Opponents and supporters of airport relocation will find statements made in the 20-page summary to merit their argument for or against relocation, but it's the FAA's comments on the benefits of relocating that will make airport supporters very happy.
Airport relocation supporters have had their sights set on a new airport in West Bay for more than a year now. County leaders, environmentalists and airport board members worked together to create a detailed specific area plan outlining the proposed project.
The plan includes a 4,000-acre site in West Bay for the new airport, and 16,000 acres the St. Joe Company plans to develop. Another 40,000 acres will be set aside for preservation.
For the past year the FAA has been evaluating the environmental impacts of the proposed plan, as well as the impact of extending the current runway or taking no action at all.
In its draft summary the FAA found that relocating the airport would provide significant economic benefits, including jobs and the attraction of new commercial airlines, but the agency also said about 600 acres of wetlands would be negatively effected. The report pointed out that mitigation measures would minimize the negative impacts to wetlands.
The FAA report found that extending the current runway would only provide limited economic benefits, because of the constraints of available land. The report also found that extending the runway could pose a danger to Goose and Robinson Bayous, as well as North Bay.
This is only the draft report. The FAA took into account many more factors. The environmental impact study is now public record, and the FAA will take public comments until January 21. They will release their final report thereafter.