A large federal grant with no match required will enable Grant County to “decouple” its two runways and make takeoffs and landings safer.

The $6.25 million grant was secured through the federal Department of Transportation’s Airport Improvement Program.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, voted to increase funding for the program and direct more grants to rural airports in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Reauthorization Act in 2018.

“We all know the important role this airport plays for the local economy, especially during fire season as a hub for our air attack teams to rapidly fight fires in the forests and around our communities,” Walden said in a statement. “This is tremendous news ... With more than $6 million to improve runway safety at the airport, this grant will help support job growth.”

Grant County Regional Airport Manager Haley Walker said she worked with T-O Engineers of Boise, Idaho, to submit the grant application. The grant program targeted smaller airports, which increased their chances, she said.

Runway 9/27, which runs roughly east-west, and Runway 17/35, which runs roughly north-south, crisscross near the south end of the airfield. This potential hazard had been identified by the FAA and was cited in the airport’s 20-year master plan.

A proposed fix is to shorten Runway 9/27. Aircraft could taxi back to the hangar and terminal airway on an existing taxiway that crosses Runway 17/35 about midway near the terminal, Walker said.

The grant money is available right away, Walker said. Final design and planning for the decoupling will take place this year, and construction could take place in 2020, she said.

In the meantime, repairs to the deteriorating aprons around the hangars could take place this year. Prop wash from powerful planes, such as the Forest Service’s single-engine air tankers, often kicks up the gravel from the crumbling aprons that can damage other aircraft.

Design and engineering for the apron project cost about $522,000, with the FAA paying about 90 percent, a state Critical Oregon Airport Relief grant covering about 9 percent and the county picking up about 1 percent.

Construction for the apron project is estimated to cost about $3.47 million, Walker said. The hope is that the FAA would pay 90 percent, COAR would pay about $150,000 and the county would pay about 1 percent.

Walker said the county is still awaiting the final design and engineering for the apron project and hope to put it out to bid by June or July.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at rick@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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