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During its Tuesday meeting, the Watsonville City Council narrowly voted 4-3 in favor of decommissioning the crosswind runway at Watsonville Municipal Airport (KWVI).

Tuesday’s vote comes after months of deliberation over whether to shorten the runway or deactivate it entirely—a process that could take up to four years. In October, airport staff were notified that the runway would no longer meet funding eligibility requirements from the FAA since it was classified an “additional runway.” Moreover, a report to explore the airport’s growth potential noted that Watsonville’s crosswind runway only accounted for 4% of the airport’s total operations in 2022 and 2023.

Still, advocates argued the crosswind runway serves as a significant asset for pilots, especially given KWVI’s unique geography. The Watsonville Pilots Association noted that from a safety perspective, the crosswind runway acts as a reliever when the main runway becomes unsafe due to the marine layer covering—a common scenario throughout the year.

During discussions, some 30 people including airport tenants and city council members spoke in favor of keeping the runway while two asked for its closure, according to the WPA. The group also conjured more than 750 signatures from local community members and businesses in support of a compromise option to shorten the runway.

Despite these efforts, the council ultimately decided to proceed with decommissioning the runway. Officials supporting its closure cited opportunities for economic development, namely residential housing, which heavily influenced their decision.

WPA told AVweb it “strongly opposed” the council’s decision, writing, “Shortening the runway would have solved an FAA line-of-sight issue and would also open up a significant area for housing development in the reduced runway protection zones. Their decision was based on the optimistic premise that decommissioning the runway could allow significantly more development and would not adversely affect the safety of flight operations at Watsonville.”

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