Environmentalists Sue FAA to Compel Environmental Impact
Report on Mammoth Lakes Airport Expansion

MAY 16, 2001

Environmentalists, fearful of plans to remake Mammoth Lakes into a bustling ski resort like Aspen, Colo., sued the Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday over plans to expand the small local airport. Mammoth Lakes, in the eastern Sierras, is a popular ski destination for southern California residents.

The coalition of environmental groups want to compel the FAA to file an environmental impact statement on the project to address the effects of converting the small airport into a facility that is able to bring in thousands of tourists annually.

The FAA had not seen the lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court and did not have an immediate comment Tuesday.

"With this project, Mammoth will be subjected to urban sprawl in a pristine scenic area close to wilderness and threatened wildlife," said Owen Maloy, a Sierra Club member who has owned property in the area for more than 30 years. "There is risk of destroying the very scenic values that attract visitors."

The environmentalists claim the proposed expansion would affect several protected species in the area, including the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, sage grouse, Owens tui chub, and bald eagle, and would increase air pollution.

The expansion would lengthen the runway from 7,000 to 8,200 feet, would widen it from 100 to 150 feet and would strengthen existing asphalt and concrete. The improvements would allow the runway to accommodate Boeing 757 jets. A new terminal also would be built.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer sent a lengthy letter to the FAA in February also stressing the need for an environmental impact statement and questioning the adequacy of the FAA filings known as a "Finding of No Significant Impact" and "Environmental Assessment."

The plaintiffs are the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, the California Wilderness Coalition, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Source: Associated Press