Powell River Airport is receiving a significant facelift, with parts of the treeline on the south side of the airport facing removal or topping to comply with Transport Canada requirements.
City of Powell River chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said the project has been going on since late last year. Brewer said the city is working on improvements to meet Transport Canada’s fifth edition aerodrome standards and recommended practices.
“We did some work to identify objects that penetrate beyond the obstacle limitations,” said Brewer. “If you can imagine a runway, the closer you are to the runway, the lower an object will be to be considered penetrating that space. The further away you go from the runway the taller an object can be.
“To the south of the airport, there is an area of trees that were too tall for us to eventually get our fifth edition certification at the airport.”
Brewer said the airport management master plan adopted by the city in January 2021 spoke to some of the work that needed to be done to meet the certification requirements. He said a lot of the trees to the south of the airport needed to be removed or topped, and there are also hydro poles that are non-compliant, so the city is working with BC Hydro. There are also trees on properties that are not city-owned so the city will be discussing with owners to have them removed or topped. He said, however, this work is nowhere near as extensive as what had to be done near the runway on city property.
“It’s not work that the city would have undertaken in the absence of having to meet those certification requirements,” said Brewer.
He added that for the city to carry on with its ambitious plans for the airport, the work needed to be done.
The tree work is being completed by a local contractor, Tilt Contracting. According to Brewer, the wood will be used in BC. The cedar, spruce and white pine are being used locally by Lois Lumber, he added.
The hope is there will be revenue generated from the sale of the trees.
“Any revenue from that operation is going to go into the city buildings and infrastructure reserve,” said Brewer. “The two other projects we have planned for the site: the landfill capping, which will happen at the east end of the runway, and hopefully, the runway rehabilitation itself, because the runway is quite old; any proceeds from removing the trees will go into that reserve and they will be available for doing those other projects.
“For the landfill capping, we did get a grant for part of what we expect that to cost, but it will be nice having a little bit extra reserve if we need it to do that landfill capping work.”
For the runway recapping, Brewer said the city is hoping to receive the funds to carry out the work from the federal government, through the Airports Capital Assistance Program. The work is anticipated to cost $8 million. According to the city’s participatepr.ca website, works planned include pavement rehabilitation, correcting the longitudinal slope to a maximum of 1.5 per cent grade, improving the transverse slopes and centreline crown to improve drainage and reduce ponding, the installation of new lighting, visual aids and the runway extension.
Brewer said it is an essential project and there is a strong imperative from the city to rehabilitate the facility and to make it as advantageous as possible for commercial carriers.
“It will set us up well for the next four decades as laid out in the airport master plan,” said Brewer. “These were the three priority projects that were highlighted in the plan.
“It’s pretty aged, that runway. It’s at the tail-end of its pavement life. If we can extend the runway somewhat, we’ll be able to meet other certifications. Larger airplanes will be able to come in.”
Brewer said the grading and lengthening of the runway would allow Pacific Coastal Airlines to bring in its larger Saab 340 aircraft if the airline chose to reestablish this aircraft on the Powell River route.
In terms of the tree extraction and topping, Brewer said he has spoken to residents along Field Street, east of Manson Avenue. He said there was some disappointment among residents regarding the work being done, with trees coming down in the neighbourhood, but most people understood when they had the opportunity to voice their concerns. He said along Gabriola Crescent, there has also been some work done.
“We didn’t remove more trees than required to meet Transport Canada requirements,” said Brewer. “We’ve tried to maintain buffers wherever possible.”
More information about the airport projects can be found at participatepr.ca, where there is also the opportunity for residents to ask questions of city staff.