Proposed Thurston County airport seen to harm wildlife, displace residents and businesses

Hundreds protest proposed new ‘Central Thurston' airport


The proposed new Thurston County airport would harm wildlife and displace thousands of residents and businesses, two experts warned.

Cindy Schexnider, a retired Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, and Robbi Currey, a real estate appraiser, spoke before hundreds of Thurston County residents who gathered on November 14 to protest the state’s consideration of the location to build a major new commercial airport.

Most of the approximately 275 attendees stayed for the full two-hour meeting of the “Stop the Thurston Airport” citizen’s advocacy group at the Grace Community Covenant Church in Olympia.

Stop the Thurston Airport was formed by Dawn Sonntag in October after the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC) recommended one location in Thurston County and two others in Pierce County as possible sites for a proposed airport.

The proposed Thurston County location lies southeast of Olympia, with the southern portion overlapping the westernmost area of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). The Pierce County sites are 4.5 miles east and 2.25 miles south of JBLM, respectively.

Wildlife at risk

Schexnider said a Thurston County airport would directly impact wetlands and waterways in three watersheds: Anderson Inlet, Deschutes River, and Nisqually River.

The three watersheds support over two dozen fish species, including pink salmon, sockeye, chum, and coho. Schexnider, citing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said around 12 federally threatened or endangered species could be impacted by the development of the green site.

The watersheds also serve as filters that improve the quality of drinking water, reduce erosion, as well as temper floods and droughts, according to Schexnider.

“This airport proposal strongly contradicts all the rhetoric we hear from our state being progressive on climate change and greenhouse gas reduction,” Schexnider said, noting that Governor Jay Inslee signed a Climate Commitment Act earlier this year.

“We are told this is an ‘airport of the future’ that could have improved environmental responsibility,” Schexnider added. “Climate experts are skeptical of this ‘airport of the future’ project and it is being called a greenwashing effect to sell it.”

Possible displacement

Meanwhile, Currey said that the 14,000 Thurston County residents living within the six-mile target zone for the proposed airport are at risk of losing their homes to construction.

Currey said the CACC will likely offer homeowners the fair market value for their homes.

 “However, as soon as the airport project is announced, the market value of our homes will drop significantly,” Currey said. “So the value that they will be offering us will be based on this new reduced market value known as ‘condemnation value.’”

 Currey said that this, along with rising interest rates and housing shortages, may force residents to move out of Thurston County or even Washington state.

 She also noted that about 140 businesses are located within the six-mile diameter of the proposed airport.

 “When the property is taken for the airport, the business owner will get paid for their land, but they will not be compensated for their business interest. So not only will they lose their home, but they will also lose their livelihood,” Currey said.

 She said that the industrial commercial sprawl would extend for miles beyond the target zone, which means more homes may be taken for the construction of new freeways and rural highways to accommodate traffic linked to the proposed airport.

 Currey said about 70 farms and ranches in the six-mile target area would also be displaced, and another  70,000 residents surrounding the airport itself would be affected by noise and pollution from the airport.

 Residents object

 Several Thurston County residents also spoke out against the proposed airport during the meeting.

 Doreen Smith, a decades-long resident of Tempo Lake that sits inside the six-mile target zone, said the airport “would totally destroy Thurston County.”

 “We have to keep our legislators and the governor accountable,” Smith said.

 Jeff Cohen, an East Olympia resident, said, “This is the beginning of a long fight.”


12 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • JulesJames

    The map is an inadequate representation. Aircraft when landing enter the gateway at approximately 3,000 feet AGI for their radio beacon-controlled glide path six miles from the end of the runway. The feeder paths into the gateways spread out from there. So a truer representation of significant aircraft noise disruption is approximately 8 miles from the center point of the proposed runway -- at the approach gateway.

    Friday, November 25, 2022 Report this

  • mckirgan1239

    Whom in government can we contact, write, or email to voice our opposition to this proposed travesty? We need a citizens campaign of siging petitions to send to the Governor and or Federal and State officials. The proposed Airport should be situated far south of Chehalis or between Sea-Tac and Portland!!

    Sally McKirgan


    Friday, November 25, 2022 Report this

  • Scooter

    Short sighted. What will an airport really look like in 10 - 15 years? Will jet aircraft be replaced by other means of propulsion? Will the airport provide jobs, increased access to other locales, and prove to be an asset to the region. Instead of doing a major NIMBY why not see it as a possible change agent for the area. The status quo is a step backwards and change is inevitable..... endorse the concept and think strategically.

    Saturday, November 26, 2022 Report this

  • DHanig

    We are in the middle of a climate crisis where it makes little sense to compound the problems of global warming with additional flights. Nearly 1/4 of Seatac flights go to nearby urban centers (Portland, the Bay Area and Vancouver). We should be diverting air traffic by constructing high speed rail between west coast urban centers, thus addressing growing demand while reducing carbon emissions.

    Saturday, November 26, 2022 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Go drive through the city of SeaTac and ask “is this a pretty place? Does this make me feel human?”

    Saturday, November 26, 2022 Report this

  • Deskandchairs

    Where are those damn gophers when we need them?

    The Federal government should close Joint base Lewis/McCord and turn it over to the airport authority. The military can move to their eastern Washington firing range (or to some less populated area).

    Saturday, November 26, 2022 Report this

  • KerriG

    Go to to find the petition and a list of government officials to write to to express your opposition to this plan. Tell everyone you know about this. There are future public meetings being planed and current street corner sign waving events you can join. The CACC plan is to pick one of the three sites in June so time is important on this. The StopTheAirport group, along with the Coalition Against Graham and Eatonville-Roy Airports groups, are saying the CACC process has been flawed. They are calling for a complete redoing of the process of picking a site. Lets start by finding out if any place wants this thing.

    Saturday, November 26, 2022 Report this

  • Schexniderc

    Although impactful, this overlay on the aerial photois a bit misleading in that it does not include terminal(s), storage tanks, parking lots, car rentals, etc. Go to for information on how to take action, government agencies to contact, a petition, and social media information.

    Saturday, November 26, 2022 Report this

  • sunshine39

    While this new airport is getting all the attention we shouldn't forget the proposed expansion of the existing airport. That, too, will have major impacts on homes, wildlife, traffic, air quality. We don't need a solution that will create more problems, gobbling up already limited farmland, air and noise pollution, etc.

    To both of the airports I say why not give rapid rail expansion it's due--less impact on traffic, and less pollution making it a more environmentally friendly option. A very large number of flights from SeaTac and Paine Field are short ones along the coast, perfect for rail transport

    Saturday, November 26, 2022 Report this

  • FirstOtter

    While mt his unwanted monstrosity of a mega airport has been going on, the POrt of Olympia has very surreptitiously furthered plans to expand the runways at the existing Olympia Regional airport. The FAA has had boots on the ground all year, all ready to start paving.

    The FAA will be in total control of this sneak attack on the people in Thurston county, they will be the sole determining agency on how many 737s and cargo jets will be using Olympia's airport to supply Amazon, Costco and whatever other giant warehouse Tumwater allows to be built.

    Think of it. YOUR tax dollars will be supporting Amazon, so they don't have so far to bring in all their unwanted STUFF.

    I will have jets roaring overhead at 500 feet, as my home is in the flight path for arrivals and departures. BUt all of us in Thurston county will be paying the price of noise, pollution, degradation of the environment and congestion.

    The Port is going full steam ahead on this despite our protests. They don't give a rip about us, unless, of course, we cut their money. Let's abolish the POrt of Olympia, decommission the Olympia Regional Airport...because up til now, it's been a tax funded playground for the wealthy few who can afford to own an airplane. Lets turn the Olympia regional airport into a playground for ALL of us. Let's see a few softball diamonds, a soccer pitch, a skate park, two off leash dog parks, one for big dogs and a second for the purse dogs. Leave the runways in place for car shows, let's put in a horse arena and even keep the forest at the edge as a picnic area.

    I hate it when politicians like those at the Port of Olympia decided what will happen to thousands of people who live on the other side of the airport fence...all for the sake of more money in their pocket.

    Monday, November 28, 2022 Report this

  • FordPrefect


    Olympia Regional is federally funded. Removing it doesn’t mean we get to keep that money for other projects. Our airport is important. It serves as a base for EMS, several flight schools and seasonal firefighting aircraft.

    I wish it were true that all airplane owners were wealthy. A few airplane owners are rich for sure, but most of us are working pretty hard to make it all work.

    On the topic of a NEW airport, it’s an idiotic answer to a complicated problem. Equally silly is the idea that closing airports is the solution. SEATAC and Portland International could expand capacity some more but there is a limit. The tyranny of distance and geography is real. Improving existing airfields is probably how it will shake out in the end. Let’s hope they don’t waste too much time and money on mega-projects that will never get off the ground.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2022 Report this

  • KurtWochholz

    Once homes have been eliminated due to an airport, the remaining rental prices will skyrocket. I'm heading toward a fixed income so this would have my family out of the area and possibly homeless. We love Olympia and hope that this county will do the right thing by protecting our existing environment. It is time to stop using aircraft for local travel that can be resolved with modern high-speed trains.

    Monday, December 5, 2022 Report this