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City CAO outlines plan for Powell River Airport

City councillors given an overview of three different projects that have been identified
THREE PROJECTS: Powell River Airport is earmarked for some significant upgrades, with obstacle removal, landfill capping and runway rehabilitation and lengthening having been identified.

City councillors have been provided an update on the master plan for Powell River Airport.

At the November 30 committee of the whole meeting, chief administrative officer Russell Brewer provided an overview of key short-term projects planned for the next five years.

Brewer said the city, and Stantec, the consulting firm, collaborated to produce the airport master plan, which runs out to 2045, to express what the long-term planning and objectives should be to meet the needs of the community, and support future demands in an economically and environmentally feasible manner, and meet Transport Canada’s regulatory requirements.

“The plan describes several infrastructure projects in the short term,” said Brewer. “There’s a lot of work we need to do as a city to keep that airport up to date and meet [Transport Canada] requirements.

The plan identified three priority projects. The first is obstacle removal. Brewer said there is going to be some tree harvesting and removal of hydro poles around the airport.

The second project is the landfill capping and closure at the east end of the runway. 

The third, said Brewer, is an application for runway rehabilitation and extension to the east.

For the first item, Brewer said there is a requirement not to have any obstacles penetrating a certain height. A survey has been conducted and areas that are too high for the runway and its approach have been identified.

“Tentatively, the work is to start in December, through 2022, likely with some road building to access the area,” said Brewer. “All the permits and regulatory requirements are in place now. That includes fisheries and bird assessment, permits from the province and traditional use studies. A couple of weeks ago we started engaging in the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and providing a one-page summary of this information, so they know well ahead of time what is being planned. They will be given a heads-up before work starts.”

The second priority project is the landfill at the east end. Brewer said it’s required to be closed and it will also help enable the extension of the runway to the east.

The third priority project is the runway rehabilitation. Brewer said the runway is almost 40 years old and requires work.

“An application to the airport capital assistance program (ACAP) has been made,” said Brewer. “It was submitted in August for just over $8 million, which would allow us to do all of this work. It’s also required to meet federal certification and safety standards.

“We should know by March whether we’re successful with that grant application. If we do get it in March, then the timeframe would be design through 2022, with construction itself in 2023 at the earliest.

“If we are successful with the grant and move ahead with construction, we can expect significant disruption to operations at the airport.”

Brewer said the tree and obstacle removal cost is unknown, but any revenue gained through tree harvesting will be used for other work at the airport. The extension and landfill capping will be funded through a $1 million grant, plus Powell River Community Forest approved $700,000. The other $700,000 required is anticipated to come from borrowing, according to Brewer. The runway rehabilitation is entirely dependent on procuring the ACAP grant, he added.

Mayor Dave Formosa said completion of the projects would allow the larger SAAB 340 that Pacific Coastal Airlines flies to return to service at the airport if the company wished to deploy the aircraft to the route.

Formosa asked where the money from the tree harvesting would be going and Brewer said the thought is to offset the borrowing for the extension and landfill capping.

Brewer said the airport is a big asset for the city and there is a lot of responsibility, with many people involved in the projects.

He said the number of trees that are going to be removed is going to be challenging for some residents.

“We have no choice,” said Brewer. “The city would not be doing this, were it not a requirement to keep that airport safe and meet Transport Canada requirements. We are going to do it effectively and with the least disruptions.”

The committee voted to receive the report for information.