No hearing planned for Burns Field draft study

LIHU’E — State officicals have set a deadline of this Friday for comments on

its yet-to-be-published, new draft environmental assessment regarding proposed

improvements at Burns Field.

Though there is no public hearing planned on

the new study of the airport plans, Friday won’t be the end of the public

comment period on the document.

While the state Office of Environmental

Quality Control reviews the draft environmental assessment (EA) after the

Department of Transportation’s Airport Division submits it, there is a 30-day

public comment period once Quality Control’s formal receipt of the document is

published in its monthly The Environmental Notice newsletter.

A Honolulu

state Circuit Court judge ruled that an earlier, October 1999 EA was inadequate

because it did not include a detailed analysis of the relocation of helicopter

operations from Port Allen Airport (as Burns Field is called by DOT) to Lihu’e

Airport.

The court ordered DOT to prepare a new draft EA which takes a

longer look at that alternative. In the October EA, it was discussed briefly,

only as a “no-action alternative” to the proposed improvements.

A letter

from DOT-Airport administrator Jerry M. Matsuda, sent to about 40 people who

submitted comments on the first EA, asks for additional comments by this

Friday, even though the new draft EA won’t be finished by then.

Both EAs

outline the proposed improvements, including four lease lots of hangars for

helicopter operations, two fixed-wing tie-down areas, restroom and maintenance

buildings, parking stalls and other improvements.

The DOT’s application for

county permits for the improvements is the subject of a contested-case hearing

before the Kaua’i County Planning Commission.

The commission has deferred

action on those permits, pending the finalization of the new draft

EA.

Also, in the Kaua’i General Plan final draft, it is recommended that

the entire area of Puolo Point, where Port Allen Airport is located, be kept in

open space, possibly as a county or state park.

Matsuda’s letter also

states that public comments received during the preparation of the first EA

will be included in the new document.

Bonnie Lofstedt, co-owner of Island

Helicopters, is worried about a potential lack of public input on the new EA

without a public hearing.

State officials “wanted additional public

comments, but they’re really not going to get any because it’s not going to be

posted anywhere,” she said. “Their comment is that they said they don’t have to

do that (have a public hearing), but I don’t know if that’s really fair to the

community.”

Ben Schlapack, head planner with DOT-Airport, said there is “no

requirement for a public hearing. We had a hearing before; we had a public

meeting before. We’re doing it according to (state) rules.”

After this

Friday’s deadline, DOT will complete the draft EA and submit it to Office of

Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) for its scrutiny.

“This time, we’re

going to have more detail on why the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)

wouldn’t let us do it (move all helicopters to Lihu’e Airport), and why it’s

not possible under the terms of FAA grants to discriminate against helicopter

companies by forcing them to be in one place,” Schlapack said.

Leslie

Segundo, environmental health specialist in the OEQC, said the office has a

10-point checklist it puts draft EA documents through once the documents are

received by the office.

If the checklist is completed, the 30-day public

comment timetable will start. After that period, DOT officials must respond to

the comments and issue a final EA with either:

* A finding of no

significant impact, as happened after the October 1999 EA, in which case a full

environmental impact statement (EIS) is not needed.

* Or a finding of

significant impact, in which case an EIS would be required.

Staff writer

Paul C. Curtis can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or

pcurtis@pulitzer.net

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