification of the preferred alternative mean? It means that FAA is most likely to choose this alternative after the final EIS is completed, but it is not guaranteed. We are counting on you - our stakeholders and other members of the public - to give us your input during the draft EIS comment period. Tell us your opinions on all of the alternatives, so that the FAA can better understand project effects to local resources from each of the action alternatives. We hope that knowing the FAA's preference helps you provide more informed comments.
     
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