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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 3 - 9, 2003

News

Public eyes Friedmanís long-term plans

More public comment sought
as move is considered


"Itís time to stop patching Ö The crossroads will come in October."

ó MARY ANN MIX, Airport Authority board member


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

At an informal special review session held at the old Blaine County Courthouse Tuesday, Aug. 26, airport engineering consultants and members of the Friedman Airport Authority made themselves available to members of the public to discuss the status of airport planning.

After hearing unpalatable proposals from consultants for upgrades to the current airport at the last regular meeting Aug. 12, Authority representatives announced plans to move forward with a new focus on finding a new home for the airport.

At the Aug. 26 presentation, the public had a chance to see what the airport consultants had presented to the airportís governing body as options for improving the current airport. Aerial photographs and a number of planning points were displayed.

Moving the airport has been a possibility in the planning process since the 1970s, said airport manager Rick Baird, who explained that people have long known that the airport is in the wrong place. If the Authority decides to pursue plans for a new airport, business at Friedman will continue as usual, but long-term planning will be shifted to a new geographic location.

"Itís time to stop patching," said board member Mary Ann Mix. She added that planning for new airport has always been part of the master plan. "The crossroads will come in October."

The crux of the issue is that the Federal Aviation Administration requires the airport to upgrade safety buffers for the current runway to bring the airport into compliance with FAA regulations for large planes like the Dash 8 400Q, a larger regional jet that Horizon Airlines lands in Hailey.

There is interest in landing even larger regional jets like the Boeing 737 at the airport, however, the tarmac is not designed for the heavy jets, safety buffers aside, Baird said.

Part-time resident and California-based developer, Ronald Tutor, has sued the airport because he has been restricted from landing his custom 737 at Friedman. Horizon representatives also have expressed interest in seeing a bigger airport so they could bring in their own larger jets.

Besides the natural limitations of being in a narrow mountain valley, Friedman has reached its design limits and the limits of what the community will accept.

When Vice President Dick Cheney came to Idaho last month, he initially wanted to arrive in a large military cargo plane, but Baird told Cheneyís staff the military aircraft was too heavy, so Cheney arrived with two Gulfstream 500s instead.

Should a new airport be built, the Airport Authority does not know what will happen to the current airport. However, until a new airport is complete, improvements will continue as scheduled. "Looking at a 20-year plan, 320 acres is needed to bring the airport into compliance for the Dash 8," said Minneapolis-based engineer Mark Breuking. "Is the community willing to accommodate increasing the size of the airport?"

The Airport Authority doesnít think so. Friedman currently covers 220 acres.

Now, the airport authority will rely on the Minneapolis based airport consulting group Mead & Hunt to supply a new set of alternatives since the initial plans have been deemed unacceptable.

The public is invited to look at Mead & Hunt recommendations at a public hearing Wednesday, Sept. 24. The hearing will focus on alternative locations for an expanded airport. At the Sept. 4 regular meeting, Tom Schnetzer of Mead & Hunt will present his firmís initial findings that will likely reflect recommendations made in the early 1990s Coffman Associatesí study that proposed a new airport outside the Wood River Valley.

The community surrounding Friedman is different from others that are a similar size, because people here do not want to see expansion of the airport at the current location, Breukink said. "A typical airport would extend the runway 500 feet."

Whether or not fixed base operators like Sun Valley Aviation would remain at the location or if the entire operation of the airport would moved is still undetermined.

As the demographics of the valley continue to shift the likelihood of a new airport becomes more acute, Mix said.

 

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