News from Patrick Flynn

Air dreams

I’ve received more than a few communications regarding the proposed airport land swap that would de-designate Point Woronzof area parkland in exchange for other DOT-owned land and a 25-year lease for a snow dump facility. While I try to avoid speaking ill of others, this proposal appears to be an example of typical 800-pound gorilla intransigence and embarrassingly weak municipal negotiation skills.

But, before delving into details, please take a deep breath. The intent of the Assembly is to postpone consideration of this matter from our June 23 meeting to our meeting of August 25 so that the new administration can look further into the matter. We have time to fully digest and consider this.

Given that, and aside from the obvious concerns about the integrity of the Coastal Trail and Point Woronzof park, let’s discuss some of the issues associated with this proposal:

  1. First off, the city’s desperation to keep the Kloep snow dump in its inventory is a bit too breathless. Is it a valuable facility? Yes. Are there lots of other places to move snow? No. But, does DOT also use and profit from this facility? Yes, they’re responsible for roughly 20% of the snow deposited there. Have there been aggressive efforts to find another location, like the former aggregate handling facility roughly two miles to the east? No.
  2. Secondly, can DOT enter into a long-term lease with the city similar to this proposal without a land swap? Yes. Does DOT want to? Of course not, but this is the same agency whose functionaries continue to pursue projects that no one rationally believes will occur anytime in the foreseeable future. DOT officials raise the specter of the FAA revoking their ability to lease airport land for non-aviation uses but conveniently fail to mention specific authority to maintain said leases in order to cultivate positive community relations.
  3. Third, what about eminent domain? Yes, DOT does have that authority and it’s the hammer they’ve used in this negotiation. Will DOT actually use it – highly unlikely. Why? Because we’re Alaskans and whether we’re liberal, conservative, moderate or whatever other label you choose we don’t take kindly to the government messing with our lives for esoteric reasons, and an additional north-south runway, adding to the three existing runways at the airport, is about as ephemeral as it gets.
  4. Finally, the billion-dollar question, beyond the cost of the runway. DOT’s proposed runway would require massive amounts of fill be placed into Turnagain Arm just south of the AWWU Asplund Wastewater Treatment Plant. As you may know, the hydraulics of Cook Inlet have long allowed this facility to enjoy an EPA exemption allowing for only primary treatment of Anchorage’s sewage system. Were this exemption to be discontinued, a long-time concern of AWWU officials, the expectation is that we’d be required to skip over secondary treatment to a tertiary system. Rough cost? $1 Billion. Identified fund source? None. Efforts to address the effect of this runway on that permit? None, or kept secret.

So dear readers, as you might conclude from this missive, I’m somewhat skeptical about this little proposal. I’ve already been asked by many what might be done and here’s the simple answer; aggressively, and without apology or acceptance of bureaucratic excuses, seek the decoupling of the snow dump lease from other land swap considerations.

The day may indeed come when a second north-south runway is needed at our airport. If that day comes DOT will still have the power of eminent domain, they will still need to deal with community comments and they will still need a snow dump facility. That day is not today.



This contribution was made on Saturday, 20. June 2015 at 08:40 and was published under the category Neighborhoods, Transportation. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. As usual you are right on target. I would only add that that parking lot at Pt. Woronzof is one of the most used park areas in Anchorage. On any given night the parking lot is full, vendors are selling snacks, and folks are watching the sunset. I would further point out, that the value of that land, on the open market is probably at least ten times that of a mid town snow dump, on an acre per acre basis. Keep up the good work!

    Comment: John Morrone – 20. June 2015 @ 10:58 am

  2. Thank you for your careful consideration of these issues. What I could find out about this sounded like some kind of give-away arranged behind closed doors, and the issues you address were many of my concerns.
    Please remain open to any further runways being built up in the north Wasilla/ Houston/ Willow area — it would have many advantages beyond continuing to gobble valuable Anchorage land for industrial purposes, including improving disaster-proofing our state.

    Comment: Tina Tomsen – 20. June 2015 @ 3:11 pm

  3. Point Woronzof is where we park for my family to go biking. This is the best place to hand bike for paralyzed people including our daughter. The terrain is fairly level.
    We have had many happy hours biking from there.

    Challenge Alaska also uses it regularly for access to the coastal trail for the physically disabled.

    I hope we don’t lose this wonderful place.

    Comment: Katie Piraino – 20. June 2015 @ 6:43 pm

  4. Pt. Woronzof overlook is on Airport land and would be traded to the Municipality as part of the proposed deal. The parkland in question is located south of the overlook on the back side of the airport.

    Comment: Mark Butler – 21. June 2015 @ 5:50 am

  5. Thank you, Assemblymember Flynn, for your ability apply a sense of reason and a reality check to this issue. Our Municipality and our State goverment ought to be able to negotiate the long-term use of State land for a snow dump that the State and city both use! — with no strings attached. Especially if those strings include acquisition of a Municipally-dedicated parkland created in 1994 as a specific condition of a previous Muni-airport and trade. The airport has demonstrated absolutely no need for this land, based on the past 10-year flat cargo operation numbers and advanced fuel-efficient aircraft that allow for fewer gas and go stops at our airport, among other things. As stated, FAA does allow airport land to be used by communities for less than fair market payment, if it’s in the best interests of the community. Based on the importance touted by the Muni, this snow dumps fall into that category.

    Mark B. is corrent in pointing out that Pt. Woronzof Park is the 191-acre dedicated parkland south of the AWWU sewage treatment facility and reserve expansion land. Approximately 3/4-mile of the most beautiful, naturally wooded section of the Coastal Trail adjacent to the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge runs through this now protected land. If traded to the airport, the Muni would lose complete, legal authority of this land. Doesn’t matter what the airport may put into an agreement with the city — at any point in the future, based on “best interests” of the airport, it could pull back from those promises and stop a use agreement with the city. Just like the airport is now doing with the snow dump and the condition of a land trade agreement they made to this community in 1994.

    Please continue to communicate to Mayor-elect Berkowitz, Assemblymember Flynn and all other members that our dedicated parkland and our existing Coastal Trail should remain “permanent, dedicated” parkland. As them to vote NO on 2015-69.

    Comment: Cathy Gleason – 21. June 2015 @ 1:35 pm

  6. Patrick,

    Good job and thanks for your public service and thanks for standing up to DOT.

    Comment: Mark Wiggin – 21. June 2015 @ 3:10 pm

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