The Chelan Douglas Port Authority is still trying to convert the Pangborn Airport General Aviation building into a new Executive Flight terminal.

Designs for the building have been called a game changer that can be spread to the commercial airline terminal as well.

Pangborn Memorial - General Aviation Terminal Renovation Image B from Chelan Douglas Port Authority
Pangborn Memorial - General Aviation Terminal Renovation Image B from Chelan Douglas Port Authority

Federal funding to cover more than half the cost of the renovation has been elusive, but is moving through the process with the help of Congress members.

Port CEO Jim Kuntz says the project is set to move forward, but the Federal Aviation Administration now wants an environmental assessment, also known as an EA.

"The design is almost fully done," said Kuntz. "This project's about ready to bid. The FAA has determined in their infinite wisdom, even though we're saving a building, that we have to do an EA, which is really frustrating."

The Port agreed this week to have the assessment done, which means remodeling the General Aviation building will be delayed.

The Port will pay Construction engineering company Ardurra Group $159,883 to perform the study, with the likelihood that 90 percent of that cost could be financed through FAA grant money.

An attempt by the Port last year to get $3 million in FAA grant money fell through as the FAA required that the project already be underway, and the building was still in the planning stages.

The money would have come through the FAA's Airport Improvement Program.

Now, the Port is trying to channel access to the same money from that program through U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office.

Cantwell, along with 8th District U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier and 4th District U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, have submitted congressionally directed spending requests for the project.

The potential federal funding allocation is expected to be announced in the fall and won't be available until 2024.

The latest requirement for an EA is related to the building's status as an historical site.

The FAA defines an historic property as any structure that is included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Pangborn Memorial - General Aviation Terminal Renovation Image A from Chelan Douglas Port Authority
Pangborn Memorial - General Aviation Terminal Renovation Image A from Chelan Douglas Port Authority

An earlier EA conducted for the airport singled out the General Aviation building as eligible for inclusion, and the FAA is now requiring the new EA.

Port Capital Projects Manager Stacie de Mestre says that, after a meeting with the FAA and the state Historic Preservation Office, it’s been determined the project design already complies with what's required to establish the building as historical, largely having to do with the structure's roof

“We pulled out why this structure is listed as being an eligible structure, which is basically the roof structure," said de Mestre. "And we pointed out what we're actually doing is opening up and honoring that, so people can actually view it...Most likely we’ll probably have to tell some stories, maybe do a plaque. There is going to be public engagement as far in how we’re honoring this historic structure. And that’s covered in the EA."

Trent Moyers, Port Director of Airports, said the new EA is an abbreviated exercise with a limited scope that's condensed to just the General Aviation building itself. He said hazardous waste issues would still have to be looked at as well as investigations for lead paint and asbestos.

The EA will also require a public comment period, and Moyers said the FAA would pursue tribal response to the plans for the building.

One deadline that'll have to be met is the requirement to start construction on the project within a year of receiving a building permit. de Mestre said they submitted for a permit already to avoid redesign requirements that will come with code changes that will be made this summer. The Port's submission for a building permit is now under review.

Kuntz said that if the $3 million in congressionally directed spending is awarded, it would be in place by October. Assuming the Port would also have a building permit and a completed EA, then the project could go out for bid this fall with construction being started in early 2024.

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