Mather airport expansion moves forward
Now is the time to comment on Sacramento County’s Mather Airport 20-year-development plan — a proposal to turn the former Air Force base-turn-private airport into a premier cargo hub facility for the entire Pacific Rim region. The plan’s revised Draft Environmental Impact Report is available for public review.
The Mather Review Subcommittee, acting under the larger El Dorado Hills Area Planning Advisory Committee, hosted a town hall meeting last Wednesday night to educate residents who came from Rancho Cordova to Lotus and everywhere in between. Committee Chair Larry Brilliant claimed the airport’s expansion would be a “nuisance” for those living under the flight path all while lining Sacramento County’s pockets. Residents were urged to avoid “certain doom” by asking for a 120-day public comment extension and to write to both Sacramento and El Dorado County supervisors. The current public comment deadline is May 8.
“It’s going to take a political movement to stop it,” said District 4 Supervisor Ron Briggs, who attended with District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco. “Sacramento County has a lot of money invested in this. The build out of Mather I think would mean close to 500 or 600 flights a day (currently there are 6,000 annual cargo flights). We’re searching for ways to legally insert ourselves in the process. All of the infighting we’ve done about whether we’re a green, rural El Dorado County will mean nothing if they put an airport over our heads. We need to attack it.”
“You may not have noticed a lot of low flying aircraft over your homes lately, but if Sacramento County gets its way, you will,” it states on keepthepeace.org a site, subtitled Communities for a Responsible Mather Airport, referred to throughout Wednesday’s presentation held in the El Dorado Hills Community Services District pavilion. “Dozens of aircraft will be cruising over your community, day and night, making as much noise as a vacuum cleaner right next to your bed.”
Affected areas would include Rancho Cordova, Silver Springs, Rosemont, Gold River, Fair Oaks, Folsom, El Dorado Hills (north and south of Highway 50), Cameron Park, Rescue and Shingle Springs.
Though the former Air Force base first established during World War I was here long before current homeowners, once the military gave it to Sacramento County in the 1990s there’s been talk of beefing up its air cargo operations. By 1997 several carriers, including UPS, moved from Sacramento International airport to Mather. Members of the Mather subcommittee described how noise has steadily increased since then.
“By 2003 Shingle Springs residents and El Dorado Hills residents living south of Highway 50 protested new noise,” one slide read.
Currently, Mather Airport loses at least $1 million annually, but making it a “premier jet cargo hub of the Pacific Rim” would make it profitable once more, Brilliant said.
What’s considered too loud can’t be agreed upon, added Mather committee member Bill Bryant. El Dorado and Sacramento County residents have rejected claims by the Sacramento County Airport System that noise only adversely affects those neighborhoods within a mile or two of the airport. Noise problems have popped up as far away as Georgetown with inbound flights beginning as early as 3 a.m. and coming in low and loud over the communities of Rescue, Shingle Springs, Cameron Park, El Dorado Hills and Folsom.
“Almost all air cargo in the United States fly at night,” Bryant said. “In this case they will fly over our homes and sleeping (attempting to sleep) families.”
The expansion plans include lengthening runways and upgrading Mather Airport’s navigation aid, or instrument landing system, to a Category IIIb, which means aircraft are allowed to begin approach if visibility is greater than 300 feet instead of the current half mile requirement.
In a recent e-mail Deputy Director of the Sacramento County Airport System Carl Mosher confirmed Federal Express would also move its operation to Mather from Sacramento International Airport subject to the installation of Category III ILS.
The Mather Subcommittee wants more time to review the DEIR and is asking residents to write both El Dorado and Sacramento County supervisors requesting:
- A return of cargo operations back to its origin, Sacramento International Airport, explaining, “Sacramento International Airport has the infrastructure to accommodate air cargo operations without an impact to neighboring communities.”
- Stop the installation of the Mather Airport Category IIIb Instrument Landing System.
“The expansion of Mather airport is not a district problem, it is an El Dorado County problem,” according to an e-mail sent to constituents from Mikulaco’s assistant Cindy Munt. “Should the expansion go through it will negatively impact the quality of life and beauty of the county with major environmental and noise pollution problems, none of which Sacramento County will be mitigating according to the DEIR. The negative financial impact to El Dorado County will be huge, while Sacramento County will be enjoying all the financial benefits. If residents of El Dorado County don’t respond to Sacramento County before the May 8 deadline, we lose our say.”
Comments regarding the Draft EIR should be submitted to the Sacramento County Environmental Coordinator and e-mailed to [email protected] or mailed to 827 7th St., Room 220, Sacramento 95814. Project Title: Mather Airport Master Plan, Control No. 2002-0325.
The El Dorado Hills Area Planning Advisory Committee has been an advisory committee to the county since 1981, when it helped create the El Dorado Hills/Salmon Falls Area Plan. The group claims its recommendations and written submittal of support, conditional support or non-support, have been one of the community’s strongest voices in local land use planning. Issues such as Mather Airport’s expansion are discussed at EDH APAC meetings, which are open to the public the second Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the EDHCSD pavilion.