Airport to Nowhere?

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Environmental groups are trying to shout down the project, which still has some hoops to go through. The National Resources Defense Council says that from an aviation standpoint, the airport isnít needed because traffic is dropping at the existing facility. "Given that traffic at the current airport has dropped dramatically, there's no demand for this new one, which would destroy nearly 2,000 acres of wetlands that protect water quality and provide a buffer against storms," it said in a statement. The group claims that traffic records for the existing airport show the number of arrivals and departures has dropped from about 50 a day to about 24 a day and that upgrading the current facility will handle any foreseeable future growth.

Airport proponents say the environmental concerns have been addressed and the new airport will spur commercial, residential and tourism growth in the Panhandle area. "The new airport will give northwest Florida a tremendous economic development platform and a competitive advantage over many of the regions with which we compete for job creation," said Al Wenstrand, director of Floridaís Great Northwest, an economic-development group representing 16 counties in the area.