By Joyce Edie, Editor
Mattawa Area News
Things just got a bit sweeter for Desert Aire residents who use the airport.
A $296,000 rehabilitation of the south taxiway is almost complete and when it is, hopefully this week, 3,665 feet of asphalt and three runway connectors will have all new asphalt. Approximately 1,750 tons of asphalt makes up the 25-foot wide taxiway.
David Strand, chair of the Grant County Airport District 1 at Desert Aire couldn’t be happier. Mostly he is happy it is getting done, that it didn’t cost Desert Aire Home Owners Association anything, and the job is going so smoothly.
The district has an airport upgrade plan in place and the south taxiway was at the top of the list this year. The north taxiway was completed in 2007 funded by Ross Davidson and Associates.
This new project is funded by a $250,00 from the Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Division and $46,000 in local contributions. David said, “We raised $11,000 locally through an airport assessment fund for people who live along the airport and $35,000 from eight local benefactors who contributed.
David said the commissioners were pleased that out of 40 applicants applying for the WSDOT grant, the local airport received nearly a quarter of the 1.1 million dollars awarded this session. “That says a lot about the airport team,” he said. The quarter of a million dollar award is the maximum that can be given for the category the local airport falls into.
The project actually started six months ago when the airport commissioners applied for a grant to hire and engineer to draw up the airport plans. That grant was funded through the WSDOT with five percent paid by the local Port of Mattawa.
Hired was the Reid Middleton company. And interesting note is that the senior designer on the project, Wade Brooks, has a personal interest in the project. He and his new wife own a home in Desert Aire, so the airport is of special interest to him.
David said that the company has been “just great to work with.” They had until to July 15 to finish the project, but are completing it nearly three weeks early.
“We did everything we could to keep costs down,” David said. The asphalt is pulverized old asphalt from the taxiway, mixed to DOT grade and laid back down. The surface now meets medical flying standards. Before this, the medical flying units couldn’t use the taxiway, so the project is potentially a benefit to everyone in the area.
Next on the airport plan is to widen the existing runway from 34 feet to 60 feet. It will then meet FFA standards.
With all this work, David said he wants to make it clear to residents that the commissioners have no intention of turning the small, rural airport into a commercial venture. “We don’t intend to grow in noise or operations. Our focus for the airport is to support recreational aviation and transportation. We plan ot keep the noise to an acceptable level,” he said.
Airport commissioners, including David, are Cliff Naser and Ralph Herth. Cliff is the onsite supervisor for this project.