New airport environmental effects to be as few as possible

A national consulting firm has found that a new Aspen airport terminal and relocated runway will result in just one significant environmental impact, an official said Thursday.

The architectural and planning firm Mead and Hunt looked at 23 different possible impacts, including noise, air quality and historical aspects and found that 1.5 acres of wetlands must be relocated, said airport director John Kinney.

Those wetlands, located near the Buttermilk ski area end of the airport, can be relocated on site or in another area of the county, he said.

“It is good news for everyone involved,” Kinney said Thursday.

Kinney and other officials presented the environmental assessment findings Thursday at an open house held at the Gant Hotel in Aspen.

The full impact report is not quite finished yet, with a bit more work to be done on areas of air quality and socioeconomic impacts of the project, Kinney said. Once those are completed in the next couple of weeks, both the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners and the Federal Aviation Administration will hold public hearings on the findings, he said.

Last fall, officials unveiled two possible designs for a new terminal. Both would be a minimum of 80,000 square feet — as opposed to the current terminal’s 47,00 square feet — though the environmental assessment looked at the impact of a 140,000-square-foot facility.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock has said the county would not build a facility that large.

The environmental assessment also looked at the impacts of relocating and widening the runway, Kinney said. Officials have said the runway needs to be moved 80 feet to the west and be widened from 100 to 150 feet to accommodate a new class of regional jets with larger wingspans.

The entire project is slated to cost about $96 million, Peacock has said.