Foes of a Third Runway at Seattle-Tacoma Airport Sue the FAA

MAY 28, 2000

Opponents of a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have sued the Federal Aviation Administration, saying it failed to comply with federal law protecting endangered species. The lawsuit claims that the FAA has not complied with requirements to study the effects of the third runway project on endangered species habitat.

The Airport Communities Coalition -- Burien, Des Moines, Federal Way, Normandy Park, Tukwila ,and the Highline School District -- seeks to stop the Port of Seattle from moving ahead on third-runway plans until endangered-species regulations have been met. Chinook salmon, bull trout and marbled murrelet, a coastal bird, are considered at risk under the Endangered Species Act.

Airport spokesman Bob Parker said the port just finished a biological assessment and found no endangered species that would be affected. "With regards to our environmental permits, we haven't done any work in the wetlands -- for which permits are required," Parker said. The Port has done preparatory work outside the wetlands, he said.

Bob Sheckler, Des Moines' mayor pro tem, said the federal government has stressed the importance of the Endangered Species Act to the extent that homeowners have been told their housing permits might be subject to federal restrictions to keep critical fish habitats safe. But the FAA is failing to enforce the law when it comes to the Sea-Tac runway project, Sheckler said.

The new runway, to be completed in 2005, is part of a $1.8 billion expansion of the airport south of Seattle. Airport officials say the runway is needed because of congestion, especially during bad weather.

The coalition has spent millions of dollars on several lawsuits and an extensive public-relations program opposing the third runway plan. A federal appeals court in San Francisco rejected a challenge in 1998. A state appeals court rejected another challenge in November 1999.