Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport growth is limited by lack of water"

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Construction of reservoir would allow for expansion

The Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport could be much busier if water issues weren’t stifling development.

Inadequate fire flow to the airport has put any proposed construction of airplane hangers on hold. Fire codes require that 3,500 gallons of water per minute be accessible for up to two hours on the airport property. Water piped to the airport currently has a capacity of providing 1,000 gallons per minute.

“That’s the essential problem. We don’t have fire flow capacity that would meet current requirements. We’re not allowed to expand anything,” said airport Administrator Robb Parish. “We are so constrained right now. I can’t tell you how many opportunities we’ve lost to build hangers out here. We would be out of room to build them now if we had the water.”

A recent decision by the Pullman City Council could provide more options for the airport.

On Feb. 6, the Pullman City Council approved the expansion of services to provide increased fire flow capacity to the airport. The plans include the construction of a 600,000-gallon reservoir to be located between the airport and the Pullman-Moscow Highway. The cost for the project is estimated at $2.7 million.

The council approved the use of $200,000 to begin the project.

Public Works Director Mark Workman said the city will soon begin preliminary engineering studies and commence negotiations with landowners for potential easements of property.

“We have to see what their interests might be,” he said.

Water to the airport terminal is provided from Washington State University through a city water main. Expansion of the service would entail linking current water pipes to the constructed reservoir. Workman estimates the project could take up to three years.

“We’ll know more when we get through the preliminary engineering stage,” he said.

City Supervisor John Sherman said although the reservoir would initially provide fire flow water to the airport, it could potentially service some limited future development in the Pullman-Moscow Highway corridor.

“By placing the tank in the right location, you keep your options open,” he said. “We just need to plan appropriately for not only addressing our current needs, but also the future needs. It’s logical that our water system is going to grow ... But typically, the way our water system grows, is with development. We’re very concerned that development occur appropriately.”

Parish said he’ll focus on how the increased water capacity will affect airport growth. More development means more revenue for the facility, he said.

Twenty-nine hangers are housed on the property, six of which are owned by the airport. The rest are privately built, and the land is leased. Parish said a single-engine aircraft hanger generates about $200 per year for the airport. The land is leased out to private owners at 10 cents per square foot per year.

The airport has the capacity to accommodate up to 20 more hangers.

“If you built another 20 of those, that starts to build up. It directly impacts the airport’s finances,” Parish said. “When you have something like this water issue, it really opens up possibilities for the airport. Getting water out here ... is really important to the future of the airport. It’s really going to make a financial impact.”
I'm so glad that the city government is planning for the future. With the SR270 expansion slated to finish up later this year and the greenlighting of the Hawkins strip mall project, it is obvious that the Pullman-Moscow corridor is poised to be a giant regional economic engine. While Moscow is fighting it, Pullman needs to embrace it. An airport reservoir seems to be a key factor and a good investment.

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