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City officials challenge county’s airport plan

Carlsbad is pushing back on San Diego County’s draft environmental impact report concerning McClellan-Palomar Airport.

On July 31, the council approved its comment letter, with two additions, addressing concerns regarding biological resources, greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and figures associated with the runway protection zones. The letter was submitted before the Aug. 6 deadline.

The council also approved to “strengthen” the language in the comment letter to be more direct with the city’s concerns over the report. In addition, some, such as Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, are hoping the city’s efforts will lead to more transparency in the document from San Diego County, which owns and operates the airport.

Attorney Sarah Rockwell, of the Denver-based Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell law firm, has been working on the draft environmental impact report for months and said she has several concerns with the how methodologies were used, maps were changed and the lack of conservation efforts, among other issues.

Residents, meanwhile, have turned their ire from the council to the county, calling for more accountability and transparency from the county regarding the draft environmental impact report. They took the county to task with Hope Nelson of the group Citizens for a Friendly Airport saying the report process has been riddled with misinformation.

“Carlsbad and the community are entitled to all the facts,” she added.

The airport master plan, meanwhile, is split in three phases including near term (zero to seven years), intermediate term (eight to 12) and long term (13-20). The project improvements are estimated to cost more than $112 million.

Two of the most controversial issues under consideration are shifting the runway north by 123 feet to add a larger buffer between the runway and taxiway; and extending the runway between 200 and 800 feet for a maximum length of 5,700 feet. The runway is currently 4,897 feet long.

Rockwell added the county avoided 10.2 acres of habitat for the San Diego thornmint, a plant federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Other concerns are the counties methodologies in addition to why the county did not include greenhouse gas emissions impacts and mitigation measures.

As for airplanes in the air and the associated emissions, the city requests the county include those calculations into the draft environmental impact report, even though mitigation or action must be addressed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Rockwell said the county must include those figures as a requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act.

The runway protection zones maps, meanwhile, are confusing with some maps showing the zones are decreasing in size with no explanation, Rockwell said. She was not sure why the maps changed.