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Trees pose problems for airport runways
Airport Tree Issue 1.jpg
Airport director Jim Dyer showed county commissioners the drone survey detailing what trees are in the approach path and will need to be removed. - photo by Bethany Porter

Trees obstructing the approach at the airport could affect state funding. 

At the County Economic and Agricultural Development Committee meeting earlier this month, airport director Jim Dyer explained a problem they have found at the airport. The airport now has instrument approaches on both sides.

“In preparation for this, the state and the FAA examined the approaches. It is kind of like an invisible ramp down to the foot of the runway and they looked at that to see if there were any obstructions in it, and there are. The state and federal government notified us separately that we had problems. We were aware of a few of them and I put some money in the budget for those,” said Dyer. 

Consulting engineers used an aerial drone to do a survey of the area to identify the trees and anything else obstructing the approach. The survey found trees already in the approach and other trees within 10 feet of it. 

“Long story short, we have many, many, many more trees once the survey was done than we expected,” said Dyer. 

Runway five will not be able to be used due to the tree obstruction. Dyer says this runway is prominent during winter. 

“It is 5,000 feet in both directions which is great, but we didn’t have an instrument approach for the other direction for runway five. We do now and the FAA will not allow it to be used under any circumstances until the trees come down,” said Dyer.

Dyer is unsure why no one realized the trees would be a problem before starting many state funded projects.

“They have been working on this approach and the new lighting project and everything for years and I cannot tell you why no one thought to look at the trees. No one did. The FAA came in their special plane and flew the approach back in late spring and they had instrumentation coming out of the plane measuring everything and we failed,” said Dyer.

The state is also confused as to why this problem was not addressed sooner. 

“The state came and told us you accepted state and federal money, gave us assurances that you would protect our investment in your airport by keeping the approaches clear. The ultimate hammer they have is to come and ask for their money back. The millions and millions of dollars from projects that have gone on in the past. So that is kind of the power they have to come at us on this,” said Dyer.

Dyer says he met with all the property owners with the obstructing trees. Many have agreed to have the trees voluntarily cut down as long as the county pays for everything and grinds the stumps. Some are having the trees topped with the understanding that the county is not responsible if the tree dies or if the tree grows then the owner will need to remove it on their own. 

Bids have not been put out on this project yet because it has not been approved, but Dyer estimates it will cost around $85,000.

“We don’t have much choice around doing this,” said Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin.

The County Commission unanimously voted to allocate $85,000 for the tree removal Monday night.