WILLISTON, N.D. — A Williams County commissioner has raised concerns about the need to relocate Williston’s airport in letters to state and federal lawmakers.
Martin Hanson says he believes the city should keep the airport where it is and upgrade the facility, reducing costs by at least $100 million and preserving farmland.
City officials have received approval and initial funding from the Federal Aviation Administration for a $254 million airport and expect to break ground in the spring. The city is looking to acquire 1,540 acres from eight landowners, a majority of which is now farmed.
“Why should local farmers be required to sell land, some of which has been in their family for generations, and plan to pass on to future generations, to build a totally unnecessary project as a show place for Williston?” Hanson said.
If a new airport is built, it should be in McKenzie County so it could serve Williston as well as Watford City and Sidney, Montana, he said.
Traffic at Williston’s current airport is 10 times what it was built to handle, due to the region’s oil boom. Commercial jet service is now available from Williston to Minneapolis, Denver and Houston, though the runways were designed to serve turboprop planes.
Upgrading the existing airport to meet safety standards and FAA requirements would cost almost as much as building a new one, Airport Director Steven Kjergaard told the Williston Herald.
“FAA is allowing us to continue operating because we are planning to do something,” he said.
Building a new airport also will allow the city to sell the old airport land for commercial development, Kjergaard said.
“Moving the airport allows us to meet all FAA design standards with no disruption to air service, and we can sell the property, which will further reduce the cost involved,” he said.
Kjergaard said officials considered sites in McKenzie County but couldn’t find a suitable one.
“We needed 2 miles of flat ground, without major transmission lines, towers or oil wells in the way, away from wildlife attractants, while semi-close to a major roadway, infrastructure and a population center,” he said.
Information from: Williston Herald, http://www.willistonherald.com
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