Airport tree removal project plagues Float Plane couple

Les Bradley pointed with a pencil to all the red dots on the project map.

 

The dots mark trees, and all marked trees in front of his and his wife, Susan Bradley’s Float Plane Road home are at least 10 feet shorter.

From their second-story windows, the Bradley’s now have a nearly unobstructed view of the Kenai Municipal Airport tarmac, Susan said.

The cut trees are the result of the Kenai Municipal Airport obstruction tree removal project. The project, which is slated to end Sept. 30, will cut almost 2,000 trees jutting into airport’s flight path.

At its Wednesday night meeting, city council listened to the Bradley’s speak about their concerns with the tree removal project. The couple have spoken at four council meetings and several planning and zoning commission meetings, Les said.

Les placed a flashing pocket strobe light on the podium when he spoke to the council. “This is our bedroom on a dark night,” he said. “You can imagine what that would look like.”

Mayor Pat Porter said the light in her bedroom would drive her “crazy.”

Since the city topped the row of trees across the Bradley’s house in early August, plane emissions, light pollution, elevated noise and increased wind speeds have been a problem, Les said. Susan worries that large snowdrifts will form against their home without the buffer of trees, she said.

“See that red and white striped pole?” Susan said Thursday from their bedroom window, pointing past the cut trees to the runway. “Those are yellow lights, and they go all up and down the runway (at night).”

The project will remove 1,213 trees and partially top 779 other trees. The majority of the trees grow on city and airport owned property.

But 13 privately owned properties also obstruct the airport’s runway flight path. And trees on those properties will fall, too.

Kenai has proposed options to compensating the affected residents.

The city may mound dirt with planted foliage to shield the properties losing trees, City Manager Rick Koch said. The city also is considering buying the affected properties, Koch said. Mary Bondurant, airport manager, said that is an ideal outcome.

The Bradleys, however, have lived in their home since 1997, and they have invested thousands of dollars renovating the house and improving their property, Les said. And because their property’s assessed value has dropped since they bought the lot, they won’t be able to buy a new house if the city buys their property at the current market value, Les said.

Les has suggested the city relocate the airport runway, but Koch said that is not an option. Relocation would be an at least $50 million project, he said.

Kenai has listened to the Bradley’s concerns throughout the entire project, Koch said. FAA is also aware, he said, and, in his dealings with the Alaska FAA branch, the administration has been very responsive to community concerns, he said.

The city will replant new trees along Float Plane Road among the topped trees to reduce the visual impacts, according to the project document.

But that won’t help the Bradley’s, Susan said. She and her husband are almost 70 years old. They might be gone when the new trees grow in, she said.

“We’ve lost a lot,” she said. “I don’t know if (the city) could make that up.”

 

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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