A proposed general aviation airport on Oak Ridge’s west end is one step closer to reality.
The Knoxville Metropolitan Airport Authority Board of Commissioners met last week and voted to change some language in a land transfer contract, as requested by the U.S. Department of Energy, which owns the land.
Becky Huckaby, the Airport Authority’s vice president of public relations, said in a telephone interview that the language had to do with indemnifying DOE after the transfer. DOE was apparently concerned with possible liability for any hazardous materials left on the site, which was once the location of DOE’s uranium processing facility. DOE has been working to clean the site for industrial use.
Sue Cange, acting manager for DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, told The Knoxville News-Sentinel that the plan is currently under review by DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Huckaby said the airport project has been in the same phase for the past eight months. That phase includes the land transfer from DOE and the application to get the proposed airport placed on the National Airport List.
“We have all the studies that show an Oak Ridge airport is warranted,” Huckaby said.
Billy Stair, public affairs consultant for the Airport Authority, was also quoted by the Knoxville newspaper as having told the airport board that the former K-25 site was ideally situated for industry with easy rail and interstate access, but was lacking air access for industrial operations.
He also told the Board that representatives of some large operations were also looking at the site as a future home.
“I can’t say who, but there are prospects on the scale of Volkswagen looking at this site,” Stair said. He was referring to the large Volkswagen plant near Chattanooga that brought many jobs to that area.
As reported previously in The Oak Ridger, the proposed airport would be general aviation and could take small aircraft and corporate jets such as Leer jets. Large commercial aircraft would not be able to take off or land from the airport that is projected to be built at the Heritage Center.
“We know it would really help with the re-industrialization of that area,” she said.
Once the hurdles of land transfer and inclusion on the National Airport Plan are crossed, the Airport Authority can begin design work on the proposed 170-acre site. Once constructed, the airport will have a runway that is 5,000 to 6,000 feet long.
Russel Langley can be reached at (865) 220-5514.