American Lake seaplane base faces closure

The Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Division and the Seaplane Pilots Association are trying to persuade city officials in Lakewood, Washington, to keep the seaplane base at American Lake open.

The city notified the state of its intent to close the base last month. The owners of the handful of aircraft kept at the base were given 90 days to find new accommodations.

The base is located at the north end of the lake, next to a park. The lake, which is surrounded by homes, is adjacent to McChord Air Force Base and Gray Army Airfield.

Seaplanes have been using the lake since the 1940s. According to city officials, the lease with the private vendor operating the base ran out in December and the vendor never contacted the city about extending it. At this time the facility is little more than a boat ramp, a shack and a dock in need of repair. There is no fuel at the location.

According to Assistant City Attorney Candace Bock, the city gave the state until Jan. 21 to come up with a viable plan to operate the seaplane base, which includes finding a way to pay for it.

The closure doesn’t put the lake off limits, she notes.

“Closing the base doesn’t prohibit aircraft from taking off and landing on the lake because the state owns the water and allows for seaplanes to land on the water,” she explained.

She added that over the next few months the city plans to study the use of the base, the lake, and the park to determine the best use of the property from the city’s point of view. “That could mean having a seaplane base,” she said.

City officials say they have to look at liability and security issues because of the proximity to the military facilities.

There is also concern that if the base is officially classified as an airport, which some seaplane pilots and local agencies say it is, the city will be forced to shut it down because it lacks the FAA-mandated clear zones around the approaches.

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