A plan to build an international airport on a man-made island off the coast of north Tel Aviv has been given a significant boost, The Jerusalem Post has learned. A feasibility proposal approved at a meeting of the government-appointed National Planning Committee in Jerusalem last Tuesday calls for the construction of several islands 400 meters off shore. Under the plan, Sde Dov Airport in Ramat Aviv would be replaced by the island airport.
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On and off the table for more than a decade, these artificial islands were deemed feasible for the first time, and a source close to the committee said further research was under way.
A panel chaired by the Interior Ministry's head of building and planning, Shamay Assif, drafted a general proposal for a chain of artificial islands stretching from Bat Yam to Netanya, the largest of which would hold a new international airport.
"We are a growing economy. We are a small state. We need more power plants, more storage facilities for fuel, more harbor and airport facilities - things that usually take up a lot of space," Assif told the Post.
Representatives of the Airports Authority and the Transportation Ministry were not prepared to comment at this time.
Environmentalists say that the construction of artificial islands would disrupt the sedimentary flow along the coast, damaging the local ecosystem, and destroy the tourism industry on the Tel Aviv waterfront.
Environmental watchdog organizations urge the Interior Ministry to investigate construction of an airport in the Negev, an option that Assif called "very complicated."
"We think it would be very irresponsible for us, the government, not to consider islands in the sea [for an international airport]," said Assif, who added that the National Planning Committee expressed a preference for smaller islands and a regional airport over a larger island that could hold an airport large enough to take the strain off of Ben-Gurion.
"Within 10 to 30 years, we will certainly have to think about creating another international airport," he said.
"There will be an environmental impact. We know that small islands would have less of an environmental impact that bigger ones," said Assif. He added that the environmental feasibility of building an airport was still being studied.
Man-made islands are found across the world, including in Hong Kong and Dubai. However, none exist in open-sea conditions similar to those off the coast of Tel Aviv.
"Our sea is not calm," Danny Kaiser, who was Tel Aviv's city engineer from 2000 to 2005, told the Post. The Mediterranean coast experiences high winds and waves, and reaches great depths, he said. "To build an artificial island, one must have a very good reason."
An airport "is the one and only reason to build these islands. Otherwise, we are not yet at that point where we need artificial islands for people to live on... If the pros outweigh the cons, they will build it," he said.