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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday — February 18, 2004


Airport authority drawing road map

‘New airport’ study outline
nearing completion

Once it’s launched, the study is expected
to be completed in 18 months.

Express Staff Writer

Finishing touches are being applied to a wordy 31-page outline that will be a road map for studying whether the Wood River Valley needs a new and larger airport and, if so, where to locate and how to finance it.

Except for a few changes in wording, the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority at last week’s monthly meeting approved the study blueprint.

Now, Friedman Memorial Airport Manager Rick Baird will submit the document to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval, the last crucial step toward obtaining some $475,000 in FAA funds for the work. Friedman Memorial will contribute $25,000 to the project.

Once it’s launched, the study is expected to be completed in 18 months.

Several issues have pressured the airport authority to consider a new airport. Changing FAA safety standards that require expensive ongoing airport improvements, larger airline aircraft and noise impact on encroaching residential areas are major factors.

This is the second such study. In 1990, a spurt of community interest in a new airport led to a study by Coffman Consultants that resulted in two possible sites being pinpointed: one some 20 miles south of Hailey on flatlands east of state Highway 75 en route to Shoshone, and the other in an area known as Moonstone on U.S. 20 en route to Fairfield, about 20 miles southwest of Hailey.

However, as the new study outline points out, virtually all yardsticks of the 1990 study have changed, including funding formulas, environmental regulations, community demographics and air carrier requirements, among others.

Therefore, the new study essentially starts from scratch, and, thus, requires the major $500,000 funding.

While the scope-of-study outline was being prepared by the Friedman Memorial staff along with airport consultants Toothman-Orton Engineering, of Boise, and Mead & Hunt, of Madison, Wis., representatives from various community groups and governments were sought as volunteers to participate on an oversight committee.

Deadline for joining the study was Tuesday, Feb. 17.

More than 20 members will be on the study committee, representing businesses, airlines, area chambers of commerce, and county and city governments, including several outside Blaine County such as Fairfield and Shoshone.

Baird told the airport authority that provisions also are being made to provide the public with ongoing reports about the study through news media as well as small kiosks located throughout the Wood River Valley.

Two public hearings also will be scheduled during the process to report the study’s status as well as to take public comments, according to the document.

Environmental factors will be especially critical to the study and selection of a possible site, which, if chosen, probably would be located outside the Wood River Valley, where mountains are major restrictions to flight operations.

As the scope-of-study outline points out, any future site of a new airport must minimize disruption of the surrounding environment; must have favorable seasonal wind and weather conditions; must consider ground access; have approval of users and airlines, and forecast passenger demand.

Expected to be the most contentious issue arising in the study is the fate of the present Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey if a new facility outside the valley is recommended.

Many pilots and aircraft owners accustomed to Friedman’s convenient location--virtually alongside downtown Hailey and within easy driving distance of Ketchum and Sun Valley--have formed a group called "Save Friedman Airport" to lobby for retaining the field.

But, operating Friedman as a second airport raises questions of how to pay operating costs for two fields.

One scenario listed in the new study is to consider whether Friedman Memorial could be maintained as a limited-use facility for smaller non-airline general aviation aircraft.

However, if Friedman is abandoned as an aviation facility, the deed that conveyed the land from the pioneer Friedman family might require the property to be returned to the family heirs.

Businessmen who depend on resort customers also have expressed concerns that a new airport located too far from the Wood River Valley might discourage visitors now accustomed to Friedman’s close-in convenience.

The year 2013 has been cited in the study as the earliest that a new airport could be opened. Also, Baird has suggested if a new airport is constructed, it could cost $100 million on a tract three to four times the size of the present facility,


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