Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Land request for new airport delayed

Express Staff Writer

When Congress failed to vote this month on the bulky, 1,000-page Omnibus Public Land Management Bill, the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority's hope of requesting a huge spread of BLM rangeland for a new airport site was put on hold until the 2009 congressional session.

Authority Vice Chairman Tom Bowman said, however, that "we found our (congressional) delegation very interested in getting us in the queue for '09 and hopefully we will be visiting their offices in February."

The land legislation included about 150 separate proposed federal lands sales or donations. Bowman had proposed asking approval for the Bureau of Land Management to donate as many as 2,400 acres of its land in south Blaine County east of state highway 75 for a new airport at site 10-A, if the locale us designated by the Federal Aviation Administration as a proper location.

Donating the land would be one option. Another would be for BLM to sell the land to the airport authority or a successor entity operating a new facility, which would require at least 600 acres for a single 8,500-foot runway and adjoining taxiway, but more ideally 1,200 acres to accommodate ancillary activities. BLM tracts usually are in increments of about 600 acres.

Meanwhile, coincidentally, a huge, 6,500-acre chunk of BLM land has been purchased by the Clark County (Nevada) Department of Aviation for $20.7 million for a new airport to handle overflow traffic when Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport reaches its peak capacity of 53 million passengers annually by 2012. The 2000 congressional approval of the Ivanpah Valley Airport Public Lands Transfer Act authorized purchase of another 17,000 acres if necessary for a noise buffer zone in the fast-developing south Las Vegas area.

A spokesman for the Clark County airport agency said the new facility would include two runways—15,000 and 12,000 feet long—and support facilities. It would be built as a connecting point with the proposed new MagLev high-speed rail transit line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. McCarran has four similar long runways—the longest 14,510 feet, the shortest 8,985 feet—and two terminals.

By comparison, the environmental impact statement required for the new Nevada facility cost $14.2 million while the EIS leading up to a Friedman replacement airport would cost about $2 million-plus.

While Las Vegas' aviation operations are plagued by increased traffic and maximum passenger capacity, Friedman's main issues are surrounding mountainous terrain and airport design that limits the type of aircraft that can use the field.

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