I am Rick Stephens, a director at the Truckee Tahoe Airport Board. I was elected to the board in November 2016 and re-elected in November 2020.
I agree with many things in Megan Butcher’s December My Shot opinion and disagree with others.
There is no question that the flights arriving and departing the airport have increased substantially, and the bulk of the departures are on Runway 29, right over Megan’s home. Efforts to move more departures to Runway 11 or Runway 2-20 have not been very successful.
According to Robb Etnyre, general manager at TTAD, flights have actually decreased 3% between 2016 and 2022 during the peak summer season. This is based on careful tracking of runway usage.
In my opinion, the quickest way to change flight patterns is to widen and extend Runway 2-20. TTAD is resurfacing 2-20 as it is configured now hopefully in 2023 with a $4 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. It would take another $4 million to $6 million to widen and extend 2-20 with no FAA grant, after an environmental study, which has not started.
Runway 16-34 is another option. TTAD has been studying this option for the past year. This option has not been submitted to the FAA, but hopefully will be submitted in the next six months. The cost of this runway is estimated between $40 million and $60 million. It is not clear that the FAA will approve of this new runway or if they will fund it. My concern is that IF it is built, will pilots use it? TTAD cannot force pilots to use specific runways.
Megan is absolutely correct that the carbon pollution of planes into and out of TTAD is substantial. (As are all airline flights.) I fly out of Reno or SFO and I am not a pilot.
Megan is absolutely incorrect about TTAD spending more than $450,000 annually to provide water, ice, and lavatory services to its small group of users. In fact, TTAD actually charges/sells water, ice, and lav services to pilots who request it. The airport purchased a lav cart in 2011 for about $8,000, that has certainly paid for itself in addition to an ice machine. For perspective, the 2022 year-to-date revenues are $17,212 for lav services, $960 for water cart service, and $108 for water bottles.
With regard to community expenditures, TTAD should do more, in my opinion. When I ran for the board in 2016, community expenditures were a meager $489,500. My campaign position was to increase community expenditures. Those expenditures have increased. In 2018 they were $749,500; in 2019, $1,045,700; and in 2020, $1,818,700 (including $500,000 that went to the Truckee Donner Land Trust to help purchase Truckee Springs). In 2021, the expenditures were $1,627,673. I believe that TTAD can do more for the community.
In 2017, when the board voted to build 10 executive hangers, I motioned to build the hangers; however, my motion was that TTAD should borrow 100% of the construction funds so that no property tax revenue would be used for this hanger construction. This motion was approved. The loan is a 20-year amortization, and hanger tenant revenue does not cover the loan payment. The shortfall is made up from revenue from the other hanger revenue. When the loan is paid off, TTAD hanger revenue will increase substantially.
At the Nov. 30, 2022 board meeting I announced that I will not be running for re-election to the board in 2024. Eight years on the board is enough for me.
~ Rick Stephens has lived full-time in Truckee (unincorporated Placer County) since June 1, 2007. He was the volunteer project manager for the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s construction of the Community House in Kings Beach. He has served on the Placer County Citizen’s Advisory Board for recommending the allocation of Transient Occupancy Tax funds from Placer County. He was elected to the Placer County LAFCO in July 2022.