By BRYCE MARTIN - Published on May 30, 2014
Building a new airport in Bowman proves to be a long, expensive process.
Planning began eight years ago and this spring the new Bowman Airport reached the final legs of its construction.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp announced this month that several airports around the state were awarded millions of dollars to improve their facilities, including Bowman, which was granted $2.15 million to help with building costs of the new location east of the city.
The funds will be used to help with the construction of the new airport and to meet increased air travel demands due to energy development in western North Dakota, Heitkamp said in a statement last week. Funds will also help provide essential medical access, meet FAA design standards, install utilities and wildlife airport perimeter fencing, and construct a snow removal equipment storage building.
“North Dakota’s aviation industry is growing by the day, and I’m confident we’ll continue to be leaders for years to come,” Heitkamp said in the statement. “Last month, the FAA Administrator saw many of North Dakota’s needs firsthand, and I’ll continue to work closely with the FAA to push for needed investments in our airports. Air transportation has become a major economic success story for North Dakota and I’m pushing for it to remain that way.”
Rodney Schaaf, president of the Bowman County Airport Authority, said the funds were unexpected as the airport planned to secure revenue through submission for oil impact grants.
“It’s something we can use, but we have to submit grants through the state to get that money,” Schaaf said.
A bid was opened for construction of the terminal May 22, but Schaaf said the only bid submitted was far too expensive for the authority’s budget.
A 70-foot by 92-foot building was planned to house both the terminal and the airport’s snow removal equipment. While a bid for the airport’s perimeter fence was approved, Schaaf said even with the $2.15 million grant the authority would either need to renegotiate the bid price for the terminal, rebid it, or downsize the plans.
Bids for personal hangars and the airport’s fuel farm would be held opened next.
“There’s a priority listing what to use (the grant) on – runway, ramp, taxiways are the highest priority. Pretty much (we) got that all paid for with existing grants and bids,” he said.
Presently at the site, work is being completed on the airport’s runway and taxiways. A batch plant stands tall at the site for Northern Improvement Inc. to make cement to pave the 5,700-foot runway.
Work also is ongoing on the sides of the runway, where electrical contractors are installing runway light modules and ramp lighting.
Once completed, the runway will be North Dakota’s longest small airport runway and it means additional revenue for the local economy.
“It’ll be a boost because the larger corporate jets can come in where the existing runway is too short,” Schaaf said.
While the terminal bid could extend its completion date, the Federal Aviation Authority expects the airport to be opened by the fall, at which they cutoff their funding.
“They say a runway, taxiway, ramp (and) lights is an airport,” he said. “We say no, you need a fuel farm, a terminal building for passengers, and you should have a maintenance hangar.”
The new airport will continue the area’s atmospheric resources center for the county’s weather modification program.
The Doppler radar that stands next to the current airport could be moved to the new location, but the state’s resources council requested it be on top of the new terminal building for ease of access during the winter.
“That added way too much, too,” Schaaf said about the total cost.
An option might be to move the whole radar tower to the new site and erect it outside of the building and then cable into the office, similar to the existing airport’s setup, Schaaf said.
Schaaf gave a rough estimate of $14 million for the total cost of the new airport, but said it’s hard to pinpoint an exact cost at the moment.
“Every time you turn around it’s a new regulation or a step backwards,” he said.
PHOTO BY BRYCE MARTIN / PIONEER Workers with Northern Improvement of Fargo work on the new Bowman Airport runway east of the city of Bowman. Cement soon will be laid on the runway and taxiways.