Ok, why can't KAFE pull back with a directional antenna away from Seattle on an Azimuth of 156.41 degrees Southeast towards Cougar (137.616 km to KJR tower), on the order of maybe 50% of power to allow the KAFE 54 dbu signal to arrive at around South Everett/Mukilteo Speedway. KMCQ's 60 dbu signal could then meet up to that curve (1st adjacency).
I think they should do this. And get up to Cougar. This is contour to contour, not necessarily using the spacing tables. If we use the spacing tables, then C2 to C2 would fit, if I am reading the tables correctly.
Scott, or anyone else, could that work?
With the caveat that it's pretty darned late here in the Eastern Time Zone...
Full spacing for a pair of first-adjacent C2s is 130 km, so if First could afford to pay Saga whatever it would take to get KAFE downgraded to a C2, KAFE and KMCQ could indeed operate as non-directional C2s, with KMCQ at Cougar.
For that matter, it's 180 km from KAFE to the present KMCQ site at Radio Hill. That's within full spacing (177 km) for first-adjacent C1s, which would be a much less painful downgrade for KAFE, or for first-adjacent C2 to C0. (But read on, because other factors would make it almost impossible to make KMCQ a C1 from any Seattle-area site.)
To go directional, you'd have to show that there exists a set of "allocation coordinates" (buildable in theory, so not in a national park or over water) that would be fully spaced - and then there are complex rules about how deep your directional notches can go, which limits just how much ground you can gain with DAs. For instance, you couldn't do C2-C1 between Cougar and the present KAFE site. You might be able to do C2-C between Radio Hill and KAFE, which would at least give KMCQ a bit of a path for an upgrade from the present C3, though it would still be far from a full-market signal.
Additional complications: Saga was willing to take a DA notch northward from KAFE because that notch fell over Canada, where its signal was going to end up getting limited by new Canadian allocations sooner or later. I would have to imagine it would take a lot more per$ua$ion to get KAFE to give up its big signal to the south, and a drop to C1 or C2 would be a pretty significant loss of southern coverage.
And there are two more stations with semi-critical spacing issues - any upgrade to KMCQ has to protect Centralia on 104.3 and Funky Monkey on 104.9, and the spacings there all but rule out anything much more than a C2 from either Radio Hill or Cougar for KMCQ unless First sinks even more money into more moves. (Complicated ones, too, because now you're looking at spacings to Portland on 104.1, Aberdeen on 104.7, KMTT on 103.7, and on and on it goes.)
It's not a pretty picture. First still has some options, but they're not great ones by any means. I know what I'd probably do if I were in First's shoes right now, but they're not paying me to tell them...