Town Folly, Redux
To the Editor:
On Wednesday night, the Town Council, in its typical fashion, self congratulated itself, its staff, and its airport consultant for a job well done in preparing a new proposed Airport Layout Plan.
Council members then unanimously approved the plan for submission to FAA without a single question for staff. This despite a long list of unaddressed comments I sent them ahead of the meeting.
In the brief staff presentation that introduced the agenda item, it was stated, with specific reference to my written comments to the Council, that they were “previously received and reviewed and incorporated as appropriate.”
Here is one of my comments: if you are going to propose Airbus A319 service to the airport, you have to propose future widening of the runway to 150 feet. On the advice of its airport consultant, staff chose not to either delete the A319 or propose widening the runway. This despite written comments from the FAA on the earlier draft that the Town couldn’t have it both ways.
Here is another of my comments: that the Town proposes to extend the runway to the west atop a to-be-built 14’ hill. The hill would cover about 50 acres and require hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of compacted fill. It would also require that many of the west hangars––to avoid an avalanche of dirt––would need to be either elevated 15’ or else relocated hundreds of feet to the north.
Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing to stop the Town from making such a proposal to the FAA, and on Wednesday night that is what they voted to do. My objection is that there is no disclosure in the proposed Airport Layout Plan of the hill, the hangar problem, or the true cost of such a massive construction project. The document only shows the proposed runway elevation, and, on a separate sheet, the elevation of grade of the west hangars (20 feet lower than the top of the proposed runway “summit”).
The Town’s “well respected” airport consultant (quoting Councilman Eastman) is the SAME airport consultant, working for real estate developer Terry Ballas back in 1999, who prepared the applications submitted to the FAA for siting the hangars “in harm’s way” of any future airport expansion plans. (It left more room for a hotel complex, and less room for an airport.) Is it any wonder that he doesn’t disclose the need to move the hangars to extend the runway?
Absent a few hundred million dollars in funds (makes the judgement of $43M look like spare change), Mammoth Lake’s airport will never be able to safely accommodate large aircraft. And let’s not argue about my interjection of safety into this discussion: the Town makes no pretense of proposing upgrades to meet FAA airport safety standards for large aircraft –– although I am hopeful that this approach will change, now that Public Works has taken over management of the airport.
The Town Council should have given my comments some credence, and asked questions of staff, before rubber-stamping the revised draft ALPUN/ALP.
Flavin of the month
I have recently heard of the four climbers that tragically died on Mt. McKinley in Alaska. I have not heard of any movement by the park service to close Mt. McKinley.
I again ask why Hot Creek is to remain closed for safety reasons when a much more dangerous federal area remains open?
I state again that the reason for closure is that our local park supervisor is afraid to reverse a prior decision. Typical government inaction.
The reality is that Hot Creek would be far down the list of dangerous activities in our forest. Hunting, mountain climbing, cutting wood with a chainsaw, encounters with bears/mountain lions and other hazards of the outdoors are much more of a safety risk.
I again ask Inyo Forest District Ranger Regelbrugge to open Hot Creek to the public based on current conditions.
The following letters were written to Yosemite National Park Fire Education and Information Manager Gary Wuchner upon receipt of his announcement of a controlled burn (the “Hodgdon” burn) which was conducted this past week.
Dear Mr. Wuchner:
I’m having an extremely difficult time believing ANYONE (government or private) would start a controlled fire at this time considering the current winds and extremely dry nature of the forest.
If it gets away from you, Yosemite and the surrounding area will have a HUGE problem, including significant legal challenges.
I understand and accept the need for controlled fires, but I’m blown away that anyone would consider starting one right now. I spent the morning compiling my “Evacuation List.”
With huge concerns,
Dear Mr. Wuchner,
Mammoth residents are on pins and needles with this unusually hot weather and high winds worrying that a campfire won’t be fully extinguished or an off-roading OHV will spark some pine needles and there we’ll be, hoping against hope that we can evacuate in time.
Now the Yosemite National Park – Hodgdon Prescribed Fire! Since when is hot and windy summer weather in a drought year a good time for a controlled burn? Please rethink this decision. The risk is too great.