Press Release: Save the Sound urges FAA to prepare Environmental Impact Statement on proposed Tweed-New Haven Airport expansion

Raises concerns about wetland loss and impacts of flooding, sea-level rise, and pollution on environment and neighborhoods

NEW HAVEN—Save the Sound yesterday sent a letter to the New England Region’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) office, warning of a flawed environmental review process and urging the FAA to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed expansion of Tweed-New Haven Airport, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Currently, the airport authority is undertaking a less rigorous Environmental Assessment (EA). Among the concerns Save the Sound raised are the failure to include taxiway impacts, as well as significant effects on inland and tidal wetlands; stormwater flooding, sea-level rise, and other floodplain and resilience issues; disruption of local and migratory wildlife habitat; compromised water quality due to increased traffic and discharges; increased greenhouse gas emissions; and the effects of emissions, traffic, and noise on nearby state-designated environmental justice communities in East Haven and New Haven.

“The FAA must undertake a thorough environmental review to assess these impacts on the natural and human environments at and around Tweed,” said Chris Kelly, Save the Sound’s Peter B. Cooper Legal Fellow. “Residents deserve to understand the consequences of this long-term and highly controversial project. Under NEPA, projects with foreseeable, potentially severe impacts require a full Environmental Impact Statement. In fact, an EIS was required for a smaller expansion of the airport in 2002. Not only is an EIS the right thing to do—it’s the law.”

photo credit: 10,000 Hawks

Of concern is the segmentation of the expansion plan, which currently includes an extension of the runway but not the parallel taxiway. A full-length parallel taxiway is a safety requirement that will accompany the runway extension, but the current environmental review does not consider the taxiway’s impact. Such segmentation is prohibited under NEPA.

The wetland delineation report Tweed prepared for the EA says the currently proposed development could affect 22.74 acres of inland wetlands and 6.76 acres of tidal wetlands, but Save the Sound does not believe this includes all wetlands that would be affected by the expansion. One additional area of concern is the Morris Creek Nature Preserve, a pristine tidal wetland through which the airport’s stormwaters flow to Long Island Sound. The threatened  wetlands allow the airport to serve a vital function as a flood management zone that protects the surrounding neighborhoods. Increased development of the airport in tandem with intensifying rainstorms and sea-level rise poses a severe risk of flooding to the entire community.

In its letter, Save the Sound also expressed concerns about surface water quality and related coastal resources in and around the airport, which will be threatened by increased stormwater runoff and pollutants such as aircraft deicing fluid and vehicular pollution. At risk from the increased capacity of the airport are local and migratory wildlife populations, including migrating birds of prey. Lighthouse Point Park, just south of the airport, is the most significant reporting site northeast of Cape May for counts of fall migrating raptors. Expected freight and passenger traffic will increase emissions, traffic, and noise impacts upon nearby neighborhoods, including the Town of East Haven, already identified by the state as a “distressed municipality.” Also of concern is an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, setting back efforts under the Paris Agreement and Connecticut state law to reduce CO2 emissions.

The letter was also shared with administrators at the Environmental Protection Agency, United States Army Corps of Engineers, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Save the Sound will continue to monitor the proposed Tweed expansion.

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