Friday, March 4, 2005

Move $100 million worth of dirt for an airport?

Friedman officials shrug off idea

Express Staff Writer

Longtime Wood River Valley recreational outfitter Jim Super has had a brainstorm for a new airport site in the Timmerman Hills west of state Highway 75 and south of U.S. Highway 20, about 15 miles south of Hailey.

"Think outside the box," he implored the Friedman Memorial Airport citizens site selection committee on several occasions as he floated his idea. The committee is searching for a possible site to replace the aging, but heavily used, Hailey airport.

To overcome the hilly terrain surrounding Timmerman Junction that would be obstacles to landing aircraft, Super suggested chopping off the tops of surrounding hills and moving the dirt to fill a U-shaped bowl to create a flat surface and—presto!—an airport site is born.

Super's pleas were so persuasive that Sun Valley Resort general manager Wally Huffman said at the Feb. 22 meeting: "I'd be all for looking at it."

Huffman and Super also are on the board of directors for the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau.

When airport authority officials and their consulting engineers tried to dissuade Super's persistence, he persisted, demanding the site be studied,

Study it they did, and Tuesday night, Toothman-Ortman consulting engineer Chuck Sundby reported to the airport authority.

Super's proposal, Sundby reported, is so out of the box it can't be afforded.

Without even calculating the costs of blasting off the tops of surrounding obstructions, Sundby said to create an airport runway, the floor of the U-shaped bowl at the site suggested by Super would need to be raised 200 feet over an area of 450 to 500 acres.

The fill would measure approximately 100 million cubic yards. At current costs, moving fill into the bowl would cost between $100 million and $150 million—and then would come the cost of an airport, Sundby said.

He added the site still wouldn't be large enough for the 1,200-acre airport envisioned at a new site, nor would it meet requirements for 10 miles of unobstructed land for aircraft approaches at both ends of a single runway.

Super's proposal and the airport authority's interest in pursuing the "out of the box" idea further seemed to die at that moment.

Super, who had been listening to the engineering costs, left the meeting without pressing his idea again.

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