In 2007, Kodiak residents loudly protested a plan to extend Kodiak State Airport toward the mouth of the Buskin River.

On Thursday evening, with the plan modified to avoid the Buskin, only a half-dozen people showed up to a new meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration.

“It’s a remarkable improvement over the first meeting that we had,” said Pat Holmes, one of a handful of Kodiakans who testified in the Kodiak Harbor Convention Center.

Thursday’s meeting was a major milestone for the FAA, which has been planning new safety areas at Kodiak State Airport since 2005, when Congress passed a bill mandating larger zones to protect nearby areas from plane crashes.

After Kodiak residents objected, the FAA abandoned a plan that would have put some of those safety areas in the Buskin River Recreation Area.

Now, the plan calls for the areas to extend into Chiniak Bay and toward Coast Guard Base Kodiak. The airport’s principal runways will be shifted south and east, giving the FAA space to install beds of collapsible material designed to catch a runaway aircraft.

Thursday’s speakers were focused on limiting impact, not outright rejection of the project as in the meeting six years ago. Most speakers focused on the aspects of the project involving fill dumped in Chiniak Bay.

“In all actuality, because it’s going to change the way different species travel through that area, it might change the dynamics,” said Rick Rowland, environmental director of the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak.

Of particular concern for Thursday’s speakers was potential effects on salmon smolt from the Buskin River.

Holmes and Rowland each asked the FAA to institute a smolt monitoring project to ensure that if the runway project does affect young salmon, there is some baseline to measure the effect.

“Please, if there’s any way at all to get a smolt monitoring program, that’s what needs to be done,” Holmes said.

The FAA is reviewing a draft environmental impact statement for the project and is expected to issue a final decision later this year. Once the decision is issued, construction can begin.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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