All About the Airport Beacon
at the Methow Valley State Airport Sierra-52, "Smoke Jumper Airport"
On July 14 of 2012, the WSDOT installed and began operation of a new rotating beacon at the Methow Valley State Airport (the "Smoke-Jumper Airport").
Once activated, the beacon ignited a firestorm of complaints. In response to those community concerns WSDOT deactivated the beacon on July 18 . This action leaves the WSDOT stuck between intense community opposition on one hand, and strict FAA regulations on the other, regulations which require the WSDOT to re-activate the beacon (see: why can't we make it pilot-activated).
Beacon petitions begin their journey...
Jan 20, 2013
We offer our sincere thanks to all of you who signed petitions objecting to the new, continuously-operating and extremely-bright rotating airport beacon at the Methow Valley State Airport. (Read: summary of petition results )
We have received GOBS of petitions, 284 in all, from 217 unique addresses. Of those, 72 are RED-level petitions reporting "substantial impact" at their location and "serious devaluation of my property". This group represents a total assessed property value of $28,341,300 -- probably only a fraction of the actual amount of property that would be impacted should the beacon go into continuous operation.
In addition to the RED petitions, we have received a number of statements from local pilots saying that a pilot-activated beacon is all that is required at the Methow Valley State Airport, and a statement from aviation pioneer and 33-year manger of the North Cascades Smoke-Jumper Base, Bill Moody, saying that, "Continuous operation of a rotating airport beacon is not required to maintain safe smoke-jumping activity."
That kind of community input makes a difference. Thank you.
The petition drive was made possible by the "Friends of the Night Sky," a group of concerned citizens interested in preserving the natural beauty of our dark night sky for future generations.
The petition drive is now closed. The petitions have now begun their journey to the WSDOT and other state and federal officials to help strengthen our case in negotiations with the FAA.
We hear that the WSDOT plans to conclude their investigation by the end of this month and apply to the FAA for a "modification of standards" in early February.
Ken Bevis, Al and Chris Bisnett, Howard and Elisabeth Johnson, Kathleen Learned, Sam Owen, David Sabold, Ed Stockard, and Vicki and Danny Yanerella, all of us
FRIENDS OF THE NIGHT SKY
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What it looks like (movie)
- Jan 20—The petition drive is now closed. A summary of petition results is available.
- Jan 2—Airport Beacon Lacked Adequate Review, Local Residents Argue, Methow Valley News
Valley residents are continuing to press their case with teh Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Aviation Division to modify the operation of a new, rotating navigational beacon at Methow Valley State Airport...
- Dec 20—Letter #3 from Mr. Mackie highlights the many legal reasons why, if for any reason the FAA elects to retain the new beacon, the agency has a responsibility to conduct a proper environmental review as a new first step in any such endeavor. (Seven pages, with attachments, and cover letter to the FAA.)
- Dec 17—Petition drive continues this week. We are shooting to get 36 "red flag" petitions, meaning people who say they are substantially affected. Please fill out a petition, especially if you are bothered by flashing lights at night and would have difficulty sleeping. Generally speaking, people within four miles of the airport, and some as far as seven miles away, see lights flashing in the sky when the beacon operates. If you sleep out-of-doors, or have a skylight or large bedroom window, this could be a problem. Petitions are available at the Twisp and Winthrop public libraries and other spots around town.
- Dec 14—Pearrygin Lake State Park issues a letter citing, among other things, "a negative environmental impact on the night sky that directly and adversely affects this publicly owend and managed recreational facility." That is significant because state projects, like the Methow Valley State Aiport, are not permitted to adversely affect other state resources without due process.
- Dec. 6—Celebration of the Night Sky attracts ninety people to the Methodist Church for a free community evening of songs, stories, pictures, poetry, and music about the night sky and its importance to mankind, hosted by Bill Hottell, Lynette Westendorf, David Ward, and Jane Pappidas.
- Dec. 5—(Twisp, by Sally Gracie) Methow Valley News
The local outcry against a dusk-to-dawn beacon light at the Methow Valley Inter-City Airport prompted Howie Johnson to create an event to “Celebrate the Night Sky...”
- Nov. 28—WSDOT committed to beacon solution, Methow Valley News
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Aviation Division is poised to do what’s necessary on its part to maintain dark skies in the Methow Valley.
- Nov. 26—WSDOT adds this statement to their website: "In the event the FAA Headquarters in Washington DC does not approve the modification request, WSDOT will work closely with our partners at the FAA Seattle Airports District Office in Renton to determine the appropriate reimbursement of federal funding required to permit the state to operate a non-standard beacon (pilot-controlled). "
- Nov. 21—State will ask FAA to allow pilot-operated beacon here, Methow Valley News
WSDOT reported that it received more than 400 comments about the new beacon , which was turned off on July 18 after valley residents...
- Nov. 19—WSDOT Responds to Community Concerns (WSDOT)
After receiving more than 400 comments on the rotating navigational beacon at the Methow Valley State Airport, the Washington State Department of Transportation will request that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allow the beacon to be pilot-controlled.
- Nov. 16—WSDOT releases its environmental review documents as a result of a Public Documents Request, Mr. Mackie's letter, and pressure from Okanogan County.
- Nov. 16—Letter #2 from Mr. Mackie goes to the WSDOT, asking for evidence of Okanogan County permits plus Federal and State environmental review documents.
- Nov. 15—New Airport Beacon Lights Up Methow Valley, Wenatchee World
Four days after turning the beacon on in mid-July, the state Department of Transportation turned it off due to the complaints, said Nisha Marvel, DOT's aviation spokeswoman...
- Nov. 9—The public floods WSDOT with over 400 complaints. Thank you!
- Nov. 7—Letter #1 goes out from local land-use attorney Mr. Sandy Mackie summarizing his general suspicions about the airport beacon and its possible lack of appropriate country permits. It is addressed to Perry Huston, Director of the Okanogan County Office of Planning and Development.
- Nov. 5—WSDOT begins testing adjustments to the beacon.
- Oct. 30—Public Comment Announcement (WSDOT)
Methow residents are invited to comment on the upcoming navigation beacon testing at the Methow Valley State Airport.