City of Waterloo residents said they are concerned over the potential expansion of one of the two runways at the Region of Waterloo International Airport.
In 2017, the Waterloo Regional Council approved a 20-year plan for the growth of the airport with an estimated budget of $375 million. Within the first stage of the plan, runway 14-32 is set to be extended from 1,200 metres to 2,100 metres.
The goal of the project is to make the runway accessible to larger planes and allow an increased variety of air traffic.
Local wetland and wildlife habitats in the region would suffer directly from the expansion, many of which are home to an assortment of endangered species.
“Wetlands are critical for increasing ecosystem resilience to climate change. Even if the expansion generates new revenue, it will not make up for the biodiversity caused by damaging or destroying the wetland,” said Katana Cameron, an environmental, resources & sustainability student at UW.
The airport has proposed natural heritage management plans to navigate the impact of the project, but many residents feel as though this will not be enough to prevent irreversible damage.
“I understand the airport is an important asset to the region, but as we continue to urbanize, we are also increasing the stress on rural and natural lands that are putting wildlife at risk,” said anthropology student Elise MacDonald.
Air travel has been significantly impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, the airport is eager to move ahead with the expansion in order to prepare for an expected influx of passengers once the pandemic is over.
The extension was partly proposed to accomodate an estimated 20 million surplus travellers by the year 2031 that Toronto Pearson Airport will not have capacity for. A larger runway also means that in poor weather conditions, aircrafts won’t have to detour to Pearson, resulting in an extended commute home for KW residents.
The project is currently being reviewed by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. The organization is seeking feedback from the public and will accept applications on the matter until Apr. 18.