Wildlife group gets chance to discuss runway project with feds

Manager says main safety concern for the airport is birds

Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2007

The newly appointed Wild Life Hazards Work Group will get a chance to ask the Federal Aviation Administration questions about a push to expand the safety corridor at the ends of the Juneau International Airport runways at a pending meeting.

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David Wahto, FAA inspector, will present issues related to the airport's certification and wildlife issues on Jan. 10 at 10:30 a.m. in the Aurora Room of the airport terminal.

The primary safety concern for the airport is birds getting in the way of aircraft, said Dave Palmer, airport manager. In the last year, 10 bird strikes were reported, he said. None resulted in structural damage to planes, but they caused several delays, he said.

The Mendenhall Wildlife Refuge surrounds the airport, and Palmer said the two institutions are naturally at odds with each other. The airport predates the refuge, he said.

"From his [the inspector's] viewpoint there are no good birds around an airport," Palmer said.

The work group was appointed earlier this month by the airport board and is the result of a recommendation in an environmental impact study conducted for the expansion of the safety corridor, Palmer said.

Almost every day, staff from the United States Department of Agriculture harasses birds in specified areas in an attempt keep them clear for jets and planes to operate. Palmer called it a year-round issue that increases with migrations.

After years of study, opposing sides reached an agreement to reduce bird attractors around the airport, including filling in 54 acres of marshland, including 18 acres in the refuge.

Palmer said local, state and federal permits are still pending.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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