Comments on Paulding airport raise environmental questions

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Comments on Paulding airport raise environmental questions

Paulding County’s airport commercialization plan could affect everything from tiny darter fish in area streams to the “soundscapes” at Kennesaw Mountain, according to comments filed with aviation regulators planning an environmental assessment.

The dozens of comments submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request, include numerous messages both for and against airport commercialization.

The county’s plans to attract airline flights has been delayed by the environmental assessment, which is required under a December 2013 legal settlement. Residents opposed to the plan had challenged the FAA’s prior approvals of steps leading to commercialization.

Paulding airport director Blake Swafford said he expects the environmental study to take at least nine months — stretching hopes for airline service into 2015, more than a year later than initially planned.

The FAA said it has reviewed the comments. A hired contractor will do the study.

In the comments, the National Park Service wrote that it is concerned about potential impact on the “acoustic environment and soundscapes” at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked for the environmental assessment to address impact to the Cherokee darter fish.

And the Coosa River Basin Initiative, American Rivers and Georgia River Network expressed concerns about Bluffy, Pumpkinvine and Raccoon creeks, adding that the Cherokee and Etowah darters are found in the upper Coosa River basin and nowhere else in the world.

A letter from the city of Atlanta’s chief operating officer Michael Geisler said commercialization of Paulding’s airport “has the potential to dramatically impact the environmental, airspace, noise and commercial landscapes in the Atlanta metropolitan area, without any demonstrated need or benefit.”

The city, which owns and runs Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, has opposed the plan from the start.

Many of the letters came from residents, some handwritten in cursive or print, others typed out or e-mailed.

Paulding resident Mike Farmer wrote that “this expansion gives the county great opportunities.” Troy Born wrote that he is “excited to think that one day my family and I may be able to fly out of our own county.”

But others like Kim and Glenn Cooper disagreed. “We do not want fuel fumes, run off, de-icer material, noise pollution,” the Coopers wrote.

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