Airport removing wetlands to avoid bird strikesA $900,000-plus project to eliminate 24.07 acres of wetlands from southeast quarter of the Jamestown Regional Airport grounds will help reduce the likelihood of bird strikes on airplanes. “It’s a safety issue. They’re a menace to aircraft,” said Matt Leitner, manager of the JRA.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
A $900,000-plus project to eliminate 24.07 acres of wetlands from southeast quarter of the Jamestown Regional Airport grounds will help reduce the likelihood of bird strikes on airplanes.
“It’s a safety issue. They’re a menace to aircraft,” said Matt Leitner, manager of the JRA.
The wetlands mitigation will remove three wetlands areas in the southeast part of the airport, with the hope that birds will no longer fly across the runway from some wetlands patches in the northeast quarter of the airport.
In compliance with conservation laws, wetlands will be restored near Woodworth to make up for the lost wetlands.
The Federal Aviation Administration will pay for 90 percent of the project, or approximately $825,000. The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission will pay for 5 percent of the project, or approximately $46,000, leaving the Jamestown Regional Airport to pay the other $46,000.
The project, which will not disrupt flights to or from the airport, could be put out for bid as early as February 2014, with construction planned to begin in either 2014 or 2015, said Steve Aldinger, project manager with Interstate Engineering.
The exact date for the start of the project will depend on when funding becomes available, which in turn depends on when Congress releases money to the FAA for it, Aldinger said, adding that the project is fairly high up on the FAA’s list because bird strikes are a safety issue.
The last bird strike at the Jamestown airport occurred on Oct. 23, 2012, when a seagull struck an aircraft on its tail when the plane was in the clouds.
“It didn’t damage the plane, but it was inspected as a precautionary measure,” Leitner said.
The last bird strike before that was in September 2011.
Most bird strikes occur in the fall and spring, when birds are migrating, Leitner said. For the most part, the airport can frighten birds away with sound, either from noisemaking projectiles or from noise cannons.
“We harass them aurally, and if they’re intransigent, we resort to lethal measures, because safety is paramount,” Leitner said.
The airport is authorized to kill 20 Canada geese, 20 Franklin gulls and 20 herring gulls a year. Last year, however, only 13 total birds had to be killed.
“We don’t want to risk life and limb, and we don’t want to risk any property damage,” Leitner said.
Eliminating the wetlands on the airport grounds will be done by regrading them and sloping them, putting in inlets to drain water into and storm pipes to move the water out. A new lift station will need to be built because the system in that location is very shallow.
In the end, the water will be piped into the existing storm system and then into the river, Aldinger said.
The true cost of the project, when it is put out to bid, will likely depend on weather conditions, as the project will be much easier to complete in a dry year than in a wet one.
The soil in that area is high in nutrients and will be able to grow grass, Aldinger said, meaning the original topsoil will be able to be replaced there when the project is done — another factor keeping project costs lower.
While the wetlands mitigation project is being done primarily for safety reasons, Aldinger pointed out that it will could also help with future development, as the Jamestown Regional Airport Authority could potentially put hangars there.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be
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