May 24, 2012 By Chuck Clement
City officials gave their OK this week to the purchase of about 16 1/2 acres of land to add to the northeastern corner of the Madison Municipal Airport.
The Madison City Commission on Monday approved a purchase agreement for the property, buying 16.48 acres of land from Steve Callahan of Madison for $109,300.
The land purchase will serve the city airport in several different ways, according to Morris Riggin, the municipal airport manager.
“Initially, what we’re planning to use it for is water drainage,” Riggin said.
When it was created, the Madison airport was located on lowlands in the northeastern part of the city which contain a number of sloughs. The slough areas are also considered wetlands and provide a natural habitat for migratory waterfowl such as ducks and geese.
Due to those wetlands at the airport, the city has to perform a balancing act among several federal agencies. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration have concerns about aircraft-waterfowl collisions that could create safety problems, so the FAA would prefer to have the ducks and geese move elsewhere. However, agencies such as the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency are assigned with responsibilities to protect all wetlands areas so all waterfowl won’t join the endangered species list.
Efforts in keeping federal officials satisfied do provide benefits to Madison residents. Before this year, the FAA provided 95 percent of the funding for federally-approved improvements at the Madison airport. The state and local governments shared the responsibility in paying for the remaining 5 percent.
Recently, the federal government’s share was decreased to 90 percent of funding and the state’s portion was increased to 8 percent. The local government share paid by Madison has so far stayed at 2 percent.
City officials also need to mitigate the effects that the future construction of a parallel taxiway will have on wetlands at Madison’s airport. The parallel taxiway will run along the south side of the concrete runway, situated through the same wetlands area as the runway.
The 16 1/2-acre addition will also assist in the compliance with the FAA’s runway protection zone program. The airport’s grass runway runs from southwest to northeast with the northern end newly extended by the property purchase.
The southwestern end of the grass runway had become too closely situated to neighboring residences and an industrial park.
FAA officials want Madison’s grass runway to shift away from populated neighborhoods and move toward the northeast surrounded by mostly agricultural land.
Riggin said the grass runway is used by new pilots training to earn their licenses. About 75 percent of the trainees’ takeoffs and landings are performed on the grass runway.
Pilots from other communities, such as Tea, also train on Madison’s grass runway.
“We even have (South Dakota State University) sending students over to us because the Brookings airport doesn’t have a grass runway,” Riggin said.
In addition, if high crosswinds create problems for pilots trying to land on the airport’s concrete runway, they can often use the grass runway as a secondary landing strip.
Source: MADISON DAILY LEADER