Grass Valley airport officials want to extend their runway by almost 2,000 feet, an expansion necessary to ensure Cal Fire has a home at the airport for decades to come.
The runway project is 15 to 20 years away, but airport manager Lee Ocker said he’ll waste no time in planning the $6 million extension at the airport, located at 13083 John Bauer Ave.
Officials want to extend the runway because of anticipated upgrades to Cal Fire’s airplanes. The airport improvements would lengthen and widen the runway, as well as allow heavier aircraft to use the facility, said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jake Sjolund.
“We’re being proactive,” Sjolund added.
A majority of the project’s funds — 90 percent — likely would come from the Federal Aviation Administration. The state would pick up at least 4.5 percent and potentially the entire 10 percent, Ocker said.
“The time line is really far out, but we don’t want to wait,” Ocker added, noting the construction schedule and cost are projections only. “That’s why we’re starting the conversation now. We want to be serious about it.”
According to Ocker, Cal Fire’s replacement tankers would require the expanded runway. They’ll be bigger and heavier, because they’ll be carrying more fire repellent. The existing runway is 4,350 feet. Ocker said at a minimum the extension would bring its length to 6,000 feet, though he cautioned it’s early in the planning process.
“It’s all speculative,” he added. “We’re just on the cusp of this.”
Sjolund said Cal Fire pays landing fees and buys fuel from the airport. He wants to continue supporting the county through those fees. Planning now for an improved runway will ensure that revenue stays local.
Expanding the runway isn’t the only improvement airport officials are planning.
According to Ocker, the airport intends to bring a restaurant to the airport. He’d like to see it open by August 2017.
“There are people interested,” he said of restaurateurs.
Officials planned for the cafe in a proposed second floor of the airport terminal. They’ve since scrapped that plan, and now intend to build out from the existing terminal.
A consultant is conducting a market and feasibility study on the cafe, expected to be done in December. That study will help officials decide if they’ll proceed with the cafe, Ocker said. The restaurant is expected to cost $500,000 to build. Ocker said the FAA could pay 90 percent of the cost, though the airport may have to obtain a loan from the state if the federal government doesn’t provide the funds.