Fey bill will pause the state’s heated airport debate

OLYMPIA—Washington’s heated airport debate has been paused—for now. HB 1791, a bill introduced by Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma) essentially restarts the process on Washington’s airports.

“At the start of this year’s Legislative Session, Rep. Tom Dent (R-Moses Lake) and I recognized the need to introduce this bill as it’s clear that opposition to the state’s proposed airport sites was loud and fierce,” Fey said.

HB 1791 means that the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC), which was established by the Legislature in 2019, will be replaced by the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Work Group.

“This new group will be made up of 19 voting members who are appointed by the governor, and they will be charged with identifying the strengths and weaknesses of potential sites, not a specific site recommendation,” explained Fey.

Members of the new working group will include four representatives of commercial service airports and ports (two of which must be based in eastern Washington), two representatives from the airlines industry or businesses dependent upon air service, one representative from a statewide business association, and seven citizens, with at least two representing eastern Washington and two from western Washington.

“While the working group will be evaluating air travel needs as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is expected to be at capacity in about two decades, the group will also be working with a variety of partners at various levels of government, the military, Indian tribes, and be taking the many environmental issues associated with airport capacity expansion into consideration,” said Fey.

Passed in the Senate with a vote of 31-17 on April 12, this bill now heads back to the House for concurrence before being sent to the governor’s desk for approval.