Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Airport comment period is extended

Airport comment period is extended
By Colin McCandless



The public comment period on the environmental impact portion of Macon County Airport's runway extension project has been extended.

The project engineer, Eric Rysdon with W.K. Dickson, announced at the Nov. 24 airport authority meeting that the Army Corps of Engineers was asked to extend the permit's public-comment deadline from Nov. 30 until Dec. 7. The comment period was to initially run from Oct. 29 through Nov. 30.

Airport authority chairman Milles Gregory said that recent statements falsely accused the authority of hiding the permit comment period from the public and he wanted to set the record straight.

Gregory displayed a letter addressed to him from the Corps dated Oct. 29 that he said he did not receive until Nov. 4.

He added that at the time of the last airport authority meeting, Oct. 27, the authority did not know when the Corps was going to advertise the permit.

"All our meetings have been open to the public and advertised properly," Gregory said. "We are going by the book. We have absolutely tried and we will continue to try and conduct our business in the proper way."

Rysdon also commented that it is the Corps that publishes the permit and public notice was issued after the last airport meeting so they were not able to get that information out to the public at the time.

Archaeological Investigation Done

Updating the archaeological portion of the runway extension project, Rysdon said it appears that TRC (the group hired to do the archaeological study at the airport) has completed their fieldwork and is working on a draft summary report of their work.

They will be working on a full report of their fieldwork to be finished sometime next year, he said.

The last portion of the investigation involved stripping and mapping of 100 percent of the runway impact site, added as part of a compromise with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians over artifact recovery. It involved topsoil removal and mapping and documenting everything they found.

The archaeological study at the runway extension site has revealed four distinct time periods of Native American occupation.

Army Corps Permit Public Comment Info

The Army Corps of Engineers has received an application from the Macon Airport Authority seeking their authorization for wetland impacts in order to extend the airport runway 600 feet and widen it by 300 feet. The current airport is 4,400 feet long.

In total, the impacts would be 5.72 acres of freshwater wetlands and 809 linear feet of stream, according to the Army Corps public notice.

The Corps will evaluate the application and decide whether to issue, conditionally issue or deny the proposed work pursuant to applicable procedures of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1344).

Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit for this proposal.

Comments are use to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects and other public interest factors.

Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) and/or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.

Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.

Any person may request in writing, within the comment period specified in this notice, that a public hearing be held to consider the application.

Requests for public hearing need to state the specific reasons for holding a public hearing.

The requests for a public hearing shall be granted, unless the district engineer determines that the issues raised are insubstantial or there is otherwise no valid interest to be served by a hearing.

Comments should be submitted to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Attn: Lori Beckwith

151 Patton Avenue Room 208

Asheville NC 28801

For more information on the public notice and all attached plans, visitwww.saw.usace.army.mil/wetlands/ and click on "Public Notices."

*Source: Public Notice, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District.

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