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With runway reconstruction completed, county airport reopened for fixed-wing aircraft traffic

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— The Idaho County Airport is back in business.

The county-owned facility opened to fixed-wing aircraft traffic on Monday, Nov. 14, after being shut down for more than five months to undergo nearly $7 million in reconstruction of both the runway and taxiway.

With that morning’s lifting of the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen), airport manager Mike Cook reported several local pilots were returning aircraft back to the facility, and flights were resuming by UPS and Backcountry Aviation.

Past regular traffic is also anticipated to return, including Flying B Ranch, and fixed-wing firefighting flights by the U.S. Forest Service, which were disbursed out to Cottonwood and Lewiston this summer.

“All of our folks are coming home,” he said.

Airport traffic has been limited to helicopters since work began June 6 to reconstruct the 5,100-foot-long and 75-feet-wide runway, the lion’s share of the summer’s work at approximately $4.020 million. An improved drainage system was installed to address problems that led to asphalt deterioration, and the runway was shifted 40 feet north and 100 feet east to increase its separation from both the adjacent taxiway and Day Road.

With these improvements in place, according to Cook, “We have the opportunity to continue the existing use for, hopefully, many, many years to come.”

Substantially completed, the airport project still has several weather-dependent items yet to finish in spring 2017, according to Cook. These include finishing work on the 10-foot runway shoulders, using the recycled asphalt milled from the old runway; completion of seeding and painting; installation of a segmented circle at the south windsock; and final contractor site cleanup.

When the weather is good next season, Cook advised, a one- to two-day closure may be necessary to complete these items that fall within the safety zone of the runway. A ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the newly renovated facility is in the works.

So, what are some of the changes with this project? Cook, along with Norm Lowe, airport site manager, explained that with runway relocation, a 100-foot threshold was established on either end using compacted asphalt millings. This is a runway safety area, providing additional length for taxing or landing aircraft. The taxiway width was decreased from 40 to 35 feet, still within the FAA standard for the facility, which reduced cost on the project that, Cook said, “would have been borne by the citizens of Idaho County.”

Something you’ll only see from the air, runway numbering has changed, from 725 to 826. These are compass headings, Cook and Lowe explained, that have since changed due to the movement of magnetic north since the airport was first established.

Improvements and promotion of the airport have been emphasized the last several years under the philosophy the facility serves as an economic development engine for the region. This is one that Cook continues to support.

“Idaho County is always looking for opportunities to increase the traffic and commercial use at the airport,” he said, continuing that the facility has the infrastructure and ability to accommodate increased traffic. The airport is an “economic benefit to Grangeville and the surrounding communities,” that has public support to keep maintained and in good condition, he said, “for economic use and its economic potential.”

Airport work was funded 90 percent by an FAA grant, with the remainder costs covered by Idaho County (7 percent) and the Idaho Division of Aeronautics (3 percent). Project contractor was Valley Paving of Cottonwood.


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