No matter which direction they're extended, runways at Provo Municipal Airport will run onto wetlands.

That concerns several citizens who attended an information meeting Thursday on the status of an environmental assessment currently in progress. Citizens don't want the wildlife habitat in the area of Provo Bay disrupted by the longer runways. They said any extension of the runway will change forever the ecological picture adjacent Utah Lake.Airport manager Jim Mathis said the airport's primary runway needs to be lengthened from 7,094 feet to 8,600 feet to allow large aircraft to takeoff fully fueled. The short strip forces airplanes to leave with partially filled tanks, preventing non-stop flights to distant destinations.

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration requires 1,000-foot by 500-foot safety area at both ends of the runway. Adding that to the extended runway means it could be lengthened by as much as 2,500 feet in one direction.

Jim Rogers, a consultant with Science Application International Corp., said the company's goal is to balance the needs of the environment with those of the airport. The firm is conducting the environmental assessment for the airport.

"The wetlands are a very sensitive issue right now. We're very concerned about the wetlands," he said. If the extension impacts a wildlife habitat, he said, it should be replaced with wetlands in another area. "The goal is to have no net loss," he said.

Rogers and John Raines, another consultant with Science Application, are in the middle of evaluating the impact of five extension plans, one of which nudges up against Center Street in west Provo. That plan could require the relocation of several residences. An extension of the northwest strip runs halfway to the boat harbor at Utah Lake State Park.

The other plans extend into wildlife areas and farmland in the each direction of the airport's X-shaped runway. "Whichever direction we go, either north or south, we're in a wetland," Raines said.

The consultants expect to complete the data collecting phase by mid-April. Both men encouraged citizen participation in the process.

Mathis said the FAA requires an environmental assessment and an environmental impact study before it will allocate any money for the project. Also, the Army Corps of Engineers must issue a wetlands use permit before any ground can be turned.

More public meetings on the extension plan will be held.