Contrary to popular belief, “Deep Throat” [Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI] - the informant who lead reporters to President Nixon’s Watergatefall - never verifiably said, “Follow the Money.”
But following the money explains why the County has little desire
- to analyze the safety hazards of using its closed Palomar landfill as a Runway Safety Area [See Blogs 2 & 3] or
- to comply with Carlsbad Conditional Use Permit [CUP] 172 which limits Palomar Airport operations to those of a basic transport general aviation airport. [See Blog 14] or
- to properly environmentally analyze Palomar improvements [see Blogs 7, 9, 10, 11 & 12].
Building Palomar: FAA Money & Strings
Airports across the U.S. grow chiefly with federal funds. Palomar included. The grants require airport owners to serve all planes able to use the airport.
The FAA does not initially say: “Your airport will handle 1 million passengers and 500,000 operations (landings and take offs) per year. The FAA knows that many people 1) oppose such an airport’s resulting noise, traffic congestion, pollution, and safety problems and 2) favor a village, not an FAA-induced metropolis.
The FAA initially sells a short runway. Few flights, few passengers. [The so-called basic transport general aviation airport.] Then the FAA grows the airport with grants. The FAA promises Pee Wee but sneaks in Hulk Hogan. Lost in its FAA safety marketing mantra is the real goal: to increase airport capacity.
Operating Palomar: Revving the Revenues
In the last 10 years, Palomar operations have dropped by half. Airport revenues have fallen. For 2011, the County reported Palomar revenues of roughly $3 million, expenses of $5 million, and an operating loss of $1,973,129. [County Operating and Financial Summary filed 12-20-2011.]
Palomar wants revenues. No matter what the environmental cost. No matter whether it complies with Carlsbad CUP 172. Palomar can raise revenues by upping the passengers or cargo it handles.
In June 2009, Kimley-Horn, prepared a “McClellan-Palomar Airport 2008 Economic Vitality Analysis.” The report analyzed two Palomar growth scenarios.
Scenario One forecast a 3.5 percent annual growth rate for passenger boardings if Palomar does not act as a reliever airport for Lindbergh. Scenario Two forecast a Palomar annual growth rate of 6.0 percent if Palomar acts as a reliever airport for Lindbergh. [See report pp. 35-37.]
Oddly, the 2012 FAA CPA environmental assessment failed to note any of the growth inducing impacts identified in the County’s own 2008 study. Do you hear a warning bell? Ding dong. [See Blog 11]
Obstacles to Palomar Increasing Revenues: The Palomar Landfill & Carlsbad Conditional Use Permit [CUP] 172
Perhaps Palomar should increase annual operations from 150,000 to more than 400,000 and passenger boardings from 100,000 to 1,000,000.
The environmental effects of expanding Palomar and Palomar use, if not mitigated, could be substantial. But citizens might agree that the benefit to the economy is worth the noise, traffic, pollution, and safety burden.
The County simply needs to prepare a CEQA-compliant EIR, adopt feasible mitigation measures, and ask Carlsbad to amend CUP 172.
The EIR would analyze the safety and environmental problems of extending the runway over a landfill. The CUP 172 amendment request would ask Carlsbad to remove the current CUP 172 restriction that Palomar be limited to use as a “basic transport general aviation” airport." [See Blog 14.]
To his credit, Ted Vallas, the CEO of California Pacific Airlines offered to set up a meeting to discuss Palomar landfill safety issues. I expressed an interest in attending if the County representatives included environmentalists and engineers who could answer questions. No meeting resulted. Apparently, the County was not agreeable.
Why is the County reluctant to honor the duties that the law imposes on it? Could it be that the County does not want to spend the money to assure Palomar safety? Does a Palomar $1.9 million operating loss mean that the County throws caution and safety up in the air?
Next Week: Blog 17: Palomar Airport: Will the FAA, County, and Carlsbad Honor Their Fiduciary Duties?